Yossi Melman at PostGlobal

Yossi Melman

Tel Aviv, Israel

Yossi Melman is a senior commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He specializes in intelligence, security, terrorism and strategic issues. An author of seven books on these topics, his most recent book, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran was published recently by Carroll & Graf. Close.

Yossi Melman

Tel Aviv, Israel

Yossi Melman is a senior commentator for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He specializes in intelligence, security, terrorism and strategic issues. An author of seven books on these topics, his most recent book, The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran was published recently by Carroll & Graf. more »

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Hamas Benefits From Palestinians' Misery

Israel had no choice but to launch a military strike against Hamas. No nation on earth would have tolerated a constant shelling of its towns for eight years. Only three years ago, Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip while dismantling settlements and relocating their 8000 Jewish settlers. It was a painful decision which almost brought Israel to the brink of a civil war.

What was the reaction? A Palestinian reciprocation? No. Not at all. Instead, 18 months ago, we witnessed an armed and ruthless coup d'etat by Hamas, which toppled the legitimate regime of the Palestinian Authority (led by President Mahmoud Abbas "Abu Mazen") and took full and cruel control of Gaza. Since then Hamas has constantly fired at Israel more than 5000 rockets and mortar shells. Hamas targeted especially the border crossings with Israel and Egypt which serve as lifelines to supply food, medicines, and oil for the impoverished 1.5 Palestinian inhabitants. Thus, Hamas deliberately signaled that its true aim was to disrupt normal life, to thrive and benefit from the misery of its people.

Following the example of its paymasters and supporters, the Ayatollahs of Iran, Hamas also has introduced Sharia law, aiming to turn Gaza into a theocracy. Three weeks ago Hamas unilaterally decided to break a fragile cease fire with Israel.

Israel warned Hamas and demanded to halt the rocket shelling. Israeli pleas fell on deaf ears. Thus Israel had no choice but to launch a military strike in self-defense.

This brief history provides a wider perspective to understand the current situation. Old arguments are no longer valid here. The conflict with Hamas is neither about occupation nor territory, as is true with PLO/Fatah/Palestinian Authority in the occupied west Bank. In Gaza the dispute is mainly if not purely about religion, about the intrusion of Iran and about the denial by Hamas and Iran of Israel's right to exist.

Israel had no choice but to defend itself. Many in the world's public opinion bash and accuse Israel of using disproportional and excessive force. This is a false accusation. It is Hamas which refuses to lay down its weapons and shows no respect for the very civilian population that it claims to represent. Hamas leaders have not shown their faces in public. They have disconnected themselves from their own people. They have stopped functioning and have cowardly taken shelters in hospitals and kindergartens, using women and children as human shields.

True, Israel is inflicting severe damage on Gaza. But Israeli troops are doing their best to distinguish between Hamas combatants and Palestinian civilians. Of course innocent people are killed. But even according to Palestinian sources, out of the 600 people killed so far in the 12 days of war, "only" 125 were civilians, including children.

Israel is ready to stop the war immediately. Israel has no desire to reoccupy Gaza. Israel knows that it can't eliminate Hamas as a force. Israeli demands are simple, limited and modest: stop shelling Israeli towns and villages and stop smuggling into Gaza Iranian-made and supported weapons and rockets. If these two terms are met, a long and credible cease fire can be brokered within a day or two.

The naked truth is that many governments including in the Arab world tacitly support Israeli efforts to weaken Hamas. Hamas is not only a vicious enemy of Israel. Hamas is Iran's advanced post on the Mediterranean shores. Hamas is a threat to most moderate Arab regimes, including Egypt and Jordan.

Still, I believe this war will soon end. It's a matter of a few more days until Hamas leadership, which is now divided between three factions - one in its bunkers and shelters in Gaza, one in the safe havens of Damascus and their military wing which loathes both - will come back to its senses. But it might be too late. When they wake up, they, and we Israelis with them, will discover that once again the Palestinian leadership with its false illusions and detached sense of reality proves to be the worst enemy of its own people. This is the tragedy of the Israeli -Palestinian conflict. The rest are just details.

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