The Ram Has Touched the Wall

Israel’s invasion of Gaza and the West Bank – which has already lead to the arrest of several Hamas cabinet members and parliamentarians – is a very big deal. It’s a sad moment for those of us who believed that Israel’s disengagement plan created conditions for long-term peace in the region; nevertheless, it’s hard to fault Israel’s actions. Kidnapping the soldier of another country is a clear act of war. Failure to respond to such a provocation would be, in effect, to admit that Hamas can commit terrorist acts with impunity, with potentially disastrous consequences for the long-term stability of the region. If a South African soldier were kidnapped by Zimbabwean paramilitaries, or an American soldier kidnapped by Mexico, it’s impossible to imagine either government blithely ignoring it or worse, offering concessions to the kidnappers; yet this precisely what Israel’s critics urge them to do.

It’s worth stepping back and remembering just how generous Israel, under Sharon and Olmert, has been in its dealings with the Palestinians. They withdrew from Gaza, forcibly shut down Jewish settlements there, endured fierce domestic political criticism – for what? Nothing. They didn’t attempt to extract any concessions from the Palestinians – not one single thing. If the Gaza disengagement experiment proved successful, Israel was clearly on track towards a similar disengagement from the West Bank. All the Palestinians had to do was take these gains, consolidate them, and stop attacking Israel. Instead, they put the second-biggest terrorist group of them all, Hamas, in charge of the Palestinian government, thereby ensuring that any future terrorist attacks would result in something that takes on the appearance of a full-scale inter-state war. It’s sad to contemplate what could have been.