Not the Moment for “Restraint” Against Hamas

By Jonathan S. Tobin, COMMENTARY

In a sentiment that was echoed across the Israeli political spectrum, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuvowed today that “Hamas will pay” for the murders of three Israeli teenagers kidnapped two weeks ago. What exactly Netanyahu meant by this phrase isn’t yet known. But given the track record of both Israel and the Palestinians and the efforts by President Obama to head off any tough action by Netanyahu, the leaders of the terror group may not exactly be shaking in their boots.

In the wake of the discovery of the victims’ bodies, anger against the Islamist terror group is widely felt and it is likely that Netanyahu’s government will have wide political leeway to hit Hamas hard, both in the West Bank and Gaza. But the question facing Israel is not so much whether to launch air strikes at Hamas headquarters or to round up even more of their supporters. Rather, it is whether if, after an interval of a week or two, Hamas is still functioning and is still part of the ruling coalition of the Palestinian Authority. If, after absorbing a pounding from the Israeli army, the Islamist movement’s leadership can claim that it not only shed more Jewish blood but also survived another Israeli counterattack, then despite all of the fearsome rhetoric coming out of Jerusalem, Hamas will have won.

President Obama’s condemnation of the deaths of the three Israeli teens was appropriate but it was accompanied by the standard call for “all sides to exercise restraint.” Which is to say that the U.S. is making it clear to the Israelis that anything beyond a minimal retaliation that will not make a difference will be condemned as worsening the situation. But, like all past efforts to enforce restraint on Israel, such counsel merely ensures that this tragedy will be played out again and again.

It must be understood that while the gruesome crime committed against three teenagers may damage Hamas’s already shaky reputation in the West, the willingness of the group to commit this atrocity may increase its popularity among Palestinians. In the last year, Hamas’s political stock has fallen as the cash shortfall caused by its rift with Iran and the closing of smuggling tunnels to Egypt undermined its ability to maintain local support. Where once it was seen as a viable alternative to the Fatah kleptocracy that rules over the West Bank, it is now seen as merely an Islamist version of the same corrupt model. Its willingness to maintain a rough cease-fire with Israel along the border with Gaza also robbed it of its mantle as the standard-bearer of the struggle against the Jewish state. It was for these reasons that it was forced to sign a unity agreement with Abbas’s Fatah.

Should a determined Israeli offensive take out some of its leadership and undermine its capacity to function, perhaps that decline will continue. But Hamas and its backers also know that violence has always been the main factor legitimizing Palestinian political parties. Should the kidnapping lead to another round of violence in which Hamas could portray itself as the true defender of Palestinian honor, then the incident could give it a new lease on life even as its members duck for cover.

That may incline some to counsel Israelis to avoid what in the past has been considered a “disproportionate” response to Palestinian provocations. Since Israeli attacks may actually undermine Abbas and boost Hamas, some (especially in the United States) may advise Netanyahu to make some noise but then get back to business as usual as quickly as possible lest a new counter-terror campaign serve to create a new generation of terrorists.

While that line of reasoning may sound logical, it would be a mistake. Israel needs to do more than launch some symbolic strikes that will do nothing to assuage Israeli anger while doing nothing to deter Palestinians from emulating this horrific deed. Nothing short of a stroke that will decapitate the leadership of this group will convince the Palestinians that Hamas has made a mistake.

As a poll I discussed last week showed, the vast majority of Palestinians want the struggle against Israel to continue but they don’t want to personally pay the price of that conflict. Making the vast majority of Palestinians pay for Hamas’s outrages would deepen their bitterness against Israel and lead to charges of collective punishment. But if, instead, Israel makes Hamas’s leaders pay in such a measure as to make it difficult if not impossible to carry on then perhaps Netanyahu can thread the needle in between an escalation and a weak non-response.

It may be that Israel’s options are limited by political realities and Hamas’s ability to withstand attacks. But no matter what choices Netanyahu makes, “restraint” will be merely an invitation for Hamas to repeat this crime again in the future.

July 1, 2014 | 17 Comments »

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17 Comments / 17 Comments

  1. @ honeybee:

    you and I have so little input so we must just metaphorically hug one another and morn.

    You are so right hb…
    And wise.
    You are one beautiful lady.
    Thank you, cyber friend….

  2. the phoenix Said:

    Well, honeybee, I took your advice.
    It did not work

    You not quiet in your mind, takes practice. You have a stronger back then you take credit. You are angry because you are personally ineffective, as are we all. I want to see bombs drop and blood running in the streets too. But you and I have so little input so we must just metaphorically hug one another and morn.

  3. honeybee Said:

    You need some time in the woods, Sweetheart. The Almighty speaks in silence.

    Well, honeybee, I took your advice.
    It did not work… 🙁
    I still hope to see RIVERS of musloid blood!
    I would love to just kick back and hear the shrill screams of musloids as they see their miserable houses collapse and burn with everyone inside….
    Lots of candies here to be GLEEFULLY handed out …

    There is only so much straw that you can load on the poor camel…
    I think the back IS broken!

  4. bernard ross Said:

    the jews are proud when golda says there will be peace when the arabs value their children more than they hate the Jews;

    My Father’s Aunt Ester Shapiro lived next door to Golda in Denver. Golda was attending North High School.

  5. The Israeli government’s and its toadies’ plan will be to talk for a while so as to let the highly emotional reaction of the people die down. Then, as with the Fogel family, it will be “business as usual”.

    We should’t let this happen; keep up the pressure.

  6. @ SHmuel HaLevi 2:
    Shmuel,
    NO ONE on this forum would disagree with you.
    I might be losing the last few functioning neurons, but short of the proverbial PALACE REVOLT I do not see any other solution….
    Are there not enough regulars and reservists that could command their troops to TOTALLY DESTROY all signs of life from gaza and Arab populated towns in j&s??!
    They could obviously have “misunderstood” the order to stand down for a green light to finish the job, 😉 no?
    After THIS external enemy has been dealt with, they COULD go after the internal enemy, no?
    It may very well come to be a replay of biblical times where Solomon’s kingdom was divided …. 🙁

  7. @ bernard ross:

    If it were my son I would want their entire cities liquidated, and that would still not be enough. I would want to see them wailing and mourning and their gnashing of teeth, to give them a nakba. Million of their lives would not be worth the life of one of my children: But then I hold my children’s life to be dear and not something to bargain away in negotiations, swaps and bazaars.

    How well put…
    Unfortunately, the ex-furniture salesman thinks this to be no different ….
    It just does not get any more pathetic than this…
    S.C.R.E.A.M.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. @ bernard ross:
    How long? For as long as the unJewish trash is allowed to betray, undermine, attack Jews.
    We do not have a chance while Peresites, Netanyahu, Livni, Weisntein, Lapid, Alon etc remain in control.
    We are lost if the Israeli media remains as it has been for decades.
    We do not have a chance if the judicial is manned… by traitors.

  9. How long will the Jews repeatedly mourn for their children while the enemy gloats and holds up 3 fingers knowing that Israel will bomb assets and that their children are safe?

    It is absurd to treat the mother in law and grandchild of the terror leader haniyeh and then whine that Hamas must pay. They all must pay, fatah, hamas, the whole collective who encourages their children to murder Jewish children. If it were my son I would want their entire cities liquidated, and that would still not be enough. I would want to see them wailing and mourning and their gnashing of teeth, to give them a nakba. Million of their lives would not be worth the life of one of my children: But then I hold my children’s life to be dear and not something to bargain away in negotiations, swaps and bazaars.

    It is pathetic that there are those who want to retain leverage for the bazaar and the swapping of terrorists when arab terrorists and their aids should be mandatory executed on sight.

  10. the willingness of the group to commit this atrocity may increase its popularity among Palestinians.

    Its too bad that Jews are proud of their unwillingness to commit atrocity and instead sacrifice their children to the beasts.

    If only the Jews butchered arab women like they did to shelly Dadon……
    If only the Jews slit arab babies throats like they did to the Fogel baby………
    If only the jews kidnapped and slaughtered their children, dumping them in a pile of rocks, like they did to the 3 boys…..

    If only the Jews had the courage to commit atrocity to save their own children…….
    the jews are proud when golda says there will be peace when the arabs value their children more than they hate the Jews; but this again places the proactive role to the arabs and not the Jews.

    I say that there will be peace when the Jews are willing to commit atrocity to save their own children, when the Jews love their own children more than being “moral”, when the Jews love their own children more than the enemies children.

    Restraint in not removing existential danger to ones own children and family is NOTHING to be proud of.

  11. Until the Jews embrace merciless revenge against their enemies they will continue to be treated by their enemies and the world as fools.

    The arabs are not individuals to be treated in civil law. they are an enemy to be liquidated or driven off. Unless the whole collective is dealt with as an enemy Jews will not safely traverse YS, their homeland. the answer is not to retreat behind a wall with more arabs within but to lash out and destroy the enemy. It is an ongoing War process and NOT an ongoing peace process. I fear the Jewish reaction will be too mild and merely encourage more of the same. Expect to see them hold up 3 fingers and gloat in the future.

    If the jews have to vote on the efficacy of releasing Jew killers in order to have bargaining leverage then they will continue to be seen as merchants in a bazaar who will sell their children for a good deal. Mandatorily executing all arabs, not Jews, engaged in any part of terror or terror planning would be a sensible beginning.

    The Jews have power in Israel but they cannot discern the forest from the trees.

  12. Israel’s government offers excuses rather than deterrence. The Arabs are laughing at the women running Israel. They can murder Jews in the knowledge nothing is going to happen to them. To keep Obama happy, Israel will take its boots off Hamas’ jugular until next time. And there will be a next time.

    There is no one around today to do to those in charge of the Jewish State what the Prophet Samuel did to the feckless King Shaul. That is Israel’s tragedy.

  13. Sorry. There are no “political realities” we want to hear about any longer. None. Nada.
    It is incumbent to a true leadership to solely act on behalf of the defense of THE PEOPLE.
    Badly managed as it was, in Lebanon II even Olmert understood that. All other considerations placed before that, lead only to the continued disasters we have faced since Oslo.
    Israel must remove the filth from government. Now!
    We have information from the field reports. Netanyahu, Ya’alon, Gatnz and the rest the trash are gruesome liars. They bombed again empty buildings in Gaza and are not at all addressing the Islamic vermin as needed. Death and mass destruction of the enemy. No prisoners taken…
    The people must force destroying the enemies, within and out.