Tuesday, March 23, 2004

# Posted 11:58 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE? There isn't much sympathy for Ariel Sharon's decision to kill off Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. The WaPo and NYT both have editorials up condemning the Israeli action. Both editorials ask the same essential question: What will Yassin's death accomplish in terms of making Israel safer?

On the other hand, why would Yassin's death make Israel any less safe? The NYT writes that
Hamas will now redouble its efforts to send human torpedos into Israel. The Palestinian Authority will be even less inclined to confront terrorists in its midst and less able to coax Hamas into observing a cease-fire.
But when did the PA ever accomplish much in terms of controlling Hamas? And isn't Hamas already trying its hardest to kill Israeli civilians? The WaPo argues Yassin was moving in the direction of accepting a long-term truce with Israel in exchange for withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza.

To his credit, David Ignatius explains why Sharon thought that killing Yassin would make Israel safer. In short, Sharon wanted to demonstrate that Israel's coming withdrawal from Gaza does not represent a victory for Hamas. Given how Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon emboldened Hezbollah, Sharon's logic isn't exactly off base. Still, Ignatius raises the important question of whether killing Yassin will make it that much harder to restore order in Gaza after Israel pulls out.

In the short term, there is no question that Israel will be less secure. The killing of Yassin was a direct challenge to Hamas (and Fatah) to show that they are not impotent in the face of Israeli violence. Unsurprisingly, Israelis have chosen to stay home rather than risk becoming the victims of the next terrorist strike. Yet while 81% of Israelis believe the death of Yassin will lead to more attacks against Israel, 60% of them support it nonetheless. After all, what is the difference if the bombers detonate themselves this week in honor of Yassin rather than next week in honor of someone else?

And there will be a someone else. Hardline statements by Israeli officials suggest that more targeted killings are in the works. For its part, Hamas has chosen two of its hardliners to replace Yassin. (But how moderate are its sofliners anyway?)

Frankly, I wish there were an upbeat note on which to conclude. But there isn't. Instead of peace, the most we can look forward to is a wall.
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