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Will the rockets stop with Hamas still in power?

As Israel’s tanks and troops poured into Gaza on Saturday,the next phase in its fierce attempt to end rocket attacks...

Written by New York Times | Erez Crossing,on The Israel-gaza Border |
January 5, 2009 12:42:58 am

As Israel’s tanks and troops poured into Gaza on Saturday,the next phase in its fierce attempt to end rocket attacks,a question hung over the operation: can the rockets really be stopped for any length of time while Hamas remains in power in Gaza? And if the answer is determined to be no,then is the real aim of the operation to remove Hamas,no matter the cost?

On Thursday Foreign Minister of Israel Tzipi Livni said,“There is no doubt that as long as Hamas controls Gaza,it is a problem for Israel,a problem for the Palestinians and a problem for the entire region.”

Vice Premier Haim Ramon went even further on Friday saying Israel must not end this operation with Hamas in charge of Gaza. “What I think we need to do is to reach a situation in which we do not allow Hamas to govern,” Ramon said on Channel One.

Neither PM Ehud Olmert nor Defense Minister Ehud Barak has made such a statement. Still,there is a growing concern among Israeli leaders that any letup against Hamas would be problematic for Israel’s goals in long term because it could bolster and validate the group,which says Israel should be destroyed.

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“If the war ends in a draw,as expected,and Israel refrains from re-occupying Gaza,Hamas will gain diplomatic recognition,” wrote Aluf Benn,a political analyst,in Haaretz on Friday. “No matter what you call it,” he added,“Hamas will obtain legitimacy.”

Also any potential truce deal would probably include an increase in commercial traffic from Israel and Egypt into Gaza,which is Hamas’s central demand: to end the economic boycott and border closing it has been facing.

To build up the Gaza economy under Hamas,Israeli leaders say,would be to build up Hamas. Yet withholding the commerce would continue to leave 1.5 million Gazans living in despair.

Implicit in Benn’s argument,however,is that the way to stop Hamas from gaining legitimacy is for Israel to fully occupy Gaza again,more than three years after removing its soldiers and settlers. That is a prospect no one in Israel or abroad is advocating.

While it may sound decisive to speak of taking Hamas out of power,no one familiar with Gaza and Palestinian politics considers it realistic.

The likelier result of a destruction of the Hamas ,would be chaos,anathema to the people of Gaza and also to those hoping for peace in southern Israel.

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