Israel’s overwhelming air assault against Hamas, which may be a prelude to a ground assault, is welcome news to those who support and deeply admire the Jewish state and who believe the way to defeat militant Islam is to confront it rather than to appease it.
Despite the fact that Hamas has provoked this response from Israel by directing rocket attacks against Israel, that Israel has shown almost super-human patience until now in not responding with force, and that Israel is now exercising her elementary right of self-defense, we have seen the ritual and stupid denunciation of Israel from the United Nations and parts of the Arab world, from France to Turkey to elsewhere. The Bush Administration, to its great credit, is focusing criticism where it belongs: on the aggression and malevolence of Hamas.
There are, I think, two things to take away from what is unfolding in Gaza right now that are contrary to conventional wisdom. The first, laid out in an excellent op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal by Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi, is that the sine qua non of an authentic “peace process” is a decisive Israeli victory over Hamas. Israelis cannot be expected to pursue further steps for peace — and her efforts at achieving peace are by now almost too numerous to count — if Gaza remains a de facto enemy and terrorist state.
Events in Gaza also remind us that the popular Western emphasis on concessions leading to peace, is in many instances exactly the opposite of the truth.
The Israelis, after all, made a series of unprecedented concessions to Yasir Arafat in 2000; he responded by beginning a second intifada against Israel. In addition, Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 emboldened Hizballah. And as Ze’ev Maghen points out in his lead essay in the January 2009 issue of COMMENTARY, in Iran, “Israel’s evacuation of its Gaza settlements in the summer of 2005 has become a major symbol of the decrepitude of the Jewish state.”
Maghen points out that the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri said this in the wake of the disengagement process:
The Zionist regime retreats in the face of the slightest resistance. The willingness of the Zionists to leave behind their synagogues in Gaza demonstrates conclusively that they have no God, and therefore, of course, no religious connection to the Holy Land; they will now be easily ejected from all of occupied Palestine.
And soon after the Gaza pullout, Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizballah, proclaimed, “We, too, drove out the Israeli cowards.” (Nasrallah was referring to the Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.)
This sentiment tracks with what Osama bin Laden said in 1998 about America:
We have seen in the last decade the decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier who is ready to wage Cold Wars and unprepared to fight long wars. This was proven in Beirut when the Marines fled after two explosions. It also proves they can run in less than 24 hours, and this was also repeated in Somalia … [Our] youth were surprised at the low morale of the American soldiers and realized more than before that the American soldiers are paper tigers. After a few blows, they ran in defeat and America forgot about all the hoopla and media propaganda after leaving the Gulf War. After a few blows, they forgot about this title [leaders of a new world order] and left, dragging their corpses and their shameful defeat.
Jihadists interpret retreat and even withdrawal from territory not as an act of good faith but as a sign of weakness and irresolution; the result is that it redoubles their determination to strike, to kill innocent civilians, and to extend their savage way of life to new lands.
This is not to say that territorial concessions are in every instance unwise; when Israel returned the Sinai Desert to Egypt, it was a wise move by Menachem Begin. But for it to succeed, the agreement required Anwar Sadat, who had made his own inner peace with the existence of a Jewish state. There are no Sadats in the leadership of Hamas. It is an organization dedicated to eradicating Israel. That is why a show of force and will are critical. Israel must finish what it has started, for their sake and for a larger cause as well: the civilized world’s war against militant Islam. As the events of the last few days and months have reminded us, from Israel to India, that struggle ebbs and flows, but it is far from over.
Those who hope to prevail against jihadism should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel, and all she represents.