They say that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.  If that’s true, then ill intentions will get you there a lot faster.  The events in Israel over the past couple of weeks surely felt like that. What started as “yet another terror attack” quickly deteriorated into numerous acts of civil violence and an armed conflict between the Hamas in Gaza and Israel Defense Forces (IDF). As I write this blog, Air Raid sirens are heard in Tel Aviv, coupled with sounds of Rocket explosions. A different kind of summer break is awaiting millions of children who just got off school.
The recent cycle of violence was triggered by the kidnapping and eventual killing of three Israeli teenagers – Yeshiva students. This has not been the worst terror attack Israel has experienced. Not even the most vicious one. Unfortunately the Israeli public has grown accustomed to the “script”: Palestinians carry out an act of terror against civilians, Israel’s General Security Service (Shabak), aided by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and often by the Palestinian Authority (PA) quickly tracks down the perpetrators – which are brought to justice.

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The 3 dead Boys (top); Strikes on Gaza (bottom left); Rocket attack on Israel (bottom right)

However the kidnapping of the 3 boys was different this time. Maybe because their fate wasn’t known for 18 days, while a large scale ‘search and rescue’ operation took place. Maybe because for 18 days nearly every person in Israel held their breath praying that the boys will return home safely. Maybe because Israelis waited for a “happy ending”– and were utterly disappointed when the news about the discovery of the bodies of the slain kids were released.

Whatever the reasons were, the boys’ kidnapping triggered a massive wave of anger within Israelis. The social networks were filled with cries for retaliation, coupled with the slogan: “The People Demand Revenge”. Ironically, this was a play on the popular “The People Demand Social Justice” slogan that drove the Israeli public to the streets 3 years ago. At the time, it symbolized the public disdain with corruption and economic inequality.

Israeli politicians didn’t stay far behind. There’s nothing like riding a social unrest to improve your political standing. Some declared we should pursue the right “Zionist response” to the vicious crime.  Others pointed fingers to the Hamas and called for dealing it a massive blow. Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, citing intelligence information and held the Hamas responsible for the crime.

[Sidebar: Hamas is a 3-headed beast:  it has a militant arm, a diplomatic arm and a social arm.  While the militant and the diplomatic arms get media attention, it is the social arm that is most strategic to Hamas. It is based on the same Dawah strategy used by its parent movement – the Muslim Brotherhood. By providing social services and education to the common people, Hamas gains and retains grassroots support. ]

A massive search and rescue effort called “bring the boys home” commenced in the West Bank. In addition to the stated goal of finding the boys, the operation was used for dealing a blow to Hamas in the West Bank – including its social infrastructure. Hamas members were arrested, among them those released in the Gilad Shalit prisoners exchange deal in 2011. Aside from the actual damages inflicted on the Hamas, the re-incarceration of recently freed prisoners destroyed their single most important accomplishment in recent years.

Hamas could have waited for the operation to be over and then restore its infrastructure in the West Bank. But it must have been too much for them to bear. Soon enough, rockets started flying from the Gaza strip towards populous areas in Israel. Israel reacted to these attacks with targeted bombing of Hamas facilities and rocket launching sites.  And here we are – in the midst of yet another cycle of violence.

Many Israeli citizens and some politicians are calling for Israel to invade Gaza and finish Hamas “once and for all”. Fortunately, the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff are being more cautious. My hope is that this “round” will end like the previous one – with an “agreement” between Israel and the Hamas.

No, I don’t think that the Hamas will suddenly switch their position and become ‘Israel lovers’. I am simply trying to analyze the reality we are facing and determine the best steps to achieve relative calm for Israeli citizens.

Sure, IDF can invade Gaza and beat Hamas militarily. However a battle waged in a highly dense urban area will result in dozens of Israeli casualties, hundreds of dead Hamas militants, and over a thousand civilian casualties. Not to mention the massive destruction caused to the cities and infrastructure. And what will be the aftermath?

If Hamas is destroyed as an organization, someone else will have to rule Gaza. We’re talking about over a million people living in a highly dense, poor and unfriendly area. Gaza can cause major headaches to any occupying Army. I can’t imagine Israel being interested in a déjà vu there. So what about Egypt? They have ruled it before 1967, but chose to leave the problem in Israel’s lap as part of the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace agreement. I can’t see them interested in coming back. So what about the Palestinian Authority (PA), who is dominated by the more moderate Fatah organization? Well, the PA was thrown out of Gaza by the Hamas in 2007. They may have little appetite for coming back without assurance they can stay in power. They are likely to let Israel chew on it for a while first. Then there’s the option for Israel to destroy Hamas and then pull out. Well, any vacuum in the Middle East gets quickly filled with extremists (see ISIS in Iraq and Syria). The new regime may make us all hope the Hamas would be back.

So if we don’t want to rule Gaza, and we don’t want Al Qaeda there either, then we really have one viable option – reaching some sort of an agreement with Hamas. I know, Hamas is a terror organization, and we don’t negotiate with terrorists. But let’s face it, the Fatah was once labeled as such, Hezbollah still is, and we have direct or indirect agreements with both. Plus we have already negotiated with the Hamas several times, through mediators, but still…

So my hope is that we will find a “win-win” agreement with the Hamas, and do it soon. Before more innocent people get hurt on either side. Hamas is the government in Gaza, whether we like it or not. They have other interests besides destroying Israel, like any government has. Poor, hopeless citizens are a threat to any government. We just need to find the balance between offering Hamas what they need in order to continue to rule Gaza effectively, and the right security measures for Israel.

Sounds simple; now just do it…

 

 

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