Did Hamas expect to win?

Douglas Gibson says that liberation movement could never have believed Israel would simply turn the other cheek

Can anyone truthfully say that Hamas, in launching an unprecedented surprise attack on Israel just over a week ago, thought it could beat Israel?

The scenes of planned attacks on home after home, the killing, the raping, and in some cases, the beheading of innocent civilians, babies, children, women and men, and the shooting in cold blood in an orgy of killing at a concert, is etched in the memory of Israelis and their friends around the world, sickened by the callousness and inhumanity of Hamas.

Hamas could never have thought that Israel would simply turn the other cheek, or that there would be no retaliation. Hamas killed over 1300 Israelis- civilians, not soldiers – many in the most ghastly and gruesome and yes, barbaric manner. They are dedicated to wiping out Israel, the Holy Land of the Bible, that has existed for thousands of years.

Israel is the only democratic country in the Middle East. It has a highly developed free market economy. Its 9.7 million population (of whom 1.6 million are Arabs), enjoy the vote and democratic rights), producing a GDP of USD 564 billion; its growth rate last year was 6.5% and the year before it was 8.6%. The overall unemployment rate is 3% of the population and 6% of the youth.

The Economist ranked Israel as the 4th most successful economy among developed nations, and the IMF estimated Israel’s GDP per capita at USD 58,270 as the 13th highest in the world. No wonder it is regarded with jealous eyes by some other Middle East countries and their allies elsewhere in the world. Instead of looking at what makes Israel strong and emulating its democratic, free market economic policies, its excellence in education and a social system of recognised merit, people like Hamas pray for the wiping out of Israel and the Jews.

Israel is able to blockade Gaza and has vowed to destroy Hamas, its leaders and its adherents. Israel can, and has, cut off all electricity, all food supplies and all fuel. No one can tell me that Hamas did not know this would happen. Of course they knew. But Hamas is a terrorist organisation that cares nothing about the people of Gaza.

It cares only about politics. To Hamas, sacrificing a few thousand people on both sides of the border, is worth it and of no account. What matters is stirring up and spurring into action the pro-Palestine lobby around the world. Money flows to the Hamas leadership, many of the most prominent of whom live in luxury in Doha. The poor people of Gaza, supporters or not of Hamas, pay the price in blood and suffering. And Hamas blames Israel.

What makes me very sad, because every human being is the touchstone of value, is the many opportunities Palestine has let slip away, always hesitating and being led by the nose by extremists, rejecting a sensible and reasonable solution. I well remember that about 16 years ago, the Foreign Affairs Portfolio Committee in Parliament interacted with a Palestinian delegation.

This opened my eyes to the fact that there were some of them we could do business with. The PLO representatives sat in the gallery, listening as I made a speech in the House in which, as the opposition spokesperson on foreign affairs, I said exactly that: people who would support a two-state solution could be key to resolving the never-ending Palestine-Israel conflict. I still believe that.

Douglas Gibson is a former opposition chief whip and a former ambassador to Thailand. His email address is [email protected].

This article first appeared in The Star newspaper.