Having failed to achieve its goals through unceasing rocket attacks on Israel, Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in 2007, proceeded to concentrate its efforts on creating a network of attack tunnels. In 2014’s Operation Protective Edge and subsequently, the IDF has succeeded in systematically destroying these tunnels—an achievement that most likely spurred Hamas to take up its current tactic of mass protests at the security fence combined with attempted infiltration. Now that it has defeated this effort as well, Elliott Abrams asks what Israel should do next.
Misery in Gaza is not in Israel’s interest. The problem is that Hamas has thus far shown no interest in transforming itself from Islamist terrorist group into responsible government of Gaza. This should be no surprise. Yasir Arafat could never make that transformation either, from terrorist into head of government. His rejection of Israel’s offer at Camp David was in part a rejection of changing himself from a “resistance” leader in military uniform into an administrator responsible for schools, hospitals, and roads. And Arafat was secular. . . .
Hamas [by contrast] is an Islamist terrorist group dedicated to eliminating Israel and will never agree to transform itself into a “normal” government. This leaves Israel and Egypt, and anyone else who is serious about avoiding more violence, with few good options. How can Israel and Egypt pursue a policy of improving economic conditions in Gaza—more electricity, water, sewage treatment, jobs, opportunities to leave the Gaza Strip to study or to get medical treatment—without strengthening Hamas’s ability to move terrorists in and out and acquire more weapons or their components? We are familiar with the story of cement: permitted to be imported to build houses, but instead diverted by Hamas into construction of those tunnels.
It is worth trying again to reduce misery in Gaza, even if success will be partial or minimal. Efforts at humanitarian relief at least show Gazans and moralists in Europe (so quick to jump to facile criticism of Israel, as we saw this week) that the true author of Gaza’s plight is Hamas, which sees Gazans as cannon fodder rather than citizens for whom it is responsible. There is no visible “solution” to the problem of Gaza, because it is today a small Islamist emirate governed by a terrorist organization. For Israel, violence can at best be reduced or delayed, but not avoided entirely, when the goal of the group ruling Gaza is precisely violence designed to destroy you.