Gaza operation is a rare window of opportunity to change regional realities
With the recent unraveling of events in Gaza, Israel and the international community have an opportunity to reshuffle the deck in this terror-riddled region. This opportunity must not be wavered.
After eight years of abrasive rocket fire from Gaza on Israeli civilians and an ill-fated campaign in Lebanon in the summer of 2006, the working assumption of Hamas was that the weak Israeli leadership would continue to act with restraint. An eight-year policy of retreat and restraint was perceived as an embedded strategy of weakness. Hamas was wrong. On the week of Professor Samuel Huntington's passing, a rare and perhaps surreal window of opportunity has been opened. For the first time in a long time, a wide yet fragile alliance has been formed between Israel, the United States, and relatively moderate Arab states against the Hamas - A terrorist organization that has taken the citizens of Gaza hostage just as surely as it has an Israeli soldier named Gilad Shalit. Led by the United States, many responsible players in the international community are aware that Hamas and the militant ideology it leads and disseminates is a threat not only to Israel and the region but also to the entire Free World. Hamas gained respect and power from its constituency in Gaza after it was perceived to be the force that drove the IDF and 10,000 Jewish settlers out of Gush Katif and the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005. Subsequently, Hamas' popularity rose and its capabilities were enhanced. Today, the IDF's victory over the Hamas must be conclusive, leaving no room for commentary as to the triumphant side. Anything short of this will serve as another Hamas, Iranian and Hizbullah building block. Israel currently has a knife placed at its throat much like the knife placed on the United State's neck 46 years ago when missiles were stationed to the south of the USA in neighboring Cuba. Then, as now, the missiles must be removed. A ceasefire that does not achieve the dismantlement of Hamas' military capabilities would be counterproductive and eventually lead to another round of bloodshed. New rules of engagement must be set, whereby Hamas is disarmed and a sustainable truce is achieved. If this mainstay of Sunni terrorism remains capable of attacking Israel, a renewed assault will be inevitable. Therefore, after the unconditional return of the abducted Israeli soldier, the immediate objective of Israel and the international community must be a permanent disarmament of Hamas and organizations of its ilk. The only way to achieve this goal is to pound Hamas until it is forced to disarm, and then reinforce the truce with effective international force. A force that will not limit itself to tranquil UNRA-style condemnation of terror, but rather, a force to be reckoned with, one that would be reinforced or replaced by Israel if proven to be ineffective. Once the threat and destabilization posed by Hamas terrorist existence is done away with, the world can then fully concentrate on solving the most imminent threat to world peace: namely, Iran and its looming nuclear capabilities.