Every few years there is another Hamas-Israel battle. It begins in the typical way – Hamas incites an incident, Israel responds, Hamas escalates by lobbing rockets into Israel, Israel moves to destroy Hamas' weapons depots and rocket launchers in Gaza. It’s followed by a period of calm until Hamas begins the next round. It’s a standard, predictable routine.
Yet every time the cycle runs again both sides have more advanced, lethal weapons. This time Hamas has longer range, more accurate rockets which can target 75 percent of the Israeli population. Israel has a new Iron Dome missile defense system which can shoot them down. This time Hamas has built an extensive tunnel system which can bring fighters under the border and into Israeli territory unseen. By the time this round’s cease-fire eventually comes, Israel will have destroyed the tunnels.
So why, you ask yourself, does Hamas pick a fight they can’t win? They know they will never defeat Israel militarily, so why bother? Instead of using concrete blocks to build tunnels to burrow in and kill Israelis, why not use them to build schools for Palestinian children?
Because Hamas knows what while they can’t win on the battlefield, they can win in the world court of public opinion. If they can show Israel as the destroyer of Palestinian schools and killer of Palestinian children, the world will conclude Israel is the aggressor and ultimately abandon the Jewish state. If they can drive a wedge between the Obama administration and Israel, Hamas wins. Because an Israel alone, with only enemies and no friends, is an Israel defeated.
Turn on the news and you’ll see a split screen with an Israeli politician on one side and dead Palestinian children on the other. The Israeli leader must defend himself against charges that Israel has killed innocents. That’s why you rarely see Hamas leaders give interviews. They don’t want to answer the question of why they deliberately put their children in harm's way, why they put rocket launchers on apartment building roofs, or arms depots in school basements, or military headquarters in hospitals, or move terrorists around in school buses. If Hamas officials never go on the air, they don’t have to defend themselves of accusations that they use Palestinian civilians as human shields. They prefer images of dead Palestinian civilians to make their point.
Israel, on the other hand, has different cultural mores, and goes to great lengths to prevent photographs of their dead or injured. They send out politicians to argue their case.
So there you have it. A picture is worth a thousand words, so which one tugs at your heartstrings? Talking politicians or dead children? Even the United Nations criticized Hamas for putting rocket depots in the basements of UN-sponsored schools in Gaza. But Hamas knows if there are enough civilian casualties, people will forget about the rockets Hamas launches, or the tunnels they dig into Israel.
They know if they can persuade the world that Israel is the aggressor, the world will fight Hamas’ war for them. The world community will demand Israel open the borders, through which suicide bombers have come in the past. Public pressure will press financial institutions to sell off stocks in Israeli companies. The Obama administration will slow walk the resupply of critical military equipment, like Iron Dome components made in America.
And it’s working. Anti-Israel riots are in capitol cities across Europe. Relations between the U.S. and Israel have never been worse. Secretary of State John Kerry handed Israel a proposal that would leave Israel vulnerable, give Hamas everything it wanted for nothing in return, and which also had negative implications for our other allies in the region. When Israel refused, the administration came down hard against Israel.
No wonder Hamas has refused so many cease-fire offers in the past. They need to keep losing a little longer to get what they want. And, if they don’t get everything this time, don’t worry. There will always be another Hamas-Israel war down the road where Hamas can work to isolate Israel. Hamas knows it can only win by losing. It doesn’t make any sense, but then again it’s the Middle East, where nothing makes much sense.