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Roundtable on the Gaza Violence

Roundtable on the Gaza Violence

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - December 29, 2008

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORDON JOHNDROE, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable cease-fire.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI OPPOSITION LEADER: They also have to remove the future threat of such missiles, because what happened last time is we ostensibly had a cease-fire. Hamas used it to smuggle in more weapons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANGLE: Comments today about the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza.

Now some analytical observations from Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call," Jeff Birnbaum, managing editor digital of "The Washington Times," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Well, a cease-fire ended between these two--not that it has mattered much, because we have had lots of rockets, about almost 3,000 in the last year. But the cease-fire ended on December 19.

Since then, Hamas has fired some 340 rockets and mortars at civilians in Israel. Israel didn't respond until this weekend.

What is going on here, Charles? What is Hamas? It would seem to be idiocy to fire rockets into Israel when you know that they have a superior militarily and that at some point they are bound to respond.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's ideology and commitment. Hamas lives for permanent war with Israel. Its intent is to destroy Israel, it's method it to kill Israeli civilians randomly, as many as they can, and to provoke an Israeli attack knowing it will be on world television so that many Palestinians will die.

The irony is that on the day that Israel attacked, it sent thousands of automatic cell messages by phone to Palestinians in Gaza who were living in or near military depots of equipment, where Hamas had put them, hoping to produce Palestinian casualties.

Here you have one side, Hamas, that lives for dead Israelis and Palestinians, each of them if advantageous. And the Israelis are unbelievably scrupulous in their retaliation. They are using precision weapons and are trying to avoid civilian areas.

Hamas' objective is to win the way Hezbollah at the end of the war in 2006 in Lebanon, winning by staying alive, remaining in place, thwarting Israel's objectives.

The Israeli objective here is to get a cessation of hostilities where there are strict conditions on Hamas that were not in the past. And, secondly, to try to destroy or weaken the Hamas infrastructure, which is going to be a lot harder.

ANGLE: It's very difficult, Jeff, to go in by air. We have had the same problem in various places, including Afghanistan. No matter how accurate the strikes are, you are bound to hit civilians. And Hamas is known for locating its strategic positions in populated neighborhoods.

JEFF BIRNBAUM, MANAGING EDITOR DIGITAL, "THE WASHINGTON TIMES": And there have been a lot of civilian casualties, as well, caused by the Israeli attacks, which have been unrelenting.

I think there are some tactical reasons that this is going on right now -- that is, that both sides are trying to angle for a better cease-fire situation. Hamas declared the cease-fire over, essentially, would not extend it anymore, and then began to attack the Israelis to try to get a better position in the cease-fire.

And the Israelis are fighting back in order to get a cease-fire that is more to their advantage when all this is over by taking on as much of the military might of Hamas as they can possibly.

So I think that all of this is just yet another series of battles on the way to another temporary lull in the fight.

And the Israelis, even though they're now amassing on the border of Gaza, I don't believe that they're going to -- they may, in fact, go in, but only strategically, to take over some military positions of Hamas in order so that they can actually secure a slightly longer peace.

But that's all we're dealing with, because fundamentally I agree with the notion that war will continue. It's just the Israelis want a better chance at peace longer, and that will be the result here.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": I think that the one thing you can't ignore here--the ferocity of the Israeli response has something to do with the fact that there is an election on February 10.

We saw Benjamin Netanyahu, who is the hawk, and who is in the lead, and who obviously on the basis of what he said there wants to pound on Hamas and really drive it into the ground is possible.

And the existing government, the Kadima government, Tzipi Livni, who is now the foreign minister, has been accused of not being tough enough. So now there are demonstrating before this election that they are really though by 300 air sorties so far against Hamas targets and also a possible ground invasion.

The fundamental situation--I don't know what Hamas is, frankly, up to, whether they expected this or not. But what the Israelis are trying to do strategically is to--and they he could do it better with Hamas than they could against Hezbollah--is to really pound leadership targets, infrastructure, tunnels that lead from Egypt into Gaza, in order to set Hamas back.

ANGLE: Just one very quick point--on domestic politics here, Charles, there doesn't seem to be much distance between Republicans and Democrats on this.

Obama, this summer, visiting one of the areas often hit by rockets, said if somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters slept at night, I would do everything in my power to stop that.

You have Steny Hoyer in the House today, a Democratic leader, who also voiced essentially the same view. Not much distance between different parties here on this.

KRAUTHAMMER: As of now. Obama said that as a candidate.

The Bush administration has set an extremely high standard of how scrupulous it has been in respecting Israel's right to defend itself. It backed Israel entirely in this war because it is a just war.

I hope the Obama administration will carry on that same level of support. The Bush administration is not asking for simply a cessation of hostilities. It asked for sustainable and durable, which means new conditions so that the continuous attacks that you have mentioned over the last three years into Israel cease.

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