There has been considerable controversy among observers and commentators sympathetic to Israel in its latest round of hostilities with the terrorist belligerents of Hamas, the Gazan wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. One school of thought, whose tenets I share, advocates the total destruction of the terrorist infrastructure, thus eliminating the depressing spectre of sporadic and then continuing outbursts of rocket attacks, followed with metronomic regularity by the inevitable armed conflict and faux hudna every couple of years.
It is clear that Hamas will not relent in its purpose of terrorizing Israel’s civilian population and ultimately, as per its charter, of annihilating the Jewish State root and branch. The perpetuation of this status quo is not only tedious and wearily predictable, but finally unsustainable, for no responsible nation can permit its citizens to spend a portion of their lives hunkering down in bomb shelters.
An alternative thesis — or interpretation of Israel’s best interests — has been gaining momentum of late, and indeed appears to have superseded and eclipsed the more “hawkish” perspective. It seems to have become the prevalent meme governing current thinking on the Israeli dilemma, namely, that in destroying a known entity like Hamas, one creates a vacuum into which far more lethal and barbarous groups can step in and pick up where their predecessor left off—only to greater noxious effect. According to this line of thought, having to deal with even more pathological cadres like Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Al-Quds Brigade, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Ansar Al Sunnah, and possibly ISIS as well, would result in a collective feeling of nostalgia for the good old days when Hamas would be allowed to declare victory after being pummeled into semi-oblivion.
Thus, as National Post columnist Michael Higgins writes, “One of the biggest dangers Israel faces as it cracks down [on Hamas] is that it could be too successful.” Similarly, former chief of staff at Israel’s Ministry of Defense Michael Herzog argues that Hamas at least “provides an address — you don’t have that with the Jihadi factions.” The belief that Israel should pull its punches, deliver a resounding though tolerable spanking to a mischievous and impertinent Hamas, and then let it live to kill, mutilate, and terrorize another day — business as usual — may to some seem realistic in the boiling cauldron that is the Middle East. The trouble is that political realism often founders on the reefs of actual reality. Such adiabatic thinking would be merely quaint or pixilated were it not potentially calamitous.