The blame game has started again. But this is no black and white picture.
Hamas fires, in one day, 80 Ketyusha rockets into Israel.
Israel responds with massive attacks.
This revenge and retribution has been going on for a very long time, but it is, sadly, not so simple.
Bad leaders on both sides keep it going. The Israeli leadership, in the middle of an election and power struggle, faced two choices, though, in a recent Israeli press conference, an Israeli spokesman denied that political considerations were involved. Livni’s more moderate party could support the violent response, as they did, and remain a viable player in the election, or oppose a military response and lose to the hawk, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hamas leaders knew the Israelis would respond to firing 80 Ketyushas into Israel in just one day. Now, we learn that Hamas is benefitting from the Israeli attacks. A poll by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, before this conflict, showed that Hamas was less popular than George W. Bush, with only 16 percent of Palestinians supporting Hamas. Gaza elections were coming up. Hamas needed a popularity booster. What better than to fire scores of missiles at Israel?
Daoud Kutab, reports, in a Washington Post article, Has Israel Revived Hamas?
“…as the six-month cease-fire with Israel came to an end, Hamas calculated -- it seems correctly -- that it had nothing to gain by continuing the truce; if it had, its credentials as a resistance movement would have been no different from those of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah. Unable to secure an open border and an end to the Israeli siege, while refusing to share or give up power to Abbas, Hamas could have had no route to renewed public favor.
For different reasons, Hamas and Israel both gave up on the cease-fire, preferring instead to climb over corpses to reach their political goals. One side wants to resuscitate its public support by appearing to be a heroic resister, while the other, on the eve of elections, wants to show toughness to a public unhappy with the nuisance of the Qassam rockets.
The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel's strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan.”
An article in the NY Times by Stephen Farrell asks,
“…will the devastation in Gaza make Palestinians fall into line behind Hamas, as they reliably have in the past, or will Hamas lose their support as Gazans count the escalating cost in blood and destruction?”
The leaders of Hamas knew their rocket firings would produce a strong response from Israel but surely underestimated just how big a response. They fired them fully aware of the deaths that would follow. This is consistent with Hamas now calling for Palestinians to become suicide bombers. Hamas leaders are ready to sacrifice the lives of Palestinians to further their political goals.
For example, Hamas leader, Nizar Rayan, who was killed, along with his four wives and 10 children, had, in 2001, sent one of his children as a suicide bomber and had said he wanted to be martyred. It’s one thing to want to be a martyr. It’s another, as a leader, to precipitate violence that makes helpless Palestinians who did not volunteer to be martyrs into victims.
The Hamas power ploy seems to have worked. A growing number of observers now believe that, Israel was, shall we say, “punked” by Hamas and that their response actually helped Hamas. Hamas knew that the political situation in Israel would force the Israelis to react militarily.
Can we conclude that the leaders of Hamas made a cold blooded decision to sacrifice hundreds of Palestinian lives. No. Most likely they expected a more moderate Israeli response. The Hamas leaders probably expected to only sacrifice ten or twenty Palestinian lives. They gambled. The Palestinian people lost.