hamas v. peace

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    Hamas v. peace

    National Post
    June 12, 2003

    Yesterday in Jerusalem a Hamas suicide bomber blew up an Israeli bus, killing at least 16. The high death toll makes the bombing the most "successful" Palestinian terrorist attack -- if the word can be properly applied to such a nihilistic act -- since the March 27, 2002, attack on a Passover Seder. That barbarity led to Israel's invasion of the West Bank two days later, and a wholesale military offensive against the Arab terror apparatus. Yesterday's attack may have a similarly cataclysmic effect.

    Already, observers are characterizing Wednesday's atrocity as payback for Israel's missile attack on a car carrying Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas leader, the day before. This is dubious: Suicide bombings typically take weeks to plan. Even last week, as U.S. President George W. Bush was in Jordan conducting peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority PM Mahmoud Abbas, this savage attack was likely already in the planning pipeline.

    Mr. Sharon need offer no apologies for Tuesday's missile strike -- nor for yesterday's attack on a separate Hamas leadership target.

    If Hamas had declared it would respect the ceasefire sought by Mr. Abbas, there might be an argument for suspending aggressive Israeli counter-terrorist operations.

    But, of course, Hamas has done no such thing. Following Mr. Abbas' pro-peace speech in Jordan, Hamas vowed to continue its terror campaign. This week, Mr. Rantisi declared: "There will be no single Jew in Palestine."

    Mr. Abbas, meanwhile, has admitted he will not use force to disarm Hamas. For Israel to give up pre-emptive operations under such conditions would be positively masochistic.

    We find it bizarre that Mr. Bush would upbraid Mr. Sharon for his attack on Mr. Rantisi. As the United States itself has shown, targeted assassinations are now an accepted part of the Western counterterrorist arsenal. Witness last November's missile attack in Yemen that decapitated al-Qaeda's local command. Just as al-Qaeda has pledged to destroy the United States, Hamas has pledged to destroy Israel. Having declared jihad, neither group has grounds for complaint when their leaders are targeted.

    The peace process may not survive this week's violence. But even if it does, it is clear negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel will have to be conducted in parallel with a vigorous counterterrorist campaign against Hamas and its allies.

    Such a parallel strategy may prove impossible -- because Mr. Abbas' constituents will be too stirred up in support of Hamas to make continued negotiations practicable.

    On the other hand, if a majority of Palestinians still support a group that seeks to exterminate innocent Jews and that rejects the state of Israel's existence, perhaps the time is not yet ripe for peace anyway.
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