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Raymond Hall

Raymond Hall: Negotiate? Negotiate What? More of the Same, Later?

Opinion: USA Intervention In Gaza Dispute Is Off The Mark

Raymond Hall, July 26, 2014

In the United States’ recent self-injection into Israeli-Hamas conflict, it’s opening proposition to Israel this week was a full immediate end to all hostilities, followed by several days of protracted “negotiations” involving Israel, Egypt and representatives of the Palestinians, among others.


The impetus behind the State Department’s urgency to become directly involved in the conflict was apparently its frustration with the growing number of civilian casualties resulting from Israel’s direct military response to defend itself from the continuing barrage of rockets launched from Gaza. While nevertheless affirming Israel’s right to defend itself from the Hamas rocket attacks, Secretary Kerry’s priority was clearly to deal with the symptoms rather than with the underlying problem.

 

In doing so the United States inherently legitimized negotiating with a political entity that it had previously declared a 'terrorist organization' and lulled itself into following the Hamas strategy playbook—use the international media to portray Israel as the aggressor.


One can’t help but wonder what the United States’ reaction would be to missiles launched today from Cuba into downtown Miami, or from Mexico into downtown Dallas.  Would U.S. citizens tolerate a President not taking immediate and decisive action against the military aggression, even with the knowledge that there would likely be civilian casualties as a result?  One need not speculate about the response to him saying, “Why don’t we have a short cease-fire now and bring in some international negotiators to help broker a settlement of this dispute?”

One of the obvious starting points to resolve any dispute is an accurate assessment of the facts.  Isn’t war the result of failed negotiation, in and of itself?  Worse, isn’t war the most extreme form of negotiation?

What are the facts? Let’s start with Hamas.  Its 1988 Charter defines Palestine as running from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, north and south.  The Charter calls for the obliteration of Israel, and the elimination of all Jews from the region, through jihad (technically, “struggle,” but also “armed resistance”) until victory or martyrdom.  It resolutely denies relinquishing even one inch of the territory. More importantly, it contains no principles consistent with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, including any provisions regarding the sanctity of human life or the fundamental rights of individuals, including women and children.

What has Hamas accomplished since its election in 2006? To its credit, it has provided health services, economic development and it has built hospitals and roads.  But one of its primary objectives has been to divert international financial aid from social purposes to the production and enhancement of infrastructure and armaments to support jihad.

Apparently, even the IDF was surprised this week by the extent and complexity of the kilometers and kilometers of “terror” tunnels underneath the Israel border, many with concrete reinforcements, some large enough to move vehicles, some with “holding cells” for potential kidnap victims, and many with munitions and IDF uniforms for subterfuge attacks. The openings of some of the tunnels in Israel were located less than one kilometer from kindergartens, and there were enough openings in many of the tunnels to allow a mass terror assault by over 1,000 terrorists at the same time.


What is the Hamas military methodology? Simply, to use its own civilian population as human shields, as fodder, as nothing more than media “props” in its jihad against what it refers to as “the occupiers” of Palestine—a war crime, clear and simple. Not only has it used its schools, mosques and hospitals as storage depots and weapons factories, but when the IDF warned civilians to vacate identified armament locations prior its announced pending attack, Hamas instructed its own citizens to remain in place, knowing full well that the inevitable outcome would play well in international media to further discredit the enemy’s “aggression.”

Its main methodology, of course, is its provocation of war by the indiscriminate launching of missiles into Israel cities, towns and settlements, each contravening the provisions of the Geneva Convention and constituting a war crime, in and of itself.


What have previous cease-fires accomplished?  Each one has led to a relatively quiet phase in which Hamas succeeded in acquiring additional foreign funding and additional technological know-how to increase the size and destructive capability of its armaments, allowing it to expand its ability to inflict harm on the Israeli public and the IDF.

Is there a solution?  Arguably, the only way to completely halt the continued aggression and increasing military and civilian conflict is to arrive at a process of complete demilitarization of Gaza. But demilitarization is the anathema of Hamas.

Any prospective negotiated solution of the sort contemplated by the United States in its most recent proposal can be at best only a Band-Aid solution that not only does not address the root problem but that lays the ground work for increased conflict in the future.

Israel is now equipped and determined to deal with the terrorist threat to its population, once and for all. In doing so, it should be obvious that there will be a high price to pay in the short term, politically, economically, militarily and in the form of human lives on both sides.  But that price must be paid, in order to ensure that in the long term, the cost is much, much lower than it otherwise would be.

It requires vision, courage and stamina to pursue this task to completion, given the insufferable circumstances foisted upon the IDF in the context of the inhumane treatment by the terrorists of their own civilians' lives in response. But Israelis have never lacked vision, courage, stamina or regard for the sanctity of human life.

The Hamas strategy depends largely upon the media's response to the its atrocities.  Who gets blamed?  Who is the aggressor? Who is the "occupier?" Until recently, they have been largely victorious on that front.  That may be changing.


One telling event of the past year was an interview done last November by CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour of Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett.  Ms. Amanpour was grilling the MK about the continuing development of settlements in what she referred to as “the occupied territories.”  He immediately stopped her, pulled a coin from his pocket and said, “I am holding a coin here from Jerusalem.  The coin which says, in Hebrew, ‘Freedom of Zion’ was used by Jews in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago in the State of Israel in what you

 
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