In this New York Times op-ed piece, Gershon Baskin argues that the killing of Jabari was a short sighted action on the part of Israel. While I oppose political assassinations, in this case I don’t buy Baskin’s argument.
First, let’s address the core of Baskin’s argument: Hamas is ready for a long term cease fire with Israel. I have often argued, and still believe, Israel must reach some sort of agreement with Hamas. That is why I so strongly opposed the assassination of Sheikh Yassin (and other Hamas political leaders) precisely at the moment they were coming around to the idea they need to reach a long term accommodation with Israel. The most desirable possible outcome Israel can reach is that Hamas accepts the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhoods’ policy towards Israel, viz. while they can’t stand the “Zionist Entity” they realize it is here to stay so it’s time to accept that fact, deal with that reality and move on to the more important issues of internal social and economic development.
The question posed to Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing, not a political leader, was not about a long term hudna, or political “cease fire,” but a new mechanism for cessation of military action. There have been several such “long term” cease fires negotiated with both Hamas and Hezbullah over the years. In fact, until the past six months, the cease fire with Hamas has held up pretty well, in the sense skirmishes were low key. To Israel’s dismay, Hamas (and Hezbullah for that matter) have always exploited these cease fires to improve their military position.
It was Jabari, as military leader, who heated up the southern sector and made the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis miserable, particularly over the past six months. My guess is Hamas believed the election of Morsi would give them both political and military cover. The question facing the Israeli government, is should it try to negotiate yet another “long term cease fire” while leaving Hamas in a strong military position, or should it strike a decisive military blow and then negotiate from a position of strength? The answer is obvious and in this case, Israel’s actions are not shortsighted at all.