Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Isn't it time for Hamas to get reasonable about this?
Of course Israel has agreed to consider a 48-hour ceasefire in its attack on seemingly defenseless Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis understand that medical supplies and food are in short supply in the coastal territory that is home to 1.5 million Palestinians, and Israel doesn't want to be to blame for more civilian deaths. Of course, Israel doesn't really accept responsibility for anything that has happened, as the Jewish state blames the radical Islamic group Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip last year and has been ruling it ever since. And it cannot be denied that Hamas militants have repeatedly fired missiles into cities in southern Israel, trying to kill Israeli civilians. The new ceasefire plan came out of a discussion between French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the former prime minister, on getting humanitarian aid to Gaza residents, according to the Reuters international news service. Kouchner, rotating leader of the European Union, called for a permanent ceasefire, as did the United Nations, the United States and Russia. But "permanent ceasefire" is a contradiction in terms, since it is not possible for two peoples to live side-by-side in perpetuity yet never have any disputes. It's not even possible for two people to do that, much less two entire societies. And it's certainly not possible here, where the groups already are in a number of violent disputes. So, the only way to solve this is to settle it and, to do that, both sides must be amenable to a solution. The Israelis can be persuaded to stop shooting -- they've even offered -- but the Hamas side also must agree to talk. By refusing to sit down, however, Hamas is demonstrating that it will never agree to any kind of settlement. That is why Mahmoud Abbas is the leader of the Palestinian Authority, not Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. If the leaders refuse to meet, which they do, they can talk though other countries -- but they're going to have to talk. The lives of hundreds of thousands of people are, apparently, at stake.