The belligerency with which Hamas has made its demands known in the various rounds of efforts to forge a cease-fire with Israel – even in the wake of the profound devastation visited upon Gaza during Operation Protective Edge – makes it clear the terrorist outfit began the current war in order to force a political settlement that would accommodate its core needs.
Thus Hamas has taken the hardest of lines regarding an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza and the opening of a Mediterranean seaport to enable international trade, declaring that there can be no discussions about a cease-fire unless Israel agrees in advance to meet its demands.
Israel’s insistence on a demilitarized Gaza and international monitoring as part of any cease-fire agreement flows from its understanding of the intrinsic nature of Hamas, an organization defined by its refusal to accept the existence of Israel and commitment to its violent demise.
Hamas has coupled its ideological intolerance of the existence of Israel with numerous terrorist attacks and rocket launchings. And most recently it created an existential threat to Israel with the construction of a vast network of military tunnels extending into Israel.
Providentially, Israel was able to locate the majority of the tunnels and destroy them after several Hamas terrorists emerged from one of them in the course of Operation Protective Edge. Plainly, Israel cannot permit Hamas the opportunity to rebuild its capacity to attack or even pose a threat to Israel.
Similarly, Israel’s refusal to end all its restrictions on the flow of what goes into or out of Gaza stems from the reasonable fear that Hamas can be counted on to take advantage of any means it has to advance its goal of harming and, if it could, eradicating Israel.
Given the dynamics of international diplomacy and the normal human impulse to avoid bloodshed, one fully expects Israel, as the civilized and responsible party in this conflict, to come under enormous pressure to compromise. Indeed, there are signs that such importuning is already in play.
Secretary of State Kerry continues to talk about the need for the cease-fire negotiations to address the underlying issues between Israel and Hamas. Incredibly, despite Mr. Kerry’s constant refrain that Hamas’s terrorist attacks precipitating Operation Protective Edge should not be rewarded in any agreement, he has no problem with urging Israel to go along with giving Hamas a platform for its grievances – and possibly more.
President Obama went in the same general direction in an interview last week with Tom Friedman of The New York Times. In Mr. Friedman’s words, the president urged an approach of “No victor, no vanquished and work together,” a formulation that clearly envisions all sides to the dispute having a right to be heard.
Finally, comparisons are increasingly being made between the leadership of Hamas and that of the Palestinian Authority. The PA’s Mahmoud Abbas, it is said, can be trusted to implement any deals made with Hamas. Judging from Mr. Abbas’s actions, however, he seems to share much of Hamas’s antipathy for Israel.
Indeed, he names roads and other public projects after terrorist “martyrs” who killed Jews on buses and in other public places and he provides stipends to the families of the “heroes” imprisoned by Israel for the murder and maiming of Jews. Nor can it be said he has negotiated in good faith, given his penchant for making end runs to the UN to try to get what he wants without having to make reasonable concessions at the negotiating table.
It is not hard to understand why Hamas wished to instigate a war with Israel. The blockade (magnified by Egypt’s closure of the Rafah crossing) and lack of access to the sea has crippled the Gazan economy and its Hamas rulers were desperate to change perceptions, if not reality.