Cliff May

Hamas commanders understand that when they wage war — and that’s what missile attacks are — and when they commit war crimes — and that’s what missiles aimed at civilians are — repercussions will follow. Israel takes great pains to spare non-combatants, but Hamas routinely uses Palestinian women and children as human shields. That, too, is a war crime.

Recently, despite Israeli efforts to block deliveries of advanced weaponry (while simultaneously facilitating the flow of humanitarian aid), Hamas received an estimated 100 Iranian-made Fajr-5 missiles — longer-range weapons that can threaten not just Israeli villages near Gaza but more than half Israel’s population. Such missiles have been fired at Tel Aviv, while other missiles, M-75s to be precise (made with Iranian assistance), have landed just outside Jerusalem. Muslim clerics who routinely proclaim Jerusalem “Islam’s third holiest city” have not expressed outrage.

If Iran’s jihadist rulers acquire nuclear weapons, will they use them in support of Hamas? Might they transfer one or two directly to Hamas, or perhaps to Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy which has thousands of missiles in southern Lebanon aimed at Israel? Would Jerusalem, the holiest city for Jews and Christians, be a target? My answer to all these questions: Why not?

If Israel adopts a policy of “mutually assured destruction,” which was America’s policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union during the Cold War, will that be sufficient to deter Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah? I’ll let Iran’s former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, answer that: “Application of an atomic bomb would not leave anything in Israel. But the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.”

At a time when many in the West insist on a false moral equivalence between Hamas’s attacks and Israel’s defense, President Obama’s response to the conflict has been admirably clear-headed. Last Sunday in Bangkok, he said: “There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself. . . . If we’re serious about wanting to resolve this situation and create a genuine peace process, it starts with no more missiles being fired into Israel’s territory.”

Hamas is serious about wanting to resolve this situation — but not through a peace process. It prefers a process that leads to victory, which means Israel’s extermination or, failing that, what it calls “martyrdom.” Iran’s rulers share those aspirations. Both Israel’s friends and enemies get that. Many others choose to be oblivious.

Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.