By Naftali Bennett
On the the surface, Israel’s ongoing conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip appears to have nothing to do with other events taking place right now in the Middle East.
The world tells us that we have a unique conflict with the Palestinian terror organization. Hamas, we are told, simply wants freedom – a lifting of the blockade over Gaza, the opening of all crossings and regular money transfers for salaries. In reality, we are told, Hamas is a political organization, one that we should sit down with and negotiate a peaceful resolution.
Not far from Gaza though – in Syria and Iraq – another conflict is taking place, although in this case there are no doubts as to what needs to be done. Leaders from across the free world are united in their decision that the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, needs to be crushed and destroyed. No one has recommended a cease-fire – we’ve already tried 11 which Hamas has violated as of Friday – and no one recommends meeting ISIS leaders in a third country for negotiations (we’ve spent the past two weeks trying to negotiate with Hamas via Egyptian mediators in Cairo).
When it comes to ISIS, war is war, evil is evil and ISIS needs to be eliminated. The situation is black and white.
What the free world fails unfortunately to understand is that Israel’s conflict with Hamas and the current battle to stop ISIS’ advances in Syria and Iraq are one and the same. Both Hamas and ISIS are radical Islamic organizations. ISIS wants to establish a caliphate throughout the world. Hamas wants to do the same in Israel while openly calling and actively working for the destruction of our state along the way. Its charter makes no secret of this.
These are organizations motivated by religion, not by nationalistic aspirations, and they do not hesitate to use extreme violence to advance and achieve their goals. While ISIS beheads journalists and adversaries, Hamas kidnaps and slaughters teenage yeshiva students.
While ISIS targets minority groups in Iraq, Gaza’s Christian community has mostly disappeared after being persecuted and targeted by Hamas Islamist thugs. Members of Fatah – Hamas’ rivals – have long been ousted from Gaza, some thrown from the rooftops of buildings just to get a point across.
For both, the only option is complete acceptance of Shariah. Anything else means you are an apostate or an infidel.
While ISIS targets civilians and slaughters thousands, Hamas tries to do the same, firing more than 3,000 rockets indiscriminately at Israeli civilians just in the past few weeks. Why? To kill and maim as many Israelis as possible.
When faced with an enemy of this nature, we are left with only one real option – to fight. Not to fight and negotiate but to fight until we have crushed and defeated our enemy. This could be a long war – our recent conflict with Hamas has been going on for almost two months – but victory is possible.
Our experience in Gaza should serve as a lesson to the world of what happens when you pretend as if these conflicts are isolated, out of reach of the Western liberal free world in Europe and North America.
Nine years ago, we pulled out of Gaza, expelling 8,000 Jews and dismantling all of our military positions. We pulled back to the international border with assurances that the Palestinians were prepared to turn Gaza into the Singapore of the Middle East. Instead, since the day we left in 2005, more than 10,000 rockets have been fired at our cities. We thought we had left Gaza but instead Gaza chased after us.
The same could unfortunately happen throughout the world. If ISIS is not defeated, it will eventually make its way to London, Paris or New York. It will not remain isolated in Iraq and Syria.
For the free world to win, we need to start by realizing one simple thing – no matter what the name of the organization, the enemy is the same. It might be called Hezbollah in Lebanon, ISIS in Iraq, Hamas in the Gaza Strip and Al-Nusra in Syria. All have the same goal – to attack the Western democratic way of life wherever it might be.
To confront this challenge, the free world needs to work together as a determined bloc against this wave of terror. Today it is on Israel’s border, and if it is not stopped, tomorrow it will be on the shores of Europe and the U.S.
As long as Hamas and ISIS remain in power, there will not be a chance to create long-lasting stability or peace in the Middle East.
If we in the free world, however, unite, recognize the global threat and take action, we have a chance to defeat these terror groups and send a message to all others that might be on their way.
Naftali Bennett is Israel’s minister of economy and chairman of the Jewish Home Party.
THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE.