Israel has chosen war—again. On Tuesday, it killed at least nine Palestinians, including two children, in an air strike in Gaza, according to the BBC.
The Israeli army said it was targeting Islamic Jihad, and some members of the group were killed or wounded, BBC reports.
This latest assault comes after the killing of eight civilians on a Gaza beach on Friday.
The beach attack led Hamas to lifts its eighteen-month-long truce, and it has begun to send rockets into Israel once more, according to the Israeli military.
So violence reigns again.
But what about Hamas’s hateful political ideology? How could Israel anyway trust it, let alone attempt to make peace with such an entity?
In a June 8 op-ed in the Financial Times, somebody as thoroughly a part of the foreign policy establishment as Henry Siegman, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and director of its U.S./Middle East Project, provides an answer. The important thing, he says, is not Hamas’s belief system but its actual record over the recent past. Siegman quotes in support Efraim Halevy, somebody who headed the Mossad under five Israeli prime ministers.
“Asked last week on Israeli television how he could justify advocating engagement with a terrorist organization that does not recognize Israel's right to exist, Mr. Halevy ridiculed the stale assumptions that underlie that question,” Siegman writes. “Do not look at Hamas’s rhetoric, he said, look at what it does: Hamas declared a truce 18 months ago and has committed no terrorist acts against Israel since. In spite of Hamas’s refusal to change its theological rejection of Israel, Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister in the Hamas-led government, ordered his ministers to seek practical co-operation with their Israeli counterparts. Mr. Haniyeh also confirmed that Hamas’s self-declared truce is open-ended.”
Not any more. A girl, Huda Ghaliya, whose father, stepmother and five siblings were killed in the beach incident, has become a regionwide symbol as a victim of Israeli brutality. (Israel is now denying responsibility.)
The Gaza deaths on Friday and Tuesday make it quite probable that Hamas or some other Palestinian entity will seek grisly revenge.
“Today we have said farewell to our martyrs, and tomorrow Israel will say farewell to their dead,” vowed Islamic Jihad.
Ira Chernus, a professor at the University of Colorado, raises the possibility that some of Israel’s recent targeted assassinations have been designed to provoke a strong response so that the government can offer justification for the rejectionist approach that it has taken under Prime Ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert.
“Hamas was moving—slowly and stumblingly, but visibly—toward accepting what most Palestinians want: a two-state solution, with each side affirming the legitimate existence of the other,” Chernus writes.
“Tragically, it seems that’s not what the government of Israel wants.
So it acted swiftly to kill the peace process before it could really begin.”
Prisoners belonging to major Palestinian factions (including Hamas) holed up together in an Israeli prison recently came up with a blueprint for negotiations with Israel, provided that Israel adhered to certain conditions, such as ending settlements and withdrawing to its pre-1967 borders. The beach killings and the targeted assassinations diminish the chances of this document serving as a blueprint for peace.
To make matters more complicated, open fighting has broken out between President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah organization and Hamas over Abbas’s proposed referendum on the document, which Hamas sees as a political ploy to undermine its authority after its victory in the parliamentary elections a few months ago.
The internal Palestinian clashes also suit the purposes of the Israeli rejectionists, who don’t put any stock in the referendum.
“Israel’s government has left no doubt that even if Mr. Abbas's promised referendum passes by a large majority (indeed, even if Hamas were to sign up to it), Israel will not accept it as the basis for a peace process and will proceed to set its border with the Palestinians unilaterally,” Siegman writes in the Financial Times. “Should that turn out to be the case, will European leaders continue their support of Washington’s incurable pandering to Israel’s rightwing policies, or will they muster the political will to re-engage with the Palestinian Authority and provide the needed political and economic support for the Palestinians’ achievement of their national rights?”
The achievement of those national rights seem further away today than they have in months. That’s why certain elements within the Israeli administration mustn’t be too unhappy about the miserable events of the past few days.