The core of the problem is at the core of Hamas.
Over the past few weeks, hundreds of rockets have been fired by Hamas into Israel, putting nearly six million Israelis under direct threat of terror. This Hamas offensive speaks to the incredibly difficult nature of Israel’s fight for peace and security, against an enemy that for generations has abided by a doctrine of hate, terror and intolerance.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas is not one over land, but rather a century-old assault against Jewish national sovereignty in the Land of Israel. It is the result of a structural failure within the Palestinian National Movement to face its own opposition.
Let's not forget what Hamas openly stands for—the complete destruction of the State of Israel and the Jewish people. Let's not forget that in 2005, Israel fulfilled the Palestinian territorial fantasy. We pulled out of Gaza unilaterally, giving up every last square inch, and we gave Palestinians the key to Gaza. We said 'turn it into an oasis, a thriving community'.
Instead, Hamas turned it into a launching pad for terror. Since that Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, approximately 9,000 rockets and 5,000 mortar shells have been fired at Israel from the Gaza Strip.
So our priorities with Operation Protective Edge are simple, and what we want is basic. We need the violence to stop. We need the rockets to stop. We cannot let our families live in fear of random attacks on their homes, parks and schools. We can no longer tolerate the sound of emergency sirens ringing from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to Sderot, alarming people that they have just 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter before a Hamas rocket lands in their city. No one deserves to have to endure this daily threat of terror. That is a basic human right.
So what can be done? We tried giving land, Hamas created more terror. We’ve agreed to peace deals and ceasefires, and Hamas has broken them time and time again.
What has to change is the Palestinian people must reject this Hamas culture, which is based in generations of hate.
One of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Israel’s history took place in 1978, when a female-terrorist, Dalal Mughrabi, hijacked a bus filled with families on a weekend trip, killing 37 innocent people.
Within any other society, Dalal Mughrabi would be remembered as a monstrous criminal. But the Palestinians have turned this terrorist into a celebrated hero and a role model for future generations, as public squares, schools, summer camps, and sports tournaments are all named after her.
Here in the United States and in Israel, we name our streets after our poets and intellectual luminaries, our artists, our athletes, our scientists our firefighters and our policemen.
Palestinians name their streets and their squares after terrorists and criminals.
This Palestinian hatred and propaganda often manifest itself in violent acts of terror, as we sadly saw last month with the abduction and murder of Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frankel.
A few weeks ago, Bret Stephens noted in his Wall Street Journal column that when the mother of Abu Aysha, one of the terrorists who kidnapped Gilad, Eyal and Naftali, spoke with Israel Channel 10, she said of her son, “If he did the kidnapping, I'll be proud of him." There should be no pride in the murder of innocent children.
But Hamas has proven it has no regard for humanity.
When Hamas launches their rockets at our cities, it’s not just our civilians Hamas is after, it’s their own. Hamas’ plan to gain sympathy, to gain some PR points in the media, is encouraging its civilians to insanely act as human shields against aerial strikes.
Hamas’ “Interior Ministry” has criminally instructed the residents of Gaza not to heed Israel's warnings about impending attacks, thus putting more civilians’ lives in danger. Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri appeared on the terrorist organization's al-Aqsa TV network, and said, "The fact that people are facing Israeli warplanes bare-chested to protect their homes, I believe this procedure has proved its efficiency. And we in the Hamas movement call on our people to adopt this procedure."
Hamas purposely hides its rocket launching pads in private homes and public buildings such as hospitals, schools and mosques, knowing very well that Israel takes extra care not to harm uninvolved civilians.
But here is the basic, simple truth. Only the Palestinians can stand up to Hamas. They must refuse to act as human shields, and choose life over martyrdom. The power to change must come from within the Palestinian society. The future that we want for all our children can only be achieved if the Palestinian people recognize the harm that accepting Hamas will continue to have on attaining a peaceful two-state solution. Israel is ready to live side-by-side in peace with its Palestinian neighbors, but Palestinians must change the way they view Hamas, and reject its core values and objectives.
Ambassador Ido Aharoni is the Consul General of Israel in New York.
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