A resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is further away than ever. Hamas is the biggest obstacle to peace between the two sides, yet Israeli Brigadier General Michael Herzog tells Colin Freeman at Britain’s Telegraph that Hamas needs to be preserved and maintained lest something even worse takes its place.
“One way in which an Israeli military operation could backfire is by shaking Hamas’ control on the ground to the point that it allowed other factions, including jihadists, to come to the fore,” he said. “At least Hamas provides an address—you don’t have that with the jihadi factions. They aren’t dominant right now but Hamas no longer controls Gaza as firmly as it used to, and if it was seriously weakened they could take advantage. We don’t want another Somalia on our doorstep.”
He could have said he doesn’t want another Iraq on his doorstep. If a group like ISIS seized power in Gaza City during the aftermath of a war, both Israelis and Palestinians would have a brand-new deadly serious problem.
So Hamas is the “lid,” and the Israelis won’t even try to get rid of it. Right now they only want to put a stop to the rocket fire. It makes sense considering what’s happening in Syria and Iraq, but think of the long-term ramifications: Hamas is indispensable even while making an end to the conflict impossible. What does that say about the prospects for peace in the near term?
If Hamas simply wanted independence for a Palestinian state, the two sides would only have to work out the details. But Hamas wants to “liberate” and “end the occupation” not of the West Bank but of Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. It isn’t possible to negotiate a deal with these people. They aren’t interested in negotiating anything more than a temporary cease-fire. Hamas and the entire ideology behind it must be eliminated or at least marginalized before an end to the conflict will be in sight.
There is no reason to believe this will happen any time soon. An Arab Spring-like revolution against Hamas in Gaza would be an interesting development, but it’s not happening. Perhaps it will later, but it is not happening now.
The Israelis can and do change their government regularly with free and fair elections, but Palestinian politics are autocratic and slower to change. At least one more generational shift may be necessary. In any case, the jihadist factions will need to be vaporized first. And in the Levant, at least, they’re still ascending.
We could waste more time with another peace process to nowhere, I guess, but they sure do hurt when they fail.