Monday, September 26, 2005

Hamas Alleges Cease Fire

Mahmoud Zahar, senior Hamas leader in Gaza, proclaimed yesterday that the militant terrorist group would stop firing missiles at Israel. The announcement comes in the wake of a series of retaliatory strikes against Hamas in Gaza, the latest of which killed Islamic Jihad leader Mohammed al-Sheikh Khalil. (Boston.Com: Leader says Hamas to stop firing rockets).

Zahar's cease-fire announcement directly contradicts the stated mission of Hamas, which is nothing less than the total annihilation of Israel. Simply put, I'll believe it when I see it, but I'm not betting the house on it. If Hamas is indeed standing down in Gaza, it is only to concentrate their efforts elsewhere. In fact, it may well be a sound strategic move on the part of Hamas, since there is nothing preventing an all out Israeli offensive there now that Jewish settlers have been relocated.

With Jewish settlers removed from Gaza, Hamas may well set their sights on the West Bank. The "land for peace" concept does offer such dangers, since it is akin to paying protection money to a local thug. Now that Israel has demonstrated their willingness to vacate land in exchange for a lull in hostilities, violence in other occupied territories will likely increase. Whether or not Israel was right to hold territory in Gaza or the West Bank isn't the issue. Rather, at issue is the wisdom of giving Hamas and Islamic Jihad the perception that they can drive Israel from occupied territories by engaging in terrorist attacks. The wisdom of that move is at the heart of the up-coming election with Sharon standing firmly behind the deal and Benjamin Netanyahu voicing open criticism against the plan. Who wins that trade-off may well be determined by Hamas, since increased violence will lend credence to Netanyahu's criticisms.

In any event, don't expect a unilateral cease-fire from Hamas unless it turns out to be in their best interests to do so. That terrorist group is the largest inhibitor of peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and that is not likely to change in our lifetime.


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