July 1, 2016
- Facing the Hamas Challenge – Efraim Inbar
Hamas is indeed an implacable enemy of Israel. Its ideological commitment to the destruction of the Jewish state is enshrined in its covenant and is propagated in all Hamas-sponsored educational organs. Hamas has acted on its hatred by organizing numerous suicide bomber attacks, by digging tunnels to facilitate the perpetration of terrorist attacks, and by launching thousands of rockets toward Israel’s towns and cities. It deserves to be the target of Israeli military action.
However, the end of Hamas rule is not an easily attainable military objective. The roots of Hamas are deep in Palestinian society, particularly in Gaza. Hamas simply cannot be eradicated by outsiders conquering Gaza.
Calls for a “political solution” are similarly unrealistic. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Salafist groups see Israel as a theological aberration. They might reluctantly accept temporary cease-fires, but they continue to categorically reject any diplomatic course of action intended to fully solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The fanatical commitment of these militias to a radical ideology and to a patient strategy of violent resistance means the conflict will continue for some time.
Force should be applied in the service of a long-term strategy of attrition designed to debilitate enemy capabilities and exact a cost with the object of enhancing temporary deterrence. This strategy also has a positive effect beyond the borders of the conflict. Other actors in the Middle East are watching, and they too need vivid reminders that aggression against Israel can be costly. In this tough neighborhood, inaction is perceived as weakness, inviting aggression.
The question “When will this end?” is inherently flawed. There is, unfortunately, no end in sight. As long as the basic motivations of Hamas remain, the violent struggle will continue. But this does not mean that significant periods of quiet cannot be achieved by military action. The writer is director of the Begin-Sadat-Center for Strategic Studies and Professor Emeritus of Political Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (BESA Center-Bar-Ilan University)