Israel’s Hamas policy threatens permanent war
November 26th, 2012
04:29 PM ET

Israel’s Hamas policy threatens permanent war

By Doug Bandow, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Doug Bandow is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, specializing in foreign policy and civil liberties, and worked as a special assistant to President Reagan. The views expressed are his own.

The latest round of violence between Israel and Hamas has ebbed. But nothing has been settled.

Hamas has failed at the basic task of governing while ruling with an iron hand. Moreover, nothing justifies spraying Israeli cities with missiles.

However, Israel has contributed mightily to the violence. Israel occupied Gaza for four decades and continues to occupy the West Bank, with which Gaza long was intimately connected. Only in 2005 did Prime Minister Ariel Sharon finally remove 8,000 settlers, who enjoyed a privileged existence in the midst of more than one million Palestinians, many of them refugees or descended from refugees forcibly displaced by Israel’s formation.

Once Hamas was elected, Israel blockaded the territory, even calculating the minimum calories needed for each resident, according to reports on defense ministry files from 2008. Although Israel has since eased the rules, the Israeli humanitarian group Gisha noted: “Gaza’s connections with Israel and the West Bank, vital for its economy and the welfare of its residents, are still subject to sweeping restrictions.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “No government would tolerate a situation” where its “people live under a constant barrage of rockets and missile file.” True. But neither would any government tolerate a situation where its people live in what former Israeli official Shlomo Ben-Ami termed “an open air prison.”

The policy is folly. Justified as denying Hamas construction materials and the like, the blockade enriches the movement, which taxes goods smuggled in. Wrecking the civilian economy weakens the private business community, which has the greatest interest in peaceful accommodation with Israel.

Yet Israel has not explained what it expects in return for lifting the blockade. Said Robert Wright in the Atlantic: “when you subject people to treatment like this, without even specifying the conditions under which the treatment would change, human nature pretty much ensures that bad things, including violent ones, will happen.”

Israel separates Gaza and the West Bank – it is difficult even for Palestinians to travel from one to the other. This eliminates any moderating influence from Ramallah and impairs creation of a responsible, united Palestinian government.

Finally, Israel has routinely used violence against Gaza, invading, bombing, and assassinating at will. Since 2006, Israel has killed more than 200 Palestinians just within an arbitrarily declared buffer zone. On November 5, Israelis killed an apparently mentally disturbed man. On November 8, Israeli forces invaded with tanks and killed a 13-year-old boy playing soccer. Two days later, rockets were fired in retaliation, leading to Operation Pillar of Defense. It is difficult to disentangle who provoked whom and when, but the blame runs both ways.

Moreover, Israel’s attacks are disproportionate. Israel has a long history of attacking civilians as a matter of policy. Decades ago, Menachem Begin admitted that earlier governments launched “retaliatory actions against civilian Arab populations; the damage was directed against such structures as the canal, bridges and transport.”

The earlier Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, which took place in 2008-09, killed around 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Jerome Slater of the State University of New York at Buffalo pointed to numerous studies that found that “Israel intentionally attacked Gazan economic targets as well as other civilian infrastructures and institutions.” More than 160 Gazans died in the latest round, half of them apparently civilians.

Unfortunately, such policies have not protected Israel. Acknowledged top Israeli official Moshe Arens: striking Arab civilians in an attempt to end attacks on Israeli civilians, “only increases the support that the terrorists receive from the civilian population.”

Indeed, Israel’s policy, however successful militarily, has been a bust politically.  Palestinians have been ill-served by their leadership, but so are Israelis today. Foreign Minister Avignor Lieberman could be fairly called an anti-Semite if that term was used in reference to Arabs.

What popular support Hamas has lost from misgovernment it has regained by seeming to defend Palestinians. Hamas forced Israel to negotiate: the cease-fire requires talks on increasing the freedom of movement for people and goods and ending targeted assassinations.

In contrast, Israel has given nothing to President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. On my trip to Israel in August 2010, Israeli officials told me they respect PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad for cooperating in restraining terrorist attacks, yet he has no deliverables for his people.

Israel continues to expand settlements in the West Bank, many on land essentially stolen from Palestinians. For Israeli activists this represents a strategy of colonization and annexation. Knesset member Yaakov Katz looked forward to when more than a million Israelis would be living outside Israel’s original borders, after which, he said, “the revolution will be completed.”

In fact, Israeli policy seems designed to make peace impossible. According to an Israeli peace activist, Israel assassinated Hamas security chief Ahmed al-Jabari while he reportedly was negotiating over a cease-fire. Israeli peace activist Gershon Baskin argued that, “This blood could have been spared.”

Mahdi Abdul Hadi of the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs complained that the Israeli attacks “left Abbas politically naked.” Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh declared: “after this war, even people in the West Bank are loving Hamas now.”

While Hamas might not seem to be a good partner for peace, both Israel’s Menachem Begin and Fatah’s Yasser Arafat shifted from terrorism to negotiation. Power has moderated the views of some in Hamas; in fact, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted in a WikiLeaks cable admitting that Hamas was “making a serious effort to convince the other factions not to launch rockets or mortars.”

Israel needs peace. Yet two states may become impossible as settlements expand – there already are 350,000 settlers in the West Bank, twice the number just a dozen years ago. At some point it will be impossible to uproot them as part of any agreement.

If not two states, then one. But eventually the number of Arab Israelis and Palestinians will exceed that of Jews, in which case Israel would either cease being a Jewish state or a democratic state. Leaving millions of Palestinians as modern helots would be both a human travesty and national disaster.

If Israel proceeds down this path it would become even more important for the United States to separate itself from Israeli policy. America is already blamed for Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians. A real friend states even unpleasant truths when giving advice. The United States should do the same to Israel.

The latest battle involving Gaza is a tragedy with no purpose. Without a shared commitment to peace, the violence will continue.

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Topics: Israel • Middle East

soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. Eugenio

    The bottom line: If Gaza would stop sending missiles into Israel and adopt and peacful and cooperative stance all hostilities would stop. The rest is smoke and mirrors trying to confound chicken and egg. Dont buy into this.

    November 26, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Reply
    • DC

      Pretty much says it all.

      January 7, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Reply
  2. Maxwell NI

    why did the third reich not finish the job? that would have relieved us of all the headaches we have to deal with everyday

    November 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm | Reply
  3. AJ

    It is Palestinian land and Israel is the occupier? How bout looking into the History of that land. It is clearly Israeli land and Israel should evict anyone that wants to eradicate Jews. How can you negotiate with a government/people that drags someone behind a motorcycle and the people cheer like it is a parade float.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm | Reply
    • JDMArkansas

      Yes, DO look at the history. Arabs have been living in Palestine since shortly after the death of Mohammed in 632 AD. That is over 1300 years! The Hebrew nation of Israel only existed for a few hundred years after the end of the New Babylonian occupation of Palestine until Rome kicked them out in the Diaspora. There is NO archaelogical or historical basis for the myth of the "kingdom of David". There is NO reference to such a country in the histories of ANY of the neighboring countries such as Phoenicia, Philistia, Egypt, etc. Before the Babylonian occupation, the Hebrews were an illiterate nomadic people that lived in that general area for a long time, but only as minority population. Saying that Palestine is "Jewish land" is like saying that all of Europe and western Asia should be declared as the "Land of the Romani (Gypsies)". The Zionists "bought" Israel from the English, who had no right to sell it. They did NOT buy it from the people who had been living there for the past 1300 years. ISRAEL started all of the wars by stealing Palestine from the Arabs. ISRAEL is killing FAR more Palestinians than the numbe of Israelis killed by Palestinians. ISRAEL is killing MOSTLY women and children. The Palestinians are killing MOSTLY Israeli soldiers. Israel retailiated against Hezbollah in Lebanon for kidnapping 3 Israeli soldiers by indiscriminately killing over 1200 people in South Lebanon, only about 60 of whom were Hezbollah. Israel "warned" the villages in South Lebanon by dropping leaflets telling people to evacuate and then bombed them on the roads when they tried to flee. Who are the terrorists?

      November 27, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Reply
      • byterbit

        I’ve lived in the mid-east & I’ve studied archaeology and history in grad school. You are misinformed; there is very solid evidence for a Jewish kingdom from circa 1000 BC and for Jewish habitation from at least then up to and long after Rome. And of course you are sadly & obviously biased against Jews and Israel; they only defend themselves, as would you.

        November 27, 2012 at 6:48 pm |
  4. Stop arguing and look for a solution

    The Israeli goal is to completely take over all of what remains of Palestine through the never ending building of Palestinians = security in the Israeli mindset.
    There is no real desire for a peaceful resolution and the creation of a 2 state situation...Israel is currently trying to stop any UN bid for observer status in the UN on the part of Palestine... it is denying the Palestinians the right to exist..not just in words but in actions and threats as well.
    Once the Israeli settlements have become too numerous to be removed and that there is nothing left of Palestine then Israel will feel it has completed it's eradication of those pesky people who dared resist the takeover of their territory.
    While Israel will feel smugly content the Arab world will be making plans to do the same to Israel as what Israel did to the will then require the ongoing dominance of the US to save Israel's bacon and that dominance will not last indefinitely.
    Give it 200 years and Israel will possibly not exist due to it's creation of so much hatred toward it in the middle East over the treatment of the Palestinian people.
    Nothing will have been gained or settled permanently despite the horrendous suffering of civilians on both sides.
    War graves are the result of flawed diplomacy and mass civilian graves are the result of flawed Governments and war crimes.

    November 26, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Reply
    • Ganesha akbar

      "The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.

      "For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan."
      –Zahir Muhsein, PLO Executive Committee–

      Try harder to avoid aping Fakestinian propaganda lies.

      November 27, 2012 at 7:39 am | Reply
    • DC

      You missed it. There is already a two state solution. palestine was divided into 30% Israel and 70% Jordan in 1948.

      January 7, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  5. BROOM

    This is an incredibly biased and false article.

    November 27, 2012 at 2:02 am | Reply
    • deep blue

      What facts or arguments of the article do you challenge? It seemed well written to me. It acknowledged that Israel is in a difficult situation, but pointed out the obvious fact that current policy perpetuates endless war. Some believe endless war is the only option. The author does not.
      I'm guessing you want it to criticize the Hamas more and say Israel is perfect? The Hamas are horrible, but that's not the point. The point is, economically starving the Gaza Strip will only empower radicals. Bombs won't help either.

      November 27, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  6. Hate Wins

    When the day comes that MEN of any religion love their wives and children as much as they love themselves then maybe their can be a dialog that both sides can agree on. I would kill and man who ask MY SON or Daughter to strap on a bomb. When he is not willing to do so himself but convinces a young and easily persuaded person to do so. From what I have seen this will never happen. THE OLD MEN ARE NEVER GOING TO DO THAT. I am 64 years old and these old men make me sick.

    November 27, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  7. Adam

    Israel's policy will ensure a perpetual state of war.....

    Yeah, that's believable, if Hamas and Hezbollah, and their main sponsor, Iran haven't said they'd like to see Israel wiped off the map.

    Israel has made peace with two neighboring countries, which had been two of the most active threats to Israel in the first three Arab-Israeli wars. In fact, Israel pledged to sell Jordan F-16s if the US didn't sell Amman the jets themselves.

    December 7, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Reply
  8. Jaryd

    What an absolute load on rubbish! Never have I read more biased nonsense! I don't know what this is called, but it’s for sure not journalism, I couldn't even finish reading this for fear of losing brain cells!

    Providing some kind of logical response, or alternate view point would give some kind of credibility to this trash, so I am not even going to waste my time!

    I do however think it is at least worth mentioning that Israel delivered 1,520 truckloads of suppliers to Gaza in the week 9-15 December 2012 including 346 truckloads of food products, 130 truckloads of humanitarian products and 649 truckloads of CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS.

    This article (if you can call it that) would be comical if it weren't going to incite hatred and more violence.

    While Jason may be blinded by his own biases, personal inclinations and distorted view of reality, CNN needs to accept the responsibility demanded of it as an international media outlet and at least try to report the facts and offer alternate perspectives.

    Dear Readers! I implore you to please independently research all sides of this conflict before basing your views on something and someone who should be shamefully banished into history as a distorter of facts and perverter of truth!

    December 20, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Reply
  9. glsfbg

    The author evidently suffers from dislexia. The headline should read "Hamas' Israel Policy Threatens Permanent War" It is Hamas that is dedicated to Israel's total destruction. The last line of this stupid piece says it all, "Without a shared commitment to peace, the violence will continue." Hamas is not committed to peace.

    December 23, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
  10. In Home Personal Training

    Israel’s Hamas policy threatens permanent war? They have been fighting forever it is a permanent war already.

    April 17, 2014 at 7:41 am | Reply
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