ON-Lion Letter

"The Gaza war of 2014 will end in a cease-fire, just as the previous rounds between Israel and Hamas and the 2006 battle with Hezbollah ended," begins an article by Elliott Abrams in the August 4, 2014, issue of The Weekly Standard.  "But the war will be won or lost less in the streets and tunnels of Gaza this summer than when the fighting is over. Israel must not only damage Hamas on those battlegrounds, but seal its own gains in the terms of the cease-fire, and ensure that the aftermath of the war weakens Hamas’s hold on Gaza and its role in Palestinian politics."

Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, where The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee supports his work.

"This summer, Israel had no choice but to attack Hamas once the terrorist group decided to unleash rocket and missile fire at Israel’s cities, a point that not only the United States but even our fickle European allies understood," according to Abrams.  "The discovery -- new to us in the West even if partially understood by Israeli intelligence agencies -- of a vast attack tunnel system designed to enable Hamas to kidnap Israelis and to wreak havoc in Israeli communities near the Gaza border also justified the Israeli assault and meant that a ground attack was necessary.

"When the combat ends, it will not immediately be clear who gained what," he continues.

"Hamas is not an NGO; it is a terrorist group," he writes.  "It exists to fight Israel and destroy it -- unless one wishes to say that it exists to fight and kill the Jews more generally, which is the basic message of the Hamas charter.  So it will not agree to disarm, and it will not stop trying to import and build weapons.  How can this war end in a way that ameliorates conditions in Gaza, but without giving Hamas a political victory?  Is it possible to imagine a plan that brings economic recovery for Gaza without political recovery for Hamas?

"We should be flexible about economic plans for Gaza and for the West Bank, and even flexible about Palestinian political coalitions, so long as they work toward weakening and defeating Islamist forces in Palestinian life," Abrams counsels.  "Cornered and desperate, Hamas took a chance in starting the war this summer.  It has been eight years since Hamas won that election and seven since it seized Gaza.  Our goal now should be to make 2014 the turning point, and make this war one from which Hamas never recovers.  Hamas will claim victory this summer, but whether it actually gains from its murderous decisions or is permanently damaged by them will not be settled the day combat ends.  That’s when the IDF’s current battle stops, but it’s when the longer struggle against Hamas -- Israel’s and hopefully ours as well -- begins again."

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