- Gershon Baskin, who negotiated with Hamas for Gilad Shalit’s release
‘Hamas can’t be destroyed. There can only be a political solution’
It is possible to destroy the tunnels and most of the rockets.It is even possible to kill most Hamas leaders.
The IDF has the tools and the know-how to do so. But even if it does, this latest Gaza war will not be the last. It will just be one more in a cycle of violence that will continue, getting worse from war to war.
There is no military solution for the problem of Gaza, or the West Bank, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We will be in the same place again in one, two or three years’ time, only it will be much worse.
Hamas cannot defeat Israel, but just as Israel improves from war to war, so too does Hamas. They no longer have to import weapons, explosives and rockets to hurt Israel, and they have proved their motivation and their ability to do so. There is no reason to believe they won’t have even more hurting tactics in the future.
So Hamas cannot be destroyed, because you cannot destroy the legitimate rights of the people of Gaza to live in freedom, just as the legitimate right of the Jewish people to live in peace cannot be crushed by Hamas.
There is only a political solution for the problem of Gaza and it’s not separate from the solution of the West Bank.
For the first time the geopolitical realities of the region create common cause between Israel and many of its neighbours, including the PLO for working together to empower moderates at the expense of the extremists.
A wise Israeli government would see beyond the guns and into the world of diplomacy and statesmanship to put an end to the conflict once and for all.
• Gershon Baskin is founder of the Palestine Centre for Research and Information.
- Col. Richard Kemp, Former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan
‘Defeat of Hamas is achievable, but will take time and more soldiers will die’
There is no question that the military defeat of Hamas is achievable. But with the IDF intent on minimising the death of innocent people, the process will be slow and more Israeli soldiers will be killed.
Israel had no choice but to launch this operation against Hamas rocket fire. IDF ground action has also pre-empted raids against border communities through tunnels, planned for Rosh Hashanah.
Israeli air strikes have inflicted significant damage to Hamas’ capability, but the rockets continue, and it is unlikely that they will be stopped completely from the air alone.
Unless there is a ceasefire, IDF ground forces will have to expand their operations, currently focused on the destruction of the tunnels.There will of course be civilian deaths in large numbers. This is the inevitable consequence of fighting an enemy that uses its civilian population as human shields and seeks to lure its enemies to kill them for propaganda purposes.
Whether peace returns with a military defeat or a ceasefire, the task then begins of preventing Gaza terrorists re-arming. The IDF will not destroy Hamas politically, but vanquishment may help dislodge them.
Whoever ends up running Gaza after this conflict ends, further violence will only be avoided if Israel significantly improves the security cordon around the Strip, or maintains a permanent military presence inside Gaza.
A better option might be deployment of an international force to ensure Gaza remains demilitarised, but that is unlikely if Hamas remains in control. It is also fraught with difficulties, including where the forces come from and the will of the international community, which has long been absent when it comes to pre-emptive action in Gaza.
• Col. Richard Kemp, CBE, completed 14 operational tours of duty around the world