When the media use inanimate subjects to describe events in the Middle East — “the cycle of violence continues,” “events spiral out of control” — it is a sure sign they are giving terrorists a break. Get ready for that in spades after recent events.
The Israeli government — the only democratic government with a commitment to human rights and the rule of law — swiftly investigated the grisly murder of a Palestinian teen and arrested six people with suspected “nationalistic” motives. That killing was most likely in retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers whose bodies were found last week. In addition, Israeli airstrikes in response to Hamas missiles directed at civilians killed nine Palestinian militants while Israeli police battled street protestors who used rocks and homemade weapons. On Fox News Sunday, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, in response to accusations that Israeli police beat a Palestinian teenager:
Well, we condemn excessive use of force. It’s unacceptable in our system if police use excessive force.
I will tell you from what I understand about the facts of the case — this is not just an innocent bystander who was pulled off a schoolyard. He was with six other people. They were masked.
They threw petrol bombs and Molotov cocktails at our police. Three of them had knives, from what I understand. That does not excuse any excessive use of force, and our Justice Ministry is opening an investigation.
Just as in the case of the Arab boy, we will bring the perpetrators to justice. And no one in uniform can employ excessive use of force in Israel. We’re a democratic society run by laws and we don’t tolerate it.
Most recently Hamas said it would end its missile strikes against civilians only if the Israelis ended the blockade that keeps out at least some weapons smuggled into Gaza. Hamas uses this sort of obvious PR stunt to justify continued human rights crimes — the intentional targeting of civilians, including children.
Calling for “restraint” on both side or resorting to those clichés obscures the cause of violence and the flawed policies that encourage it. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, who served in an administration that eventually put an end to U.S. references to “cycle of violence” and other morally obtuse language, wrote on Friday:
The kidnappings in the West Bank last month turned into a disaster for Hamas: instead of having captives to trade for Israeli prisoners, Hamas was condemned universally for the crimes and suffered severe blows to its organization in both the West Bank and Gaza.
In response Hamas has started attacking Israel with rockets and missiles, something it had kept to a minimum and had prevented other terrorist groups from doing. Indeed the weeks when Israeli troops were searching desperately for the three young kidnap victims was precisely the moment when Hamas rocket attacks began to increase each day. Israel has now warned Hamas that the rockets must stop this weekend–or there will be a severe Israeli response. For Hamas, each option has costs and benefits. An Israeli attack could deprive Hamas of most of its stores of rockets and missiles, which are harder to replace now that the tunnels are largely closed. And at least some of the Hamas high command would likely fall to Israeli targeted attacks.
But for Hamas there is, we must be aware, an “upside” for provoking an Israeli response. Once again Hamas would play the victim, and the condemnations of last month for the kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teens would quickly turn into cries of solidarity with the poor targets of Israeli assaults. This is the dynamic that produced the wretched “Goldstone Report” of 2009. The Arab League and the EU –and the White House– would start demanding Israeli “restraint” (indeed they already are), and more important for Hamas it would once again have support in the Palestinian “street.”
As of now, Israel has threatened Hamas but held back–sending clear messages that the rocketing must end. Hamas knows the price it will pay (and it seems unconcerned about the price the Gazan economy will pay), but the terrorist group’s own interests may lead it to keep going and ensure an Israeli attack. Portrayals on Al Jazeera of damage to people or structures in Gaza (where Hamas can easily pose fraudulent cameos of children, hospitals, schools under attack) to elicit the world’s pity, pictures of damage in Israel to stir the blood of their own terrorist ranks–the Hamas high command may be unable to resist. In which case Israel’s messages asking for restraint will be ignored, and [this week] will be a time of war.
In other words, killing will stop when Hamas decides to stop killing innocents. Mouthing nonsense about the need to “resolve differences” assumes falsely that both sides want to do so. In fact, Hamas seeks Israel’s destruction and murder of innocents while the Palestinian Authority is powerless and/or unwilling to stop it. Indeed to its own people (in Arabic as opposed to English used for propaganda to the West), the PA continues to cheer the “martyrs.”
Taking one step back, it is not hard to see the role Iran plays in all of this. Hamas is its proxy group and the recipient of Iranian arms. Sensing (correctly, in our view) that Obama is desperate for a deal on nuclear weapons, it takes advantage of U.S. eagerness by burnishing its image as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. When Iran is disabled by further sanctions, denied the ability to transfer weapons, military action or regime change, Hamas will have its legs cut out from under it. Instead, as Iran grows so does Hamas.
It is worthwhile to go back to the stunningly naïve and morally vapid speech the president gave in Cairo at the start of his presidency, in which he uttered such laughable lines such as this: “Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel’s right to exist.” It’s time for a new speech (not to mention a new president) that would recognize the folly of moral relativism and the responsibility for death and destruction that would go something like this:
Now is the time to admit the Palestinians fail to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority refused to develop its capacity to govern with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they have repeatedly instigated violence. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, the PA must separate itself from Hamas, which refuses to put an end to violence, recognize past agreements or recognize Israel’s right to exist. Until that is done, there is no peace and no statehood for Palestinians. It is time to stop pretending Israel will not offer the Palestinians a state of their own; it has tried repeatedly, each time rebuffed by Palestinian leaders unwilling to give up the dream of wiping out the Jewish state.
Israel enjoys the right of self-defense and, in spite of terrorists who hide behind the skirts of women and children, has done so with remarkable care for innocent life. We fully support Israel’s right to do so, commend its devotion to the rule of law and share a common interest in eradicating terror supported by the Iranian regime.
Well, yes, there is as much chance of this president saying that as there is of Hamas giving up violence. It’s one of many reasons we need a new president.