April 20, 2006.
On Monday, a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated himself outside a packed
Tel Aviv fast-food restaurant. He killed nine people and injured dozens more in
one of the deadliest bombings in Israel in more than a year.
The reaction from Hamas leaders, who control the Palestinian parliament, was
swift and resounding: They cheered.
The Hamas-led administration defended the attack as a legitimate response to
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, “Our people are in a state of
self-defense, and they have every right to use all means to defend themselves.”
While Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the attacks as
“despicable” and vowed to pursue those responsible, Hamas leaders made it
clear they wouldn’t lift a finger to punish Islamic Jihad, which claimed
responsibility. Nor would they work to stop future attacks, even though Hamas
itself has largely abided by a cease-fire with Israel for more than a year.
Stunning is a word overused in newspapers. But this is, simply, stunning. And
Hamas is no longer just an Islamic radical group dispatching terrorists
and challenging rival Fatah leaders for power. It is the Palestinian government.
It speaks for the Palestinian people. And now it says that strolling into a falafel
palace and blowing up innocent civilians is a legitimate way to air political
Hamas’ spirited defense of the terrorists portends a new spasm of Middle East
When Hamas first scored its election victory a few months ago, there was an
open question about whether its leaders might be forced by political and
economic pressures to moderate their radical policies.
It’s easier, the thinking went, to throw bombs and launch homemade
missiles when you’re not in power. When someone else is stuck with
denouncing the attacks and cleaning up the political mess.
In the last few weeks, the U.S. and Europe halted millions in aid to the
Palestinian Authority to turn up the pressure on Hamas. Their demand: Hamas
must renounce violence, recognize Israel and declare that it would respect
previous agreements. Hamas leaders had dropped several vague hints that they
might be willing to soften their position against Israel.
Were they serious? The answer came Monday.
The Palestinian government is broke. Tens of thousands of people aren’t getting
paid, including police and security forces. Some police have seized government
buildings in protest.
Hamas has been begging for money from any country that will listen. Before the
bombing, Russia and Qatar announced pledges to Hamas. How can they fulfill
them now? Funding the Palestinian government is no different than donating
money directly to terrorists.
With its election victory, Hamas faced a choice. It could choose terror or it
could choose to build a Palestinian state. It couldn’t do both.
Hamas has made the wrong choice. It will not be able to deliver its promises to
the Palestinian people. It will lead them down a familiar path of violence and