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Gaza and Hamas: Now What?

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.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Yasir Arafat

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen