Israeli News: A Daily Analysis
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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

June 14, 2007 Hamas Captures All of Gaza Strip

As Shimon Peres was celebrating his election as the new President of Israel, the last nails were being driven in the coffin that was his vision of the New Middle East.  Unfortunately, the date June 14 will go down as a pivotal one as the ongoing history of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is written.  It is the day that ended the hope that the pragmatics on both sides of the conflict would be able to put aside their hatreds and conflicting historic narratives and reach an agreement. 
 
Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a way that showed a level of premeditated cruelty and hatred aimed at other Palestinians that it put a chill into the bodies of many Israelis wondering how cruel they would be if they ever had a chance to attack an Israeli.
 
Things in Gaza have gotten far worse quicker than even the most vociferous critics of the withdrawal from Gaza stated.  There is now the first territory in the Middle East controlled exclusively by the Muslim Brotherhood.  What happens if their victory in Gaza influences Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood takes over there?  How can Israel keep Iran from supplying advanced weapons to Hamas in the Gaza Strip?  More immediately, can Israel stop the Hamas from taking over in the West Bank? 
 
Most commentators today discussed how the West Bank is different; Gaza is one overcrowded prison, filled with people who have never left Gaza, while the West Bank’s population is more sophisticated and wealthier, thus they would never allow the Hamas to take over.  On the other hand, I would not be so sure.  The quick and total victory of the Hamas over the larger forces of Fatah makes it clear that the Fatah forces are an illusion.  Similar to the French army in 1940, or to the Shah army before the fall, Fatah looks competent but it is merely an illusion. I
 
Tonight Israeli television showed the leaders of the Fatah military forces in Gaza all in the lobby of a hotel in Ramallah, they were a group of beaten old men.  These were the men who had fought Israel from Beirut and later from Tunis and returned with Arafat after Camp David.  Today they have once again been exiled, this time by their fellow Palestinians.  Who controls the West Bank for Fatah?  First and foremost there is Palestinian Chairman Abbas who has proved to be a weak leader, unable to take decisive action until it is too late.  The rest of his advisors and confidents are similar to the Fatah leaders in Gaza who have now fled. 
 
What should Israel do now? First forget this pathetic call for an international force- who is kidding who?  What European country is going to send its men and women to impose control over the Hamas?  Look what is happening to the US in Iraq, no one wants that.
 
Israel must be willing to take extremely strong actions in the next few weeks.  First it must insist the Egypt take control of its border.  It is in Egypt's interest to do so, but it has to make it clear if Egypt does not Israel will.  Second it must make it clear that it will not allow a Hamas takeover in the West Bank.  If armed Hamas men try to take on the Fatah, Israel should use the opportunity to eliminate a future threat.  Finally, there is no choice but to follow what some on the right have been saying- finish the disengagement.  Israel has to make it clear that they have one chance- if there are any armed attacks of any kind from Gaza on Israel, the water and the electricity will be cut off. 
 
If one looks at the history of the last twenty years, alternative narratives are easy to present. One would say that Israel is in this mess because they did not make enough concessions, continued to build settlements and were not willing to take the risks for peace. Alternatively, it could be said that every concession Israel made just made it seem weaker in the eyes of the extremists: a little more pushing and pushing and Israel would topple. That failed during the terror bombings of 2001-03, the tourist stayed away but Israelis continued to suffer.
 
It was that feeling of perceived weakness in the eyes of the Arab world that impelled Prime Minister Olmert to take the actions he did and to launch this summer's war after Hezbollah attacked Israel, killed and kidnapped its soldiers.  Olmert's instinctive reaction was correct, only he did not realize that the army was not ready for war, and there was nobody there to tell him that.
 
Both narratives are right, but unfortunately Israel does not have the luxury of trying to relive counter-histories.  The situation is where it is now, with angry extremists who only call for Israel’s death in control of a mini state on Israel's border.  Any attempt to reach any sort of understanding with Hamas would only further strengthen them and their Iranian and Syrian sponsors.  They are now fully in control over a piece of territory and a population that no one has ever wanted.  Israel must make sure they choke on it.