The proposed Israeli exit from Gaza (like the ill-conceived exit from Lebanon 20 years ago) is a classic case of never learning from history. Last May, Israel conducted what it termed the “Rafah-Khan Younis operation” that was designed to destroy the tunnel system feeding Palestinian terrorists who were transferring a steady flow of smuggled weapons from Egyptian Sinai. The Israeli plan was to set up a security zone on the Israeli-Egyptian border under joint Israeli-Egyptian patrols to separate Palestinian Rafah from Egyptian Sinai.

Today, a mere five months later, the Egyptians have left and the tunnel work continues in earnest without the slightest inclination on the part of the Palestinians to halt their missile offensive against Sderot and other Israeli locations across the Gaza border. Moreover, Hamas now threatens to expand the radius of these weapons to the Israeli Mediterranean town of Ashkelon as soon as their missile capability improves.

So one could justifiably ask why is it that Hamas continues its rocket attacks from Gaza even after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has dedicated his administration to withdrawing from that region? Why is it that each time the door opens for some Israeli compromise or concession, the Palestinians start killing? Why is it that Palestinians always launch another wave of terror just as new opportunities for peace arise? Why is it that every American peace initiative is always greeted by another act of terrorism that sabotages the mission?

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The answer is that the actions of Hamas (in particular) and the vast majority of Palestinians (in general) have nothing whatsoever to do with the Israeli occupation of Gaza. They have everything to do with the Jewish “occupation” of Palestine. If Gaza was the problem and a comprehensive peace their objective, Hamas would have stopped its attacks (at least from Gaza) immediately upon Sharon’s declaration of intent, Arafat would have honored the Oslo Accords and not launched a bloody intifada, and the “Roadmap for Peace” would have long since paved the way towards a Palestinian State.

Rather, the attacks continue because Hamas (which is now under the control and direction of Iran’s proxy Hezbollah) wants to take credit for “expelling” Israel for its own political purposes. That “honor” would allow Hamas (as it allowed Hezbollah twenty years before in southern Lebanon) to lead the charge towards another failed Arab state in the Middle East like Lebanon (during the 1980s) or present-day Liberia – where militias and armed gangs rule like Somali warlords. In effect, evacuating Gaza rewards terrorism on a grand scale by turning over land to terrorists who are dedicated to the destruction of Israel and who have maintained, all along, that only the murder of Jews can bring about Israeli concessions.

Since recent Israeli and Palestinian polls continue to show that 60% of Palestinians remain committed to the liquidation of Israel and its replacement by an Islamic Palestine, and since Arafat recently declared his willingness to sacrifice a million shaheeds (martyrs) to that end, why settle for Gaza when there is “occupied Palestine” just beyond the horizon?

Hamas’s murderous ideology means that the oft-repeated phrase that there is no “military solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not simply wrong; it is dangerous. Just as al Qaeda and its global terror networks must be defeated, only a military solution can end Palestinian terror and, but extension, Islamic terrorism around the world.

While it is true that frequent military incursions into the Palestinian territories, assassinations of dozens of terrorist leaders, decapitation of the terrorist leadership, improved intelligence, and construction of a massive barrier through and around the West Bank have dramatically reduced the frequency of suicide bombings inside Israel, the Qassam rocket attacks demonstrate that these measures will not protect Israel from those who continue to seek its destruction.

Just as the Iraqi and American troops in Samarra, Ramadi and Fallujah must be allowed to fight until victory, so must Israel be allowed to destroy Hamas. Without a “military solution” and an all-pervasive feeling of defeat by the terrorists, there can be no hope for peace, neither in Iraq nor between Israelis and Palestinians.

The idea that ideological Islamic terrorist groups that seek the destruction of Israel and other western democracies and exult in the slaughter of small children in Sderot, Bali or Beslan can be quietly converted into peaceful political movements is a dangerous illusion. Any sane, rational person should understand that you cannot teach people to hate and then seriously expect them to make peace.

So why the continuing conflict? Because we now understand something about Palestinian society that somehow eluded us a decade ago when the Oslo Accords were signed. So long as Palestinian mothers take pride in their children being “martyrs;” so long as Palestinian clerics foment hatred from the pulpits of their mosques and madrasses; so long as Palestinians throw candies into the air to celebrate the murder of children; so long as posters of Palestinian murderers adorn their streets, marketplaces and Yasser Arafat’s muqata in Ramallah, and so long as a culture of death pervades their society, there can be no solution short of their absolute military defeat.

And one thing more. “Defeat” is not just a term applied to the military conquest of an adversary; it is a state-of-mind. As a consequence, it can only emanate from the vanquished. If you could ask Robert E. Lee, Adolf Hitler and General Tojo the true meaning of “defeat”, they would explain that their dreams of a confederacy, conquest and empire were over. When Palestinians recognize that their dream of “pushing the Jews into the sea” is futile, that there is absolutely no possibility of doing so, and that ending the terror far outweighs the benefits derived from it; only then can the ground be readied for a new Palestinian tomorrow. The wage of incurring Israeli wrath must be utter ruin. To believe otherwise not only denies the lessons of history; it blinds us (in Iraq and elsewhere) to the true purpose of war and to the true meaning of “victory.”