What the world cannot remember the Israelis cannot forget. The Israelis know the Jewish nation has been one defeat away from extinction for 70 years. They know that every partition plan in the region, from the dawn of Zionism to the present day, has failed because of the Arab failure to accept the State of Israel. They know that the Palestinian leadership is virtually hopeless, wherein the people who are moderate are not effective and the people who are effective are not moderate.
Today the impossible Yasser Arafat has been replaced by the impotent Mahmoud Abbas. It was Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, who presided over the division of the Palestinians into Fatah and Hamas. Hamas doesn't want peace, and Fatah can't deliver it. Fatah is so weak that it cannot enforce the rule of law against terrorism or make compromises for fear of the radical Islamists. Indeed, without the support of the Israeli Defense Forces, even now it is under threat of being displaced by Hamas. Mahmoud Al-Zahar, a major Hamas leader, underlined Fatah's weakness when he said, "Fatah can't stop us from seizing control of those [West Bank] territories. It is only a matter of time."
Israel is so small it has no margin for error. A Hamas takeover of the West Bank would put Ben-Gurion Airport and major cities like Tel Aviv in the firing line, which would render Israel virtually uninhabitable. This is not guesswork. When Israel left the West Bank, it became a base for suicide bombers, ultimately forcing the Israelis to go back at great cost. They've since built a security fence, but a fence will not protect people from rockets. The rockets and mortars launched against Israel from Gaza have gained greater lethality, accuracy, and range, going from 20 kilometers before the truce to 40 after. And without the current operation, it is estimated that within two to three months new rockets supplied to Hamas by Iran and assembled in Gaza would have been able to hit Tel Aviv. One of them just reached the outskirts.
Acceptable response. Over 20 percent of the Israelis were vulnerable even before Tel Aviv came within range. No government could ignore these threats to its people. Yet Israel's belated response has been challenged as "disproportionate". This is ridiculous. In the first place, it was Hamas's intention that at least thousands of Israelis would die from its 7,000 rockets. Would it fit the doctrine of proportionality if Israel were to respond with 7,000 missiles against Gaza civilians? Or must it wait until the number of dead is piled high enough to justify a "proportioned" response. And what of the emotional trauma inflicted on the living? Men, women, and children have 15 seconds to reach a bunker, which they must do several times a day. They must live with the constant fear of death and maiming.
Would America sit back if, over three years, 7,000 rockets and missiles were launched at our citizens from Mexico or Canada? We would attack these missile sites and wipe them out. End of story. The "disproportionate" criticism is a cop-out. Hamas sought this battle. It was Hamas that broke the six-month truce organized by Egypt. Both Fatah and Egypt urged its continuance; the current violence would have been avoided, as Abbas stated, had Hamas not fired its missiles.
Tony Blair, now the special envoy of the Mideast quartet, concedes he understands the consequences now more than when he was prime minister of Britain: "I would hesitate to cede the West Bank to the Palestinians after the nightmare Israel has faced since the Gaza withdrawal." He recognizes that Hamas has sabotaged years of negotiation. "Land for peace," he warns, "is in itself not sufficient. Not less important is the character of the Palestinian state."
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya has made it clear what kind of state his Palestine would be. Hamas seeks nothing less than an Islamic state as its covenant describes: "To raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine." To that end, Hamas has turned Gaza into a home for every brand of radical Islamist engaged in a holy war that sanctifies bloodshed, glorifies murder, and educates children to die as shahids —martyrs. There was to be no Israel alongside a Palestinian state. Over and over again Haniya has said that Hamas will never recognize Israel nor honor any of the existing agreements with the infidels. Its founder, Abdul Aziz Rantizi, is explicit: "We will not leave one Jew in Palestine."