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Israel Has Weakened Hamas

Israel Has Weakened Hamas

By Jack Kelly - January 10, 2009

European foreign ministers were startled Jan. 6 when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told them Hamas must not be permitted to win the conflict in Gaza. That's not what they expected to hear from an Arab leader.

Israel's invasion of Gaza has prompted denunciations from the usual suspects. But as fictional detective Sherlock Holmes noted in solving the mystery of the disappearance of the race horse Silver Blaze, what's most interesting are the dogs that aren't barking.

Moonbats in Europe and America are agitated, but protests against Israel in Sunni Muslim countries have been muted. In the West Bank, there's barely been a peep of protest.

This is because Sunni Muslim leaders view the terror group Hamas as a proxy for Iran. And though Sunni Muslim rulers don't like Jews any more today than they did before, they don't fear Israel. But they do fear Shia Iran.

It isn't only the Sunnis who have reacted cautiously. Iran's chief proxy is the terror group Hezbollah, the de facto government in southern Lebanon. When Israeli forces entered Gaza, many expected Hezbollah to fire rockets into northern Israel to open a second front. But all Hezbollah has offered its beleaguered ally so far is lip service.

Five rockets were fired from Lebanon into Israel early Thursday, slightly injuring two people in a retirement home in Nahariya. But this appeared to be an effort by Palestinians to trigger an Israeli attack on Hezbollah. A Hezbollah spokesman denied any knowledge of the attack, noted the rockets used (Katyushas) were an obsolescent type no longer used by Hezbollah, and said that if Hezbollah were going to attack Israel, it would fire off dozens of rockets, not just five.

It isn't only Iranian proxies who are showing reticence. Some 70,000 Iranians purportedly have volunteered to become suicide bombers against Israel. But Iran's supreme ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has forbidden them to leave the country. The head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps said the appropriate response to the Israeli attack is a "mental jihad." Mohammad Ali Jafari didn't explain what a "mental jihad" is, but it's unlikely to be as dangerous to Israelis as suicide bombers or Hezbollah rockets.

Left wingers in Europe and America have criticized Barack Obama for not speaking out against Israeli "aggression." The president-elect has explained his reticence by pointing out the United States has only one president at a time. This may be a convenient dodge, but it's also the truth. And perhaps Mr. Obama realizes Israel, Egypt and the Bush administration are about to do him an enormous favor.

I expect the fighting in Gaza to end soon, perhaps even between the time this column is written and it is published. Egypt's intelligence minister has offered Hamas a proposal for a cease fire which would be a barely disguised surrender, but Hamas may have no choice but to accept it if Hezbollah doesn't widen the war, because the Bush administration is blocking a UN proposal for a ceasefire more favorable to the terror group.

A cease fire will prevent Israel from destroying Hamas root and branch, but that was never a realistic goal. What has driven the de facto alliance between Israel and Egypt, and makes a satisfactory outcome possible is Fatah, the older, secular Palestinian party from which Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007.

Hamas was able to seize power because Palestinians were fed up with Fatah's corruption and incompetence. Hamas, they reasoned, couldn't be worse. But worse Hamas has proven to be, and the pendulum of public opinion has swung away from them. Much of Israel's military success has been due to intelligence provided by Palestinians.

Israel cannot destroy Hamas. But Israel may already have weakened Hamas sufficiently for Fatah to reassert control of Gaza, or for neither faction to be strong enough to take complete charge.

And President Bush could give his successor no greater gift than to convert the contest in the Middle East from one between Muslims and Jews to one between Palestinian factions.

Jack Kelly is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and The Blade of Toledo, Ohio.

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