By: Editorial Board Wednesday, June 25, 2008
It is not too difficult to understand why Hamas wanted a cease-fire with Israel under the agreed-upon terms. As a practical matter, its leadership can now move freely throughout Gaza without fear of being targeted by Israel. It will now be free to rebuild its arsenal â€“ including securing rockets with much greater range and destructive power than they heretofore possessed â€“ and plan the next round of terror and violence. These are no mean achievements. But the political gains are far more significant.
Hamas has now demonstrated that it is largely calling the shots with Israel even as it continues to publicly maintain its goal of Israelâ€™s destruction and the legitimacy of the â€œresistance.â€ Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority were humiliated. No matter how anyone packages it, it was Hamas, through rocket attacks rather than endless negotiations leading nowhere, that brought Israel to heel.
Israel will no longer be able to monitor the Rafah crossing and Hamas will have more to say than anyone else as to how it is to be monitored. In sum, the blockade of Gaza is over and Hamas made it happen.
West Bank Palestinians will begin to look wistfully at what their Gazan counterparts have achieved. Indeed, it is now widely believed that Hamas is looking toward the elections scheduled to be held after Mr. Abbas finishes his presidential term in December. Hamas already enjoys an overwhelming majority in the parliament and the chairman of the parliament is a Hamas leader.
Hamas also delivered on an important issue for the Palestinian street. It simply refused to make the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit a condition of the cease-fire. This was a major goal of Israelâ€™s and Israeli negotiators shamefully backed down, to the gloating of the Palestinians.
One has a harder time understanding what the cease-fire brings to Israel. Certainly the interruption of rockets landing on Sederot and other nearby towns is not to be minimized. But the Arabic press is full of commentary to the effect that the cease-fire is intended only as a period of calm (a tactical tahdiya until Hamas is ready to begin the next round of terror and violence). Plainly, having acknowledged the efficacy of Hamasâ€™s rocket-launching strategy, Israel will have to confront it again, but at what is sure to be a far higher cost.
And then there is the matter of the continuing talks with Mr. Abbas. Should anyone now really care what he says or promises in the face of the ever-growing Hamas juggernaut? Can Israel act as if this reality doesnâ€™t exist? Has there been in recent memory a more irrelevant public figure in such a crucial trouble spot?
Mr. Abbas makes Mr. Olmert look positively Churchillian in comparison, which may be one reason why Mr. Olmert speaks so favorably of him.