“If Israel wants peace, it’ll have to destroy Hamas,” said Jonathan Schanzer, director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center in Washington D.C., during a talk in Pikesville on April 29. “There’s only one more option – to invade Gaza.”
Expressing frustration at Israel’s restraint against terrorist entities, Mr. Schanzer said facts on the ground indicate “the more Israel waits, the more Americans tell Israel to wait, the more danger Israel is going to be in.”
Author of “Hamas vs. Fatah: The Struggle For Palestine” (Palgrave, November 2008) Mr. Schanzer wasn’t afraid to reveal his stance – “No conflict ends with a clever peace agreement” – to around 50 Republican Jewish Coalition members ahead of their organizational meeting.
The battle against Hamas in its present form began in 2003, according to Mr. Schanzer, when former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon determined to erect a technology advanced security fence, barring terrorists from entering Israel to carry out suicide bombings. It worked, but Hamas responded by launching Kassam rocket attacks against Sderot, located 12 miles from Gaza.
(According to a January report by the Israel Defense Forces Spokesman’s Unit, more than 4,000 rockets have been launched from Gaza since 2005)
What did Israel do? First, nothing, he said, and the terrorists strengthened themselves under Israel’s nose. By 2006, Hamas won the election and was armed to take action.
“There are tunnels being built with the help of Iranian money,” he said. “Each tunnel costs about $100,00 and is the length of a football field, They start in the Sinai Desert, usually aided by Egyptian military installments, and come out in the homes of people in Gaza, Hamas was able to smuggle into Gaza high-powered sniper rifles, infrared goggles, anti-tank missiles, Katyusha rockets – a real military arsenal. Israel is now struggling to maintain dominance over Hamas.”
Israel then appealed to the United Nations for help, but the said the U.N. looked the other way. “The last favor the U.N. ever did for Israel,” said Mr. Schanzer, “was when it convened to establish the State.” So Israel put sanctions on the Gaza Strip. It cut off fuel, did not allow a free flow of products into Gaza. But the problem, he said was the underground economy – hundreds of tunnels going back and forth between Egypt and Gaza.
“I read the Arabic press almost everyday. I read Viagra was going through, golf clubs. You name it, you could buy it on the black market,” said Mr. Schanzer.
And there was a second issue-the Israelis. Mr. Schanzer said every time the public pressure would get bad enough, Israel would ship fuel into Gaza, “allowing Hamas to live another day.”
Egypt also served as a deterrent to the sanction plan. Last February, Egypt allowed the Gazans to tear down the wall separating the Sinai Peninsula from Gaza, and 800,000 Gazans streamed over the border and bought everything they could. More than $1 million in commerce took place in the few days following the destruction of the fence. So Israel began launching limited operations, Mr. Schanzer said. Israel continues to go on in with tanks and helicopters and take out a target or two, a cache of weapons, then turns around and goes back.
“What does this accomplish?” asked Mr. Schanzer. “Absolutely nothing. Every time Israel does this it’s like pulling up a couple of leaves from a weed, but the roots are still there.”
If Israel wants to ensure another 60 years of survival, he said, it will need to decide to take preventive action, “something along the lines of the Six Day War, surprise attacks, taking out missile installations. Do we want Israel to exercise restraint during a peace process almost assuredly determined to fail?”