The “barbaric violation of the cease-fire agreement,” in the words of the White House spokesman, by Hamas when they attacked Israeli soldiers, killing two and taking one hostage, sums up the challenge facing Israel and the West in this vital conflict.
An organization that launches rockets at civilians, uses its own civilians as human shields, that has in its charter repeated calls for the destruction of the Jewish state is, not surprisingly, an organization to whom an agreement on a ceasefire is just another tactical opportunity in its ongoing war and is there merely to be violated to achieve their evil ends.
This blatant action highlights the need for stronger solutions to the problem of Hamas in Gaza. Make no mistake about it. If this conflict ends leaving Hamas standing without a clear path toward preventing its rearmament in the years ahead, the violence to come will make what we have seen so far look pale in comparison.
Some would argue that what Israel has to do is expand its operation to destroy the Hamas infrastructure and leadership so that it is no longer a threat and can no longer dominate Gaza. Such a decision lies, of course, with the Israeli government, but clearly there has been a hesitation to go in that direction because of the potential for significant IDF casualties, the inevitable dramatic rise of Palestinian civilian casualties, and the impact on it would have on international, and specifically US opinion toward Israel.
Short of such an expansion of the war, the goals need to focus on two things: preventing Hamas from rearming after this conflict and the need for a Security Council resolution establishing a supervisory mechanism and force to implement the banning of new weapons to Hamas.
The history of such efforts is not good, as for example, the UN resolution about Lebanon after the 2006 war which banned weapons going to Hezbollah. It is believed that Hezbollah now has as many as 60,000 rockets, not to mention other advanced weaponry.
A commitment to prevent the rearming of Hamas, however, can be far more successful. In the case of Hezbollah, Iran was the main supplier of weapons and Syria the main conduit.
In the case of Hamas, all of its neighbors understand that Hamas is not only a threat to peace and stability but it represents the larger threat of Islamic extremism that is a danger to moderate forces throughout the region. Therefore, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Palestinian Authority all would have an interest in ensuring that a Security Council resolution of this sort would work and that a supervisory body would have enough authority and means to make sure that it does work.
And here is the crucially important upside: only through such an agency could conditions be ripe to improve the quality of life for the residents of Gaza and for the Palestinian Authority to return to governing Gaza.
One of the dismaying aspects of this conflict is the lament about civilian casualties in Gaza without sufficient recognition of why they have occurred and what has to take place to prevent them from recurring.
The combustible combination of an extremist organization having access to rockets, mortars, machines and material to dig and build tunnels for massive acts of terror, made this war inevitable. Future wars are likewise inevitable unless a new dynamic is created.
The Israel Defense Forces will do their part. It is now time for the international community, led by the US, to do its part. The viciously calculated violation by Hamas of the 72-hour ceasefire agreement must serve as a reminder: without an overseeing body mandated to prevent Hamas from rearming, we will find ourselves in a worse situation down the road.
The time to act is now.
Abraham H. Foxman is national director of the Anti-Defamation League.