Israel's Big Decision: Time to Take Hamas Out?
Israel is faced with two opportunities that could help ensure its security for generations. While each offers great challenges, the failure to achieve them both will haunt Israel.
First, Israel has the chance to remove Hamas’ terrorist government from power; it must take this opportunity. Hamas has never been weaker. Arab nations are distracted by their own unrest following the “Arab Spring” and have turned away from supporting Hamas. New governments are attempting to manage the ongoing threats to their control or power. These factors make Arab states less sympathetic to Hamas or interested in Israel.
Some Arab nations and groups would actually like to see Hamas removed from power. While the Palestinian Authority has publicly stated it wants a cease-fire, they would likely be happy to regain control of Gaza from Hamas. Saudi Arabian media has offered stinging criticism of Hamas, saying Hamas’ actions in escalating the conflict have been “unreasonable and irresponsible.” The Saudi media has argued that Hamas has been willing to sacrifice the lives of Gaza’s citizens by “exposing them to inevitable attacks.”
Egypt has gone from being an ally of Hamas, to an enemy. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which briefly held power in Egypt from 2012 to 2013 under President Mohamed Morsi, before Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were overthrown by the military. The new president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and his government view Hamas as hostile and dangerous, in part due to Hamas’ support of the Muslim Brotherhood government, but also because it destabilizes the region. Hamas has been involved in numerous terrorist attacks against Egyptian civilians and soldiers over the past year. These actions have led Egypt’s government to destroy dozens of smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt and to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization. Many members of the elite in Egypt have been privately saying that they hope that Israel destroys Hamas. As Israel’s current ground operation in Gaza began, these comments became less private. Increasingly, there are public voices in Egypt, from the government to the elites to the media, who are strongly criticizing Hamas and voicing support for Israel’s operation. It appears that Sisi and many other Arab leaders are hoping, sometimes in private and sometimes in public, that Israel will remove Hamas from power once and for all.
Most of the world currently appears to understand that Israel must eliminate the threat from Hamas. The lack of support for Hamas from Arab nations is so notable that Hamas has criticized Arab nations for failing to come to their aid. Arab nations may have come to realize that groups like Hamas sow instability and sectarian divisions in the Arab world. For example, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which now controls wide sections of both Syria and Iraq, is an Islamic extremist group that has spread sectarian violence and crossed national boundaries. Their interests and goals are not unlike those of Hamas. The terrorist organization Hezbollah, which has ravaged Lebanon, has been a rare supporter of Hamas in the current conflict, yet has offered no concrete support. Arabs are growing weary of such conflict and the intimidation and violence such groups use to spread their message.
The United Nations, which frequently condemns Israeli military actions, has been less critical of Israel’s current campaign, and has only recently begun to make a concerted effort to achieve a cease-fire. UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon has called for restraint and offered some criticism of Israeli actions, but this has been far less than in previous campaigns. In fact, in this conflict, Hamas has faced severe criticism from the UN after Hamas rockets were discovered in two UN school buildings. The EU, which is usually highly critical of Israel’s actions, has issued a statement strongly critical of Hamas that recognized Israel’s “right to defend itself.” Leaders in Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Italy have all issued statements condemning Hamas and in support of Israel’s right to self-defense. Hamas’ tactics of targeting civilians are repugnant to the majority of the world. Further, during the current conflict, Hamas has repeatedly violated cease-fires, including during Operation Protective Edge.