Photo Credit: Commentarymagazine.com
Jonathan S. Tobin

In a sentiment that was echoed across the Israeli political spectrum, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed today that “Hamas will pay” for the murders of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped two weeks ago. What exactly Netanyahu meant by this phrase isn’t yet known. But given the track record of both Israel and the Palestinians and the efforts by President Obama to head off any tough action by Netanyahu, the leaders of the terror group may not exactly be shaking in their boots.

In the wake of the discovery of the victims’ bodies, anger against the Islamist terror group is widely felt and it is likely that Netanyahu’s government will have wide political leeway to hit Hamas hard, both in the West Bank and Gaza. But the question facing Israel is not so much whether to launch air strikes at Hamas headquarters or to round up even more of their supporters. Rather, it is whether if, after an interval of a week or two, Hamas is still functioning and is still part of the ruling coalition of the Palestinian Authority. If, after absorbing a pounding from the Israeli army, the Islamist movement’s leadership can claim that it not only shed more Jewish blood but also survived another Israeli counterattack, then despite all of the fearsome rhetoric coming out of Jerusalem, Hamas will have won.

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President Obama’s condemnation of the deaths of the three Israeli teens was appropriate but it was accompanied by the standard call for “all sides to exercise restraint.” Which is to say that the U.S. is making it clear to the Israelis that anything beyond a minimal retaliation that will not make a difference will be condemned as worsening the situation. But, like all past efforts to enforce restraint on Israel, such counsel merely ensures that this tragedy will be played out again and again.

It must be understood that while the gruesome crime committed against three teenagers may damage Hamas’s already shaky reputation in the West, the willingness of the group to commit this atrocity may increase its popularity among Palestinians. In the last year, Hamas’s political stock has fallen as the cash shortfall caused by its rift with Iran and the closing of smuggling tunnels to Egypt undermined its ability to maintain local support. Where once it was seen as a viable alternative to the Fatah kleptocracy that rules over the West Bank, it is now seen as merely an Islamist version of the same corrupt model. Its willingness to maintain a rough cease-fire with Israel along the border with Gaza also robbed it of its mantle as the standard-bearer of the struggle against the Jewish state. It was for these reasons that it was forced to sign a unity agreement with Abbas’s Fatah.

Should a determined Israeli offensive take out some of its leadership and undermine its capacity to function, perhaps that decline will continue. But Hamas and its backers also know that violence has always been the main factor legitimizing Palestinian political parties. Should the kidnapping lead to another round of violence in which Hamas could portray itself as the true defender of Palestinian honor, then the incident could give it a new lease on life even as its members duck for cover.

That may incline some to counsel Israelis to avoid what in the past has been considered a “disproportionate” response to Palestinian provocations. Since Israeli attacks may actually undermine Abbas and boost Hamas, some (especially in the United States) may advise Netanyahu to make some noise but then get back to business as usual as quickly as possible lest a new counter-terror campaign serve to create a new generation of terrorists.

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51 COMMENTS

  1. Jewish people don’t think they’re “divine.” If you’re going to put down a whole group of people, you should at least know what you’re talking about. Anti-semites “are [one of] the worst ppl on earth.”

  2. I am an American Citizen and I am very ashamed and embarrassed at the current administrations lack of concern about the 3 kidnapped and murdered youths, even though one was American. Where was the support from the international community during the 18 days these boys were missing? Now that they have been found dead the international community only gives lip service but sends their message to Israel to use restraint as usual. Abbas talks out of both sides of his mouth and complains to the UN, Hamas runs their mouth then goes and hides but keeps shooting rockets into Israel. I have a solution to the problem? Since the Palestinians are way behind on paying their water and electric bills, turn their water and electric off until they surrender the kidnappers/murderers. Then Abbas will really have something to complain to his buddies at the U.N.

  3. Hard to take your comment seriously, on the worth of others, when you can’t spell at a fifth grade level. And when you do learn to read, if you learn, you will find out that The God of the Torah and the Bible is very real.

  4. Hard to take your comment seriously, on the worth of others, when you can’t spell at a fifth grade level. And when you do learn to read, if you learn, you will find out that The God of the Torah and the Bible is very real.

  5. Israel has already waited too long. I doubt they will do anything real or substantial to the Islamic terrorist nazis. Netanyahu is a pathetic joke and Shimon Peres and the Knesset traitors w no credibility.

  6. Israel has already waited too long. I doubt they will do anything real or substantial to the Islamic terrorist nazis. Netanyahu is a pathetic joke and Shimon Peres and the Knesset traitors w no credibility.

  7. Israel has already waited too long. I doubt they will do anything real or substantial to the Islamic terrorist nazis. Netanyahu is a pathetic joke and Shimon Peres and the Knesset traitors w no credibility.

  8. There has never been a moment of restraint for our enemy…nor must there ever be. They hate Jews, and every non islamic, and I don’t care why; they are enemy and we can be proud of them because there is nothing half way about it, they intend to destroy and kill all of us without let up or apology…anything goes. So be it, let our response not be measured but rather the fully force or righteousness in our response to them and in our defense against their aggressions, it appears that they must die if we are to live, therefore: “They Must Go!”

  9. Netanyahu talk talk talk talk talk……..and nothing comes out, he doesn’t has gonads, he waiting to much time to invade Gaza and through away the all the Gaza population to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Syria or Irak, and the arabs in the “West Bank” and East Jerusalem are bothering the Israelites throw to the countries which came from.

  10. Netanyahu is full of empty threats that the Arabs no longer find funny anymore. He is pathetic with his threats while he does nothing. RESTRAINT IS NOT A JEWISH CONCEPT! Restraint has needlessly cost thousands of Jewish lives.
    Netanyahu is becoming the heir of Shimon Peres who did everything to undermine Israel’s security during his political career.

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