Saturday, June 23, 2007

If Hamas Wants a Voice...

Daniel GP wrote in a comment to a recent post:

Pres. Bush praises Abu Mazen [a.k.a. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas] as a "voice that is a reasonable voice amongst the extremists". But what's the use of a voice in Gaza these days? We need to see results. A Fatah-led government unable or unwilling to stop Palestinian terrorism brings us no closer to peace than does a terrorist Hamas government.
Hamas must now take steps to ensure that it's voice is considered legitimate in the international community and to bring about a better situation for the Palestinians of Gaza. The immediate actions it must take is to enforce order in Gaza, release BBC reporter Alan Johnston, cease all rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel, and release Israeli Defense Force ("IDF") Cpl. Gilad Shalit.


Hamas has already taken a step in the imposition of order in the Gaza Strip by beginning to collect unauthorized weapons. Though after Abbas became the leader of the Palestinian Authority he had promised to maintain "one law, one authority, one gun," he consistently failed to implement that policy. He had not wanted to use force against Palestinians, nor did he want to provoke a civil war. His inaction led exactly to the scenario that he had feared, and thus Hamas is now in charge of Gaza. And Hamas has no qualms about using force to compel compliance with its decisions.

Gaza has been a cesspool of chaos and violence ever since former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided to unilaterally pull the Israeli Defense Forces out of the territory. The Palestinians want rule of law, and Hamas can and will enforce order. Once the chaos has ended, the Palestinians of Gaza can speak to the international community in one voice.

Alan Johnston

BBC reporter Alan Johnston was abducted from the Gaza Strip on March 12, 2007. Many foreign journalists had been kidnapped from Gaza in the past, though they were usually returned within a few days. At this point, Johnston has been in captivity for over 100 days, the most time of any of the kidnap victims.

Johnston's abduction has caused the largest international outcry amongst governments and journalists against the Palestinians. Sure, Israelis have been kidnapped, wounded, and brutally murdered, but the international community has taken issue with this incident.

Since conquering Gaza, Hamas has said that it is working to release Johnston. If it succeeds and Johnston is returned alive and unharmed, Hamas will be sending a signal to the world that it respects at least some principles of international behavior.

Stopping the Rockets

Since Israel pulled out of Gaza, Palestinian terrorist groups (including Fatah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad) have increasingly used Qassam rockets to shell nearby Israeli towns. This has continued under the new Hamas regime. If Hamas wants to avert a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip, it will need Israel's cooperation to bring in food, water, and electricity. And to ensure this cooperation, Hamas must end all Qassam attacks.

Gilad Shalit

On June 25, 2006, several terrorist groups (including Hamas) broke through the border between Israel and Gaza, killed several Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit. Hamas has not allowed the International Red Cross to visit Shalit, nor has it given any sign of life. The group maintains, however, that Shalit is alive and well.

Almost all Jewish Israelis are required to serve in the IDF. Thus Israelis quite literally view IDF soldiers as their fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. They are appalled and distressed when any IDF soldier is kidnapped. The capture of Shalit is an especially emotional issue in their conflict with the Palestinians.

The unilateral release of Shalit will instantly change Israelis' view of Hamas. It will prompt an easing of tensions between the two sides, alleviate the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza, and spur a new hope that peace can be achieved with the Islamist group.

If Hamas releases Shalit, as well as restores order, releases Alan Johnston, and halts rocket fire, Hamas will show that it is an organization that can be dealt with. It will be a voice that Israel and the international community will not only be willing, but excited, to listen to.