Israel and Hamas agreed Friday morning to a 72-hour cease-fire, during which all sides were to make provisions for negotiations and a longer truce. Or so it seemed. Barely 90 minutes after the truce began, Hamas militiamen launched a sneak attack against an Israeli unit that was destroying tunnels. During the attack, two Israeli soldiers were killed and one was captured. The attack drew a stinging rebuke from Secretary of State John Kerry and prompted the Egyptian government to expel Palestinian negotiators from the peace talks it had been facilitating.
It is a graver breach of trust than initially meets the eye. Hamas is more than just a genocidal paramilitary organization that openly targets civilians and has no respect for the laws of warfare. In Gaza, it is also part of an elected government, with a budget and responsibility for millions of innocent people's lives.
|Armies scrupulously honor truces so that they can make them again in the future. An army that breaks cease-fire agreements is an outlaw army.|
The group's rejection of the first Egypt-brokered ceasefire was debatable in terms of fulfilling those responsibilities. This latest breach is just over the top. Armies scrupulously honor truces so that they can make them again in the future. An army that breaks cease-fire agreements is an outlaw army.
In breaking this latest deal, Hamas probably invited a war of annihilation against a vastly superior enemy — a pointless battle they cannot win. Vastly more significant is the fact that in provoking such an all-out assault by Israel, it is inevitable that many more Palestinian civilians will die. Their blood will be entirely on Hamas.
If you keep poking the bear in your backyard until it eats your family, eventually someone is going to blame you for it. And the most recent poll available shows that Palestinians in Gaza are not happy about the way they have been governed — or at least they were when the current escalation began. A face-to-face survey of 450 Gazans commissioned by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, conducted June 15-17, found that 70 percent wanted Hamas to maintain a cease-fire with Israel, which it did not.
The same survey also found that majorities of Gazans wanted their government both to resist Israel “until all of historic Palestine is liberated” (65 percent) and to renounce violence (57 percent). Seventy-three percent said they saw efforts at nonviolent resistance as having a “positive impact.” Meanwhile, 78 percent viewed the presence of militiamen in their communities as a “significant” or “moderate” problem, and both crime and corruption were cited by majorities larger than 90 percent.
Hamas had its chance to broker a peace, and it chose instead to make fools of the U.S., Egyptian and other diplomats who had worked to stop the shooting. The breach of trust in this latest cease-fire hammers home the point that, Gaza — whether or not it is unjustly occupied or oppressed — will be an economic basket case and military death trap for Palestinians until Hamas and its capacity to wage war are gone. Israel seems determined to finish that job. Given Friday's events, President Obama has no wiggle room to interfere.