Heritage Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs James Phillips on what principles should guide U.S. policy regarding the Gaza crisis:
- A cease-fire agreement must include and immediate and permanent end of rocket attacks by Hamas and other extremist Palestinian groups. A return to the status quo ante, in which Hamas felt free to launch rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding among Palestinian civilians, is unacceptable.
- Legitimizing the false moral equivalence between terrorist attacks aimed at murdering civilians and counter-terrorist actions taken by a democratic government to protect its citizens must be avoided. Israel has taken precautions to minimize civilian casualties by employing precision-guided weapons and warning Palestinians to stay clear of targets. Talk about a “cycle of violence” that conflates the actions of both adversaries only clouds the situation and encourages Hamas and other terrorist groups to continue their illegal and immoral attacks.
- The focus of international pressure should be put on Hamas, which instigated the crisis, not on Israel. Hamas will seek to prolong the fighting as long as possible to mobilize popular support for its radical agenda in the Arab and Muslim worlds, transform itself into the “victim” of Israeli “aggression,” and politically undermine moderate Arab governments that have supported peace negotiations with Israel. Until Hamas has been defeated and its radical ideology discredited, there is no hope for a genuine peace in the Middle East.
Hamas has tightened its barbaric grip on Gaza since its violent 2007 coup against the Palestinian Authority and now holds 1.5 million Palestinians hostage to its ruthless drive to destroy Israel. The long-term goal of American policy should be to free these hostages from the draconian rule and endless violence promoted by Hamas. Therefore it is important that the current crisis be resolved in a manner that undercuts the capacity of Hamas to continue its cynical and destructive policies.