Maybe the Israeli government will concede to a cease-fire. We'll see.
But it is clearer in my mind than ever why a cease-fire between Jerusalem and the regime in Gaza will never hold. Even the so-called cease-fire in place since the summer was not remotely close to a true pause in the fighting. That is, in the fighting from the other side of the frontier. Day-in and almost every day-out, rockets were launched from Hamas territory, and Israel did not fight back. Then, one day last week, Hamas aimed 60 missiles, some more rustic, some much less, into the Land, into eretz, as it is commonly called in Hebrew. This was one violation of the truce too many. How long was Israel to stand aside while its enemies, sworn by fanatic Islam to its destruction, rained death, injury, and terror on its population?
It is sad that it had to come to this massive response of the Israeli Defense Forces. Yet, it had to. For not only were the people of the western Negev and municipalities abutting it continuously imperiled. There were the tunnels into Gaza from the Sinai peninsula, tunnels that brought all kinds of contraband and even luxury items to the Palestinians of the wretched Strip. And, of course, fuel needed by the people and also by Hamas, without which its capacity to kill would be zero. But more than that.
The underground passages are Hamas's lifeline to additional weapons and to increasingly advanced weaponry. What about Egypt? you ask. Frankly, Egypt is a failed state, except for a competent intelligence service operating in the cities; it has kept the democratic opposition at bay. Still, even in Cairo and Alexandria, corruption is deep rooted. At the crossing between the peninsula and Gaza, certainly, it would not take much cash for a poor boy from the upper Nile suddenly to become eyeless, and make it a habit for cash. Yes, "eyeless in Gaza," as in John Milton and Aldous Huxley. The Mubarak government, which now under the cover of Israeli airplanes is trying to choke Hamas, never curtailed the terrorists' arms power at the geographical source, the underground channels to what is, after all, Egyptian territory. Egypt is another story, a pathetic story. Another time.
A cease-fire can sometimes be had between civilized governments. But why isn't anyone pressing the United States and its allies in Afghanistan into a cease-fire with the Taliban? A stupid question. Because the enemy is the Taliban, and the Taliban could as easily convert to Christianity as agree to an armistice with its opponents. Maybe they'd agree to what the Arabs call a hudna, a pause, a lull, but only on tactical grounds.
The fact is that Hamas is a Taliban state, as one Israeli diplomat put it. This is almost an epiphany, a clarifying truth. Hamas operates against its Palestinian enemies like the Taliban does against its Afghani enemies. Imagine a Hamas squad enters a kindergarten in a kibbutz. Neither the Taliban nor Hamas strive for earthly aims. Armed with instruments of death, they each fight for a heavenly design. But on earth. Yes, what a heaven that would be. Death is their own blessed comrade. Go ahead, establish a cease-fire with one of them. America before Israel.
The Taliban is not an analogy to Hamas. It is identical, equivalent. A cease-fire with Hamas is a delusion. Engage with whom?
Israel has shown more than enough restraint through years of provocation. Or, as my friend Bret Stephens has written, "No ingenious conceit can disguise the fact war offers no outcome other than victory or defeat. This is one big thing that Hamas understands." Let us hope that Israel grasps this, too. And the new administration, as well.
Martin Peretz is the editor-in-chief of The New Republic.
By Martin Peretz