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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Thomas Friedman, "How This War Ends": Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

Regrettably, the inevitable has happened: Would-be Middle East expert Thomas Friedman has abandoned Madagascar and found his way to the West Bank. Writing from the city of Ramallah, Friedman, in his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "How This War Ends" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/03/opinion/sunday/thomas-l-friedman-how-this-war-ends.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0), would have us know how the current war between Israel and Hamas "might end in a stable way":

"Given the fact that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates hate Hamas — because of its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood — as much as Israel, the potential exists for a Gaza deal that would truly align moderate Arabs, Palestinians and Israel. But it won’t come cheap. In fact, it will require Israel, Hamas and the U.S. to throw out all the old rules about who doesn’t talk to whom.

Here’s why: Hamas has been a formidable foe for Israel, and it is unlikely to stop this war without some agreement to end the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza. Israel is not likely to stop this war without having rooted out most of the Hamas tunnels and put in place a regime that will largely demilitarize Gaza and prevent the import of more rockets.

Since neither Israel nor Egypt wants to govern Gaza, the only chance these goals have of being implemented is if the moderate Palestinian Authority here in Ramallah, led by President Mahmoud Abbas, is invited back into Gaza (from which it was evicted by Hamas in 2007). And, as one of Abbas’s senior advisers, Yasser Abed Rabbo, explained to me, the only way that can happen is if the Palestinians form a national unity government, including Hamas, and if Israel agrees to resume negotiations with this government about ending the West Bank occupation.

. . . .

'We should have a serious Palestinian reconciliation and then go to the world and say, ‘O.K., Gaza will behave as a peaceful place, under the leadership of a united Palestinian front, but, [Egypt], you open your gates, and, Israel, you open your gates,’' Abed Rabbo said. The moderate Arab states would then contribute the rebuilding funds."

Or in other words, Friedman would grant Hamas, whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews (not just Israelis), a place in a Palestinian national unity government that would no longer shoot rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza at Israeli towns and cities (more than 15,000 such attempts at killing Israeli civilians until now). Israel, of course, should trust Hamas to keep its word, particularly after it has broken every ceasefire arranged by the US and the UN in the current round of fighting.

And given such an "ironclad" promise, Israel would of course allow Hamas to smuggle longer range, more powerful missiles into Gaza via the sea.

Hamas's partner, Islamic Jihad? No mention in the op-ed of this charming organization funded by Iran, but I suppose they would also be included in Tom's peaceful Palestinian governing body.

Ridiculous? You bet! But this is little different from what Obama and Kerry attempted to hand Hamas on a silver platter when they demanded that Israel agree to an immediate unilateral ceasefire and accede to the appointment of Hamas's principal backers, Qatar and Turkey, as mediators in the conflict.

A few of words of background: The current round of fighting amounts to a "war of necessity' for Hamas, given that it has run out of money and has lost many of its friends. Hamas allied itself with the Syrian rebels fighting against the Iranian proxy regime of Bashar al-Assad, and for this reason Hamas was forced to move its headquarters from Damascus to Qatar.

Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are silently rooting for the destruction of a fanatical Hamas, given their fear of Sunni Islamic radicalism, as embodied by ISIS. Hamas, of course, lost the backing of Egypt when General Sisi ousted the Muslim Brotherhood from power.

And so, facing bankruptcy and irrelevance, Hamas is now engaged in a war in which it has nothing to lose. However, the fighting has not gone well for Hamas, which has witnessed the destruction of its tunnels leading into Israel, constructed at the cost of 160 Palestinian children's lives. Moreover, its arsenal of some 10,000 missiles is nearing depletion and has proven ineffectual in the face of Israel's Iron Dome batteries.

Keep Hamas alive and ticking? I don't think so, but this is what both Obama and Friedman would have Israel do. After all, Obama couldn't do away with al-Qaeda, so why shouldn't Israel be stuck with Hamas?

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