Hamas is now claiming responsibility for nine attacks that killed 26 Israelis from 2002 to 2005. http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/06/07/africa/ME-GEN-Israel-Hamas-Attacks.php
Hamas says that it has kept quiet about its role in these attacks until now "for security reasons." Other organizations claimed responsibility for the attacks at the time. Occasionally several groups boast about the same deed, and it may not be clear who really participated.
What can we learn from this latest revelation?
That an organization that engaged in suicide bombings has a wish for suicide.
Other indications come from each of the homemade rockets, mortar shells and katusha missiles imported from Iran through the sieve-like Egyptian control of Gaza's southern border that Hamas is firing toward Israel.
Residents of Sderot, Ashkelon, and other places that have felt the damage and death, have been mounting as much pressure as they can on the government to "do something." Leading politicians are saying that the army has prepared for an onslaught, and that the "go signal" from the politicians is coming closer every day.
The same politicians have been saying the same thing for months. They repeat themselves every time the Palestinians get lucky and kill someone with their missiles.
We also hear is that Israeli politicians have been trying via Egypt to reach a cease fire with Hamas. Hamas has rejected Israeli conditions, and increased its rate of fire.
It is not that Israel is doing nothing. There are troops in Gaza almost every day. They and the air force are killing more Palestinians than the Palestinians are killing Israelis. Israel is maintaining a land and sea blockade on Gaza. It lets in enough food and fuel to keep the people alive, but not much more. It lets some people out of Gaza for specialized medical care, and is saying it will let out some of the young people who have won scholarships to study in the west.
None of that lessens the pressure on the people of Sderot, Ashkelon, or the other settlements near Gaza.
Reports are that Israel offered to conquer Gaza and turn it over for management to the Palestinian authorities of the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas rejected the offer. He has begun peace talks with Hamas along with his peace talks with Israel. Not so long ago Israel said that it would not continue its peace talks with the Palestinians of the West Bank if they cozied up to the terrorists of Hamas. Nonetheless, those talks continue. There is even a report that Israel and the Palestinians are close to a draft of a peace agreement.
Opposition politicians say that Ehud Olmert is trying to save his political career by reckless concessions to the Palestinians.
There are arguments against a major assault against Gaza. Many more Israelis die in traffic accidents than are killed by the Palestinian rockets. More Israeli soldiers are likely to die in any extensive assault than all the civilians who have died because of rockets in seven years.
On the other hand, continued attacks against civilian centers are intolerable. A government and army are not worth much that does not protect its civilians from threats like those.
Sooner or later, it is likely that Israel will provide Hamas with the suicide that it wishes. The humanitarians of the world, led by the United Nations Secretariat and other organizations will cry foul. European and American politicians will demand restraint, and increase their pressure to stop after a week or two.
Even if Israel kills hundreds of militants associated with Hamas and other organizations that operate from Gaza, as well as numerous civilians who get in the way, it will not solve Israel's problems once and for all times. Those rockets are cheap to make, easy to carry and fire. In all probability, they will continue to fly toward Israeli civilians even while the IDF is killing Palestinians in Gaza.
That is our life. Friday evening we marked the onset of Shabbat with a great meal, and conversation about charges of corruption against the prime minister, an impending war in Gaza, and the prospect of nuclear weapons in Iran. There were also a few words about the American presidential campaign. With topics like those on the table, no one talked about the food.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Home tel: 972-2-532-2725
Cell phone: 054-683-5325