Hamas wrong, as terrorists always are
These are the facts:
Israel is a sovereign state and a member in good standing in the international community with a recognized right to defend itself.
Hamas is a terrorist organization.
After Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel exercised uncommon restraint while Hamas fired more than 6,500 rockets into Israel from Gaza.
Israel respected the subsequent six-month cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Hamas did not. Then, since the cease-fire ended Dec. 19, Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into Israel.
Hamas' rockets have no guidance system to speak of. They are launched into civilian cities to indiscriminately kill civilians.
Last year, I traveled to Sderot, Israel, the principal city then under siege from Hamas rockets fired from Gaza, to see firsthand the devastation by the rocket attacks. Just hours before I arrived in Sderot, an 8-year-old boy lost both his legs to a Hamas rocket.
Sderot has no political or military importance. As Hamas has acquired rockets with a longer range, other civilian targets in Israel have come under attack.
Hamas fires its rockets from schools, mosques and other civilian targets to guarantee Palestinian civilians will be killed in the event Israel decided to retaliate, even firing rockets from buildings Palestinian citizens have sought as shelter. Hamas uses its citizens as human shields. Their blood is on Hamas' hands.
Despite Hamas' disdain for human life, Israel has been diligent in avoiding civilian casualties as much as possible. Civilian casualties are a tragic repercussion of any military action, but Israel has taken pains to minimize them. Precision airstrikes hit Hamas targets. Palestinian civilians in the targeted areas have been warned ahead of time as much as is feasible. Israel's care has been rewarded. According to preliminary U.N. assessments, 80 percent of those killed before the ground campaign was launched were Hamas.
Given those facts, there is a right and a wrong in this conflict. No one favors war. But, given that a nation has a right to protect itself from attacks, Israel is right and the terrorists are wrong, as terrorists always are.
In addition to traveling to Sderot, I discussed ongoing U.S.-Israeli relations and Israel's security with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and other Israeli officials. I also traveled to the West Bank to discuss Palestinian security and a Palestinian state with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. He is, I believe, a reasonable and honorable man doing his best to protect the Palestinian people, a task made formidable by Hamas' continuing terrorism.
Hamas does not represent the future of Palestine. It is, instead, a tool of Iran, which has been supplying Hamas with the longer-range rockets that can strike deeper into Israel.
Palestine's true allies can help bring about peace. Egypt, in particular, could help the peace process by closing down the smuggling corridor between Gaza and Egypt. Tunnels built by Hamas and other criminal elements are used to smuggle supplies and arms from inside Egypt.
Israel has targeted the tunnels as part of its military operation, but once the fighting stops, Hamas undoubtedly would quickly reconstruct them. While it may not be feasible to find and bury all the tunnels, Egypt could set up inspection stations on the surface roads leading to Gaza, which would severely curtail, if not shut down, the smuggling operation.
Hamas' destruction is a critical element for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Like al-Qaida, Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations, Hamas has no constructive purpose, has no respect for the rule of law and no respect for human life. Peace will only come when terrorism is defeated.