The ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization brings front and center the nature of this conflict: Palestinian unwillingness to accept the permanent presence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.
Israel finds itself fighting terrorist entities that have no respect for human rights or international law. The Middle East will never enjoy a day of true peace until terrorist entities such as Hamas and Hizbullah – and their sponsors – are held to account for their actions.
Since 1948, Israel has attempted to find an accommodation with its Arab neighbors that allows for the viability of a sovereign Jewish state. Offers of partition and compromise were met with rejection and violence.
The Oslo Accords under the late Yitzhak Rabin and the Camp David scenario agreed to by Ehud Barak both were premised on a complete sea change in Palestinian attitudes toward Jews and Israel. But Palestinian promises deserve to be scrutinized with the greatest degree of skepticism, for the Palestinians have spent decades expressing their collective desire to destroy Israel and terrorize Israelis and other Jews wherever and however they could accomplish such ends.
When Yasir Arafat was confronted at Camp David in 2000 with the historic choice of peace with Israel, including the necessary political compromise that would entail, he opted for a terror war that saw the resumption of suicide bombings and indiscriminate attacks on Israel’s civilian population.
Israeli leaders attempted to convince the skeptics that there were verifiable safety nets in these agreements and that any return to violence by the Palestinians would result in the abrogation of any understandings or concessions made by Israel.
The sad truth is that the Palestinians were never held to account for their failure to abide by these agreements. Rather, they have been rewarded with more concessions and further accommodation, as Israel has sent the message that terrorism pays handsome dividends if utilized with sufficient brutality.
One of the most recent attempts at peacemaking was former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to disengage Israel from the Gaza Strip, a move requiring Israel to remove every vestige of Jewish existence there so that the Palestinians could enjoy a Jewish-free environment.
Instead of dedicating themselves to peaceful co-existence, however, the Arabs of Gaza opted for a different path: the election of Hamas, in the first open expression of political will by the residents there. The delusion of Oslo, Camp David and the Gaza Disengagement ultimately brought Israel a terror state on its Southern border, armed to the teeth with lethal rockets, bombs and other weapons.
Furthermore, continued terror from the West Bank was curtailed only by the erection of a security fence that severely limited the ability of suicide bombers to enter Israel proper.
For years Israel allowed an army to grow in Gaza, an act of negligence that resulted in nearly a million Israelis living in range of Hamas missiles and rockets. The response, until now, had been one of seeming neglect, as the old adage “restraint is our strength” continued to carry the day. Finally, after thousands of rockets had landed in Israel, the Israeli government decided to meet its obligations to defend the lives of its citizens.
The election of Hamas by the Palestinian people demonstrated a complete disinterest in a negotiated and peaceful settlement of the conflict. The goals are unchanged and the methods are clear. The elected leadership of the Palestinians seeks the destruction of Israel in any way possible, and its willingness to use its own citizens as human shields or to purposefully place rockets and weapons in hospitals, mosques and schools speaks volumes about the cruelty of the enemy Israel faces.
Israel should ignore international calls for restraint and reject the false claims that it has reacted disproportionately. Israel is a sovereign member state of the United Nations fighting a war against a recognized terrorist entity. Hamas has purposefully chosen as its battlefield cities and towns where Hamas members don’t wear the uniforms of an armed force or even attempt to conform themselves to the accepted norms of armed conflict.
Israel’s actions, to this point, have not accomplished the military objective of stopping the rocket attacks. Under Article 51 of the UN Charter, Israel is entitled to take measures necessary for self-defense. Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields and for propaganda purposes ultimately leaves the group responsible for the inevitable civilian harm that comes from Israeli defensive measures.