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December 31, 2008

The Answer is Regime Change

The question is at what point can Israel end its attacks on Hamas in Gaza. The answer is "when Hamas is no longer in power in Gaza." That does not mean that Israel, which voluntarily withdrew from Gaza, should take over governing the enclave. It doesn't guarantee that whomever takes over from Hamas, whether that's Fatah or some group less corrupt, will be much better. It does mean that Gaza won't have a government which not only tolerates but encourages rocket attacks on its neighbor.

We don't have to imagine what the US response would be if there were rocket attacks on Southern California from Tijuana that Mexico couldn't or wouldn't stop. We know that the attacks on the World Trade Center led to regime change in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We know that regimes understand that encouraging attacks on the United States is not a good way to stay in power. That doesn't mean peace and freedom everywhere; it does mean less attacks on the US than there would be otherwise. Israel is entitled to protect its citizens in the same way.

The world's calls for a cease fire in Gaza would be more credible had the same governments called forcibly for an end to rocket attacks on Israel (the US did). The demonstrators in front of the TV cameras would have more moral authority if they also demonstrated against attacks on Israel or the Christmas massacre in the Congo or continued massacre in Somalia or Sunnis and Shiites blowing up each other's mosques.

I know that most families who are caught in the crossfire of war are apolitical. Civilian casualties are always especially terrible – although soldiers are people, too. In the end, though, people do suffer for the sins of the governments they elect or tolerate. Many Germans died because Hitler was their leader; Japanese civilians paid a high price for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Fortunately Israel is not targeting civilians in this conflict and has even let a hundred aid trucks through its border yesterday (did you notice that buried in the bottom of new stories?). But there are civilian casualties and those casualties are the responsibility of the leaders of Hamas.

The usual pattern after Israel responds to increasing attacks and finally counter-attacks are frenzied cries for a truce before any tangible change can take place. If you were a Gazan opposed to Hamas, you wouldn't dare express let alone act on your opposition knowing that the world will pressure Israel into leaving Hamas standing. Iraqis didn't start to oppose the militias tearing their country apart until they were assured that the militias could be put out of business. Afghans aren't there yet.

The answer isn't another "cease fire" with Hamas – sworn to Israel's destruction – still in power. The answer is regime change in Gaza.

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