Monday, January 19, 2009

Why Hamas Is More Powerful Than Hizbollah

In his article, Anatomy of Israel's Cease Fire Declaration: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory, David Bedein addresses the new reality of what it means to go to war with Hamas--a reality that was ignored, not understood, or perhaps just underestimated when Israel began to pull out of Gaza.

As if it were not enough that Israel pulled out of Gaza, and left Hamas free to rearm at its leisure--
The unkindest cut of all came the next day, when the head of Israeli intelligence told the Israeli cabinet that it would only take the Gazans another two months to develop new ways to import new weapons.

Even worse, Israel's self-imposed cease-fire occurred without the return of the one POW in the hands of Hamas, without control over the smuggling routes from Egypt, and without the disarmament of Israel's most lethal adversaries
More to the point, Bedein criticizes the Israeli leadership for failing to understand the nature of the enemy:
Contrary to the illusion that Israel is only at war with a terror group, and not with the Palestinian population, it is that very terror group which was chosen by the Palestinian people in Gaza AND in the west bank in the January 2006 elections that were encouraged and overseen by the American government.

What that means is that one people is fighting another people. For the first time in Israel's sixty year war for independence, the Jewish state faces an enemy that is embedded in a genuinely popular movement.

That contrasts with 1948 until 1973, when Israel fought off totalitarian states.

That contrasts with 1974 until 2004, when Israel coped with a terrorist outfit operated by a corrupt pedofile.

Israel now copes with Islamic movements who operate with a popular power base, from Hizbullah to Hamas.

Israel must now cope with a civilian army that operates under the cover of a civilian population which has also trained combatants among women and school children.

In this war, it will not be enough for Israel to defeat those who are formally defined as fighters.
The distinction, which was lost by the government, is only beginning to be realized:
Yet any Israeli cessation of hostilities with an ideological adversary will find still find that adversary at war.

There is no greater tenacity than the tenacity of a people who are ready to sacrifice thousands of their people in order to defeat another people.

The lesson of World War II is that when a nation wants to achieve peace with a fanatic ideologue, it must insist on total victory and unconditional surrender - and not rely on the wishful thinking of a unilateral cease fire, under the illusion that other side would stop fighting because of heavy casualties.
At the end of the day, it appears that Hamas is not really living in the shadow of Hizbollah after all. They have gone one step further than Hizbollah and have in fact suceeded in creating a true terrorist state.

And Olmert, with the aid of Livni and Barak, have just given them even greater recognition and validation than they did with the Disengagement.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey takes a very different view. He quotes from the Jerusalem Post...
In a speech broadcast on Hamas television on Sunday night, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said the Palestinians had achieved a historical and strategic victory over Israel, and claimed that Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip had failed.

Hamas agrees to ceasefire, gives IDF week to leave Gaza
The Hamas leader repeated the terror organization's demand for a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Strip, and for the opening of the border crossings.
...and then writes:
Earlier, Iran had threatened to cut off funds to Hamas if they agreed to a cease-fire. That opened a split between Hamas leadership in Gaza and the international leadership in Damascus. The Iranian retreat speaks much louder about Hamas’ performance in this war than Hamas’ self-serving pronouncements. Iran realized, perhaps after Israel easily destroyed the special commando group that Iran trained, that Hamas would at best barely survive this war.

Iran can paint their retreat in hosannas of flowery praise, but even their statement recognizes the defeat Hamas suffered. The victory will be “complete”, Iran says, when Israel retreats from Gaza, ends its border control, and everyone in the world ends contacts with Israel. Well, sure, if that had happened, Israel would have lost. Unfortunately for Iran, none of it has happened, and except for the withdrawal, none of it will as long as Iran’s proxy terrorist group remains in control of Gaza. Tehran knows it lost this gambit, and they’re trying to bolster Hamas’ reputation after a disastrous provocation exposed them as lousy terrorists and even worse soldiers.
Morrissey sees Hamas as having nothing but bluster to show for the past 3 weeks.
Let's hope he is right.

In any event, Israelis are not fooled and see that the government has failed--regardless of Hamas's setback. David Hazony writes that the polls already show that Likud has made gains:

Despite all their efforts to lower expectations, and the much-touted “learning from the experience of 2006″ in waging both a diplomatic and military campaign, Israel’s leaders have, once again, completely misread the demands of the Israeli public. Israelis are willing to go to war on exactly one condition: That it bring peace, or at least safety and security of its citizens. Right now this does not seem to be happening. The government has done a lousy job of convincing average Israelis that leaving Hamas in place, preventing arms smuggling through another international agreement, currying the support of world leaders, and abandoning Gilad Shalit to his fate are indications of Israel having gone in and done the job. And now, the much-delayed election campaign begins in earnest.

Will a right-wing government do a better job? Most Israelis seem to think so. But Israeli politics are funny that way…

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