In my earlier post on Israel’s efforts to halt Hamas’s terrorist missile offensive against southern Israel, I alluded to the claim put forward by peace activist Gershon Baskin that Ahmed al-Jabari, the group’s military commander, was willing to accept a cease-fire before he was killed yesterday. In doing so, I referred to the tale as “farcical.” I should clarify that. I was not stating a belief that Baskin made up the story. Baskin, an Israeli who has been in continuous contact with Hamas over the last several years, is probably merely repeating what he was told by his interlocutors in Gaza. So in that sense he was telling the truth as far as he knew it. What was farcical about the story, which is probably on its way to becoming one of the top talking points for critics of Israel, is that the entire premise of Baskin’s ongoing efforts to try and broker agreements with Hamas serves the interests of the terrorist group, not that of Israel or of peace.
Baskin is claiming that killing al-Jabari spiked chances for a return to the relative calm that prevailed along the border with Gaza until last week as well as angering Egypt mediators. Even worse, he asserts that in doing so, Israel made a deliberate decision to reject a peace feeler. But even if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak really were aware of the messages that he was relaying to al-Jabari’s people, their decision to make Hamas pay a price for its terrorism was correct. Though few in Israel want to send troops back into Gaza, the status quo Baskin was helping Hamas preserve was an invitation to more terrorism, not a pathway to peace.
For days, southern Israel was pounded by close to 200 rockets fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza. This morning, the Islamist terrorist group got its answer when the Israel Defense Forces launched a series of retaliatory strikes on its military leadership. Ahmed al-Jabari, the group’s top commander, was killed in an airstrike on his car as it drove down a Gaza street. The killing of al-Jabari was just one of 20 different attacks on Hamas operatives in an effort intended to both decapitate its terrorist hierarchy as well as to send a message to the Gaza regime that if it thinks it can rain down missiles on Israel with impunity, it has made a terrible miscalculation.
The Israeli counter-attack after the days of Hamas missile fire is clearly an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt the assaults on his country without having to resort to an invasion of Gaza. While Israel can expect the world to condemn its measures of self-defense, Netanyahu cannot allow a return to the situation prior to the last IDF offensive into Gaza four years ago, when Hamas acted as if it thought there was no way for Israel to stop the missile fire on its borders. It remains to be seen whether, after another surge of rocket fire today following al-Jabari’s death, Hamas will take the hint and stand down.
But either way, these events effectively debunk the idea that Hamas has embraced non-violence and that the United States should reach out to it to join peace negotiations. That’s a narrative that was increasingly being promoted by those who sought to use the Obama administration’s decision to treat the new Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt with kid gloves. The decision over the past weekend by the Brotherhood’s Hamas allies to set in motion the events that threaten to plunge the region into a new round of deadly violence is also a reminder to Washington that it should be paying more attention to the security needs of its Israeli ally and less to what its new friends in Cairo are saying.