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Settlement Follows Military Success

Thomas Friedman examines what he terms the three great Middle Eastern struggles (which Arab power will be the regional superpower, will Israel exist, and will militant Islamists or modernists prevail), and seems to inch toward reality when he writes:

Hamas rejects any recognition of Israel. By contrast, the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, has recognized Israel — and vice versa. If you believe, as I do, that the only stable solution is a two-state one, with the Palestinians getting all of the West Bank, Gaza and Arab sectors of East Jerusalem, then you have to hope for the weakening of Hamas.

Why? Because nothing has damaged Palestinians more than the Hamas death-cult strategy of turning Palestinian youths into suicide bombers. Because nothing would set back a peace deal more than if Hamas’s call to replace Israel with an Islamic state became the Palestinian negotiating position. And because Hamas’s attacks on towns in southern Israel is destroying a two-state solution, even more than Israel’s disastrous and reckless West Bank settlements.

Israel has proved that it can and will uproot settlements, as it did in Gaza. Hamas’s rocket attacks pose an irreversible threat. They say to Israel: “From Gaza, we can hit southern Israel. If we get the West Bank, we can rocket, and thereby close, Israel’s international airport — anytime, any day, from now to eternity.” How many Israelis will risk relinquishing the West Bank, given this new threat?

But then he takes a detour into Obama-worship and peace-process fantasyland, concluding:

No doubt, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are hoping that they can use the Gaza conflict to turn Obama into Bush. They know Barack Hussein Obama must be (am)Bushed — to keep America and its Arab allies on the defensive. Obama has to keep his eye on the prize. His goal — America’s goal — has to be a settlement in Gaza that eliminates the threat of Hamas rockets and opens Gaza economically to the world, under credible international supervision. That’s what will serve U.S. interests, moderate the three great struggles and earn him respect.

But what “settlement” is possible with the Hamas he aptly describes? How can Gaza be opened “to the world” if the opening is used to rain down rockets on Israel? We — and Friedman — should be honest here. The way to resolve all of the challenges he outlines ( diminsh Iranian hegemony, protect a Jewish state with secure borders, and boost the modernists) is for Israel to deal Hamas a death blow (or as close to it as possible).

It is very “Bush,” I know, to say that. But if Friedman and his idolized President-elect are as savvy as they portend to be they will recognize the logical conclusion of the analysis. Just as in Iraq, the political “solution” and the warm and fuzzy moments of reconciliation follow military success. President-elect Obama might not have had the wherewithal to lead and support those victories but he may be the beneficiary. The “prize” — if there is to be one — will be prepared for him by the Bush administration, which had the nerve to persevere in Iraq and the courage to stand by Israel. Thanks are not required, but some honesty would be nice.


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