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Hamas rockets target peace

Hamas rockets target peace

Author: Aron Heller & Matti Friedman
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: January 1, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/147328/Hamas-rockets-target-peace.html

As Arab rockets reach ever deeper into Israel, they may be weakening what for years has been a cornerstone of West Asian peace efforts - an exchange of land for peace. Israeli hard-liners have long warned that any territories Israel vacates will be used to attack it. They can now point to the Hamas missile that slammed into a bus stop in the port city of Ashdod, killing a 39-year-old woman. It was fired from the Gaza Strip, which Israel gave up in 2005 and is now ruled by Hamas militants who reject the very existence of the Jewish state.

Even in the midst of the war, many Israelis still argue that a peace deal with the Palestinians, which would require a withdrawal from virtually all the West Bank, is Israel's only real security guarantee. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in defending the Gaza offensive in a speech to Knesset, said Israel remains committed to the idea of a Palestinian state alongside it.

Yet the missile that hit Ashdod, a city of 200,000 people, drove home a grim new reality for Ms Alin Ben-Yosef, who fled to Tel Aviv for the night with her two young daughters after Ashdod was struck. "Tel Aviv is the safest place we have," said Ms Ben-Yosef, who works at a clothing store. "But it is starting to feel as if there are no safe places anymore."

At least one-tenth of Israel's seven million citizens and some of its largest cities are now in range of Hamas missiles, and millions more live within reach of Hizbullah rockets from Lebanon. This has implications for the West Bank, where US-led diplomacy long focussed on a withdrawal that would make way for a Palestinian state at peace with Israel.

Israeli opponents of this strategy argue that such a peace would be too fragile to survive, and would bring Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the nation's international airport within rocket range. Cities under missiles are nothing new to Israelis. Tel Aviv, the metropolitan heartland, was bombarded by Saddam Hussein's rockets in the 1991 Gulf War. Haifa, the third biggest city, was hit by Hizbullah in its 2006 war with Israel, and after Hamas took over Gaza, rocket fire at nearby towns promptly increased.

Israeli historian Michael Oren, a Georgetown University professor and fellow at the Shalem Center think tank in Jerusalem, said the events of recent days, and especially the international criticism of Israel's response, are likely to "compound Israelis' reluctance" to support further withdrawals. "This has become a recurring nightmare for Israelis and has made them reluctant to give up strategically vital territory," he said.


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