Re-establishing Deterrence?

[New York Times] Gideon Lichfield - For more than three decades the main threat to Israel has been not from conventional armies but from movements like Hamas and Hizbullah. And these groups cannot be deterred. During the 2006 war, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that merely surviving an Israeli onslaught would equal victory for his movement. The same is true of Hamas. Even if Israel now manages to impose a cease-fire on its terms, the calm will be short-lived unless it is willing to reoccupy much of the Gaza Strip indefinitely. What could deter Hamas is the fear that by using violence it will lose support among its people. The aim should be to construct a long-lived state of calm in which Hamas has more to lose by breaching the cease-fire than by sticking to it - by improving Gazans' living conditions significantly. Hamas is no fringe movement that can be rooted out, but a central part of Palestinian society. Even though Hamas' stated goal is Israel's destruction, it has said many times that it would accept a truce extending decades. Some former Israeli security chiefs argue that such an accommodation would eventually oblige Hamas to accept Israel's existence, or else lose its own base of support. The writer was Jerusalem bureau chief for The Economist from 2005 to 2008.

2009-01-09 06:00:00

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