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Argument: Defeating Hamas is key to long-term Israeli/Palestinian solution

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Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi. "Palestinians Need Israel to Win". Wall Street Journal. December 29, 2008 - Without the assurance that they will be allowed to protect their homes and families following withdrawal, Israelis will rightly perceive a two-state solution as an existential threat. They will continue to share the left-wing vision of coexistence with a peaceful Palestinian neighbor in theory, but in reality will heed the right's warnings of Jewish powerlessness.

The Gaza crisis also has implications for Israeli-Syrian negotiations. Here, too, Israelis will be unwilling to cede strategically vital territories -- in this case on the Golan Heights -- in an international environment in which any attempt to defend themselves will be denounced as unjustified aggression. Syria's role in triggering the Gaza conflict only deepens Israeli mistrust. The Damascus office of Hamas, which operates under the aegis of the regime of Bashar al Assad, vetoed the efforts of Hamas leaders in Gaza to extend the cease-fire and insisted on escalating rocket attacks.

In the coming days, the Gaza conflict is likely to intensify with a possible incursion of Israeli ground forces. Israel must be allowed to conclude this operation with a decisive victory over Hamas; the untenable situation of intermittent rocket fire and widespread arms smuggling must not be allowed to resume. This is an opportunity to redress Israel's failure to humble Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, and to deal a substantial setback to another jihadist proxy of Iran.

It may also be the last chance to reassure Israelis of the viability of a two-state solution. Given the unfortunate historical resonance, Israel should refrain from calling its current operation, "Peace for Southern Israel." But without Hamas's defeat, there can be no serious progress toward a treaty that both satisfies Palestinian aspirations and allays Israel's fears. At stake in Gaza is nothing less than the future of the peace process.

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