June 30, 2006:
The Palestinian plan to use kidnapping to win some victories over Israel appears to be backfiring. Kidnapping works both ways, and Israel has now rounded up 64 Hamas politicians, including eight Cabinet ministers, 24 members of parliament, plus mayors and local councilmen. This amounted to a third of the Palestinian Authority Cabinet and nearly a third of the Hamas parliamentary faction. Hamas has tried to convince everyone that the "military wing" is operating separately (kidnapping Israelis) from the "political wing" (the ones running the Palestinian Authority), but no one believes it. So the Hamas politicians will be held until the kidnapped Israelis are released.
Israeli troops moved into northern Gaza, seized the airport, but have otherwise avoided contact with Palestinians. Israeli warplanes are bombing terrorist targets in Gaza. Egypt has offered to organize negotiations between Hamas and Israel. Hamas is now in a bad position. They are losing popularity among Palestinians. This began when Hamas radicals proposed imposing Sharia (Islamic) law on the Palestinian territories. That was not very popular at all. Then, the major aid donors cut off the money because Hamas is, well, a terrorist organization and refused to modify its "Israel must be destroyed" policy. This left about a third of Palestinians without jobs. Reviving the terror campaign seemed a dubious proposition, because the Israeli counter-terror tactics still made Palestinian terror attacks futile. So the idea of kidnapping was revived. Actually, kidnapping was always an option for Palestinian terrorists. But when Israel occupied Gaza and the West Bank, getting away with a kidnapping was very difficult. But since Israel pulled out of Gaza last year, the prospects of pulling off a kidnapping appeared to improve. The object of such an operation is to trade one or two Israeli captives for hundreds, or even thousands, of imprisoned Palestinians. There are some 9,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, most of them on terrorism related charges. The initial demand of the Hamas kidnappers was for the release of the 35 women, and 313 prisoners under age 18. This was a clever sop to the world media, to make the kidnappers look like humanitarians. That worked with some Arab and European media, but had no impact where it counted most, in Israel.
June 29, 2006: A Hamas offer to "recognize Israel" turned out to be nothing. The recognition was dependent on Israel recognizing " right of return without discrimination." That means that the 600,000 Palestinians who fled the newly formed Israel in the late 1940s, and their millions of descendents, can return to Israel and get all their abandoned property back. Israel would also have to pay compensation. While many Palestinians would not return, enough could to change the demographic composition of Israel, turning it into a country with an Arab majority. This, for both Hamas and Israel, is the equivalent of "destroying Israel." This is something Hamas wants to accomplish, and Israelis want to avoid.