What the Israeli Government Should Do

What the Israeli Government Should Do

By Ed Koch - December 30, 2008

According to the December 28th New York Times, Hamas "is officially committed to Israel's destruction, and after it took over Gaza in 2007, it said it would not recognize Israel, honor previous Palestinian Authority commitments to it or end its violence against Israelis."

In the middle of June of this year, Egypt brokered a truce between Hamas and Israel. Ha'aretz, a leading Israeli newspaper, reported on December 16, that "Hamas' leadership on Monday adopted a united stance: This cease-fire with Israel, which expires this Friday, will not be extended."

Israelis have no illusions about Hamas. They understand that this terror organization is determined to destroy them. Therefore they will not sit still and see the lives of tens of thousands of Israeli citizens in southern Israel disrupted by the near daily firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip. Initially these rockets could only reach Sderot, a town close to the Gaza border, but now they reach Ashkelon, 20 kilometers to the north.

To put a stop to this rocket bombardment, Israel has now taken the offensive. The Wall Street Journal in its editorial of December 29, summed up the facts: "The chronology of this latest violence is important to understand. Israel withdrew both its soldiers and all of its settlers from Gaza in August 2005. Hamas won its internal power struggle with Mr. Abbas' Fatah organization to control Gaza in 2006. Since 2005, Hamas has fired some 6,300 rockets at Israeli civilians from Gaza, killing 10 and wounding more than 780." More than 200 rockets have been fired into Israel since the ceasefire ended.

The Israelis, according to The New York Times of December 28, have responded to Hamas provocations with "waves of Israeli air strikes destroyed Hamas security facilities in Gaza on Saturday in a crushing response to the group's rocket fire, killing more than 225." The same Times article reported that, "Palestinian officials said that most of the dead were security officers for Hamas including two senior commanders, and that at least 600 people had been wounded in the attacks." Palestinians in Gaza have it within their power to end the rule of Hamas, or at least change its stance, by engaging in public demonstrations demanding that the Hamas government they elected end all violence against Israel. They know if Israel is not attacked, it will not attack them.

The position of the United States, as expressed by a White House spokesman, is that "Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, was responsible for the outbreak of violence and called its rocket attacks 'completely unacceptable.' The people are nothing but thugs...and Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on Hamas "to cease all rocket attacks on Israel immediately" and said he could "understand the Israeli government's sense of obligation to its population."

What should the Israeli government do at this point? I believe it should announce that it will cease its military activities directed at Hamas in Gaza for 24 hours. If Hamas pledges within that period to extend the truce for at least a year under the same conditions that s applied to the original truce, including ceasing all acts of violence against Israel, then Israel will pledge it will end its current military activity in Gaza. If Hamas refuses to make such commitments or fails to carry them out, Israel should reserve the right to recommence military action against Hamas in Gaza.

Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.

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