From an Op-Ed in Haaretz, 02/01/2008, by Ely Karmon:
In light of the success of the pinpoint military operations against Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip, and signs of weakening in the Hamas leadership, many are calling for accepting Ismail Haniyeh's purported offer of a hudna (a cease-fire), or alternately a tahadiyeh (a lull in the fighting), in exchange for an end to IDF operations in Gaza and a lifting of the siege.
It appears that the decision makers in Israel have learned nothing....
...Israel's acceptance of the hudna proposal would constitute a strategic victory for Hamas and its allies: The organization would be regarded by the Palestinian population as the leading element in the national struggle. It would quickly receive international legitimacy, establish its economic and political control through the generous assistance of the international community, and be able to develop a deterrent military capability vis-a-vis Israel through massive arms smuggling across the Egyptian border.
In a year or two, an extremist state, allied with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, will emerge on our southern border, with a good chance of taking over the West Bank and affecting the stability of Jordan, Egypt and possibly also the Islamic Movement in Israel. Even if Hamas meets its promise not to violate the cease-fire for several months, Iran and its ally, Islamic Jihad, will do everything in their power to sabotage the negotiations with the Palestinians.
Is the temporary, tactical and relative calm of a few months, maybe even a year or two, sufficient justification for Israel's next strategic failure? Will we not then face a situation similar to what emerged in southern Lebanon following Israel's unilateral withdrawal of May 2000, which led to the forlorn results of July-August 2006?
[Will] those who are now threatening that we will respond in force if Hamas or any other Palestinian group violates the hudna, not find more excuses to avoid taking action against them?
In light of the continued targeting of Israeli communities with rocket fire, and the ongoing smuggling, Israel must employ a tough policy and keep up its effort against a strengthening of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. This should include targeting the organization's leadership, and if necessary, carrying out a ground offensive to take control of the Philadelphi route and segments of the northern Gaza Strip before weapons of strategic significance find their way there.
...Only by bolstering the moderates in the Palestinian leadership and population in the West Bank, while politically and socially weakening Hamas in Gaza, will it be possible, perhaps, for fissures to occur in the Islamic movement and for a joint struggle with the Fatah moderates and the pragmatic leaders among Hamas against the radicals in control in Gaza and elsewhere.
Dr. Ely Karmon is a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Inter-Disciplinary Center, Herzliya.