"Israel says no more
February 12, 2009
Article from: The Australian
HAMAS, the terrorist organisation that masquerades as the Government of Gaza, was the deciding factor in Israel's election yesterday. A majority of people who went to the polls voted for parties who want to take Hamas on. Likud, the party of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, came a close second with 27 seats being surprisingly, if marginally, outperformed by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's Kadima party with 28. But with the support of religious and nationalist parties, Mr Netanyahu has a good chance of a majority in the 120-member parliament.
The result is a rebuff for Kadima, the party founded by former prime minister Ariel Sharon for the express purpose of securing a mandate for his unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005. Certainly other factors were involved. Kadima was damaged by corruption scandals last year involving its leader, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Nor is Ms Lipni an advocate of peace at any price, backing last month's intervention in Gaza. But she is marked by two years of stop- start peace talks in her time as foreign minister and by the way the evacuation of Gaza did not stop Hamas rocket attacks against Israel. And so, 16 years on since the 1993 Oslo accords established the basis for a two-state solution, Israelis have had enough of a negotiating process in which extremists on the other side take whatever concessions are on offer and then use terrorism to extract more. The recent Gaza incursion signalled that Israelis feel abandoned by the West since Middle East peace went off the US agenda in the past couple of years and that they have decided to look after themselves. This election result reinforces the message.
Inevitably, enemies of the Jewish state, including some Australians, will argue the election is another example of Israeli aggression. Hamas has already condemned Israelis for voting for extremists. This is a bit rich coming from an organisation whose official position is that Israel should not exist. But the way Hamas will receive a sympathetic hearing reflects the assumption that the democratically elected Government of Israel is guilty of war crimes, most recently in Gaza, for defending its citizens against terrorist attack. In withdrawing from the enclave, Israel went a long way to giving Hamas what it said it wanted, but the attacks did not stop.
Even if Hamas had agreed to negotiate a permanent peace -- not a half-baked ceasefire -- after last month's Israeli incursion into Gaza, Ms Livni would have been able to argue that there was a reason to keep talking. But by continuing to lob the occasional rocket across the border and encouraging its international allies to condemn Israel, Hamas helped many voters make up their minds. Whoever finally forms the next government, it is clear appeasement is off the Israeli agenda. The choice is now with Hamas. Like the Fatah Government of the West Bank, Hamas can accept reality and deal with Israel. The resulting peace is not perfect but it does mean people on the West Bank have some semblance of normal life. Alternatively, Hamas can keep on sniping from within the almost entirely built-up area of Gaza and blaming the Israelis for the civilian casualties when they shoot back. The absence of support for Hamas from Muslim states in the Middle East, excepting the extremist Government of Iran, demonstrates what governments all over the region think Hamas should do. But whatever it decides, it now knows what will happen next time it starts a fight across the frontier."