Monday, March 03, 2008

Hamas' Ceasefire Scam

At Jewish Current Issues, Rick Richman notes that the U.S. State Department is feverishly working with Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (and thereby indirectly negotiating with Hamas) to reach a ceasefire agreement to end the current Gaza fighting. He collects blogosphere commentary questioning whether a ceasefire would benefit Israel.

Beyond the short-term ceasefire, there is the question of whether there is any advantage to a long-term ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, which Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has pushed for some years from now. What Haniyeh has offered is not peace, not recognition of Israel's right to exist, but that if Israel would pull back to the pre-1967 ceasefire lines, Hamas would observe a ceasefire of indefinite duration, reserving the right to begin hostilities again at a time of its choosing.

This is the Islamic concept of hudna. As explained in the Middle East Glossary of the Israel Project:

Arabic word often translated as "cease-fire.- Historically used as a tactic aimed at allowing the party declaring the hudna to regroup while tricking an enemy into lowering its guard. When the hudna expires, the party that declared it is stronger and the enemy weaker. The term comes from the story of the Muslim conquest of Mecca. Instead of a rapid victory, Muhammad made a ten-year treaty with the Kuraysh tribe. In 628 AD, after only two years of the ten-year treaty, Muhammad and his forces concluded that the Kuraysh were too weak to resist. The Muslims broke the treaty and took over all of Mecca without opposition.

Hamas, which states as its objective the destruction of the State of Israel, recognizes that it cannot now successfully confront Israel militarily. So it offers a hudna, a ceasefire that will continue until Hamas feels it is strong enough to defeat Israel in renewed hostilities. Is this a deal that any rational person would accept? If someone says, "I want to kill you, but if we fight now, you will win, so let's wait until I am strong enough to kill you," isn't the sane response to fight and destroy your sworn enemy now, while you still can?

In addition to that fundamental, indeed for Israel existential question, there is the quite practical consideration that for most of the period that rockets and artillery shells have reigned down on Sderot and Southern Israel from Gaza, Hamas has insisted that the sources of the attacks were Islamic Jihad and other terrorist militias over which it claimed to have no control. Yassir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah frequently have employed the same classic gambit in the past, such as when Arafat claimed to have no connection with Black September, when in fact it operated under his orders. So even if a ceasefire were reached on paper, it would not mean an end to terrorism aimed at Israeli civilian targets.

Yet several Israeli left-wing pundits, such as Uri Avnery and Amos Oz have argued that Israel should pursue such a ceasefire with Hamas. As long as Ehud Olmert continues as Israel's prime minister, there is a distinct danger that he will listen to such voices.


Blogger Robby said...

The woes of Gaza fall squarely on the shoulders of HAMAS, and were 100 per cent predictable by just about anyone, including HAMAS.

Choice one - the economic siege: They have known since day one the conditions 1) Recognize Israel’s right to exist, 2) Denounce violence, and 3) Honor previous agreements. It was made clear that they would have to meet these criteria or there would be economic sanctions.

Choice two – Loss of power: Certainly they did not expect Abbas and the PA too still play nice with them if they took over Gaza, but they did it anyway. Same with tearing down the Egyptian borders.

Choice three – Violence: Did they really think Israel would not respond to the rockets? It’s my guess they knew there would be heavy retaliations.

So HAMAS has chosen the bind they are in, and they can choose to get out anytime. But it doesn’t look like the health and welfare of the citizens of Gaza is very important in their decision making.

Monday, March 03, 2008 7:50:00 PM  

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