WASHINGTON -- On the evening of March 6 in Jerusalem, a heavily armed Palestinian terrorist from nearby east Jerusalem entered the Mercaz Harav yeshiva and opened fire on the unarmed teenage students studying there. Eight died, and 11 were badly wounded before another student and an off-duty soldier shot the terrorist. The atrocity ignited wild celebrations in Gaza.
If you thought that the celebrations were anomalous, you might want to know about recent findings just published by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, an independent polling organization based on the West Bank. According to its polls, 84 percent of Palestinians approved of this attack. Moreover, 64 percent approve of Hamas randomly firing rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israeli communities, and 75 percent favor ending negotiations between their leaders and the Israeli government.
In September 2005, Israel, in an irenic gesture, withdrew its military from Gaza, but since then, it has endured about 2,500 rocket attacks from Gaza and almost an equal number of mortar attacks. I wonder whether 64 percent of the Palestinians would approve if Israel began reciprocal random attacks on Gaza. What is the old line, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you"?
Instead of lobbing artillery randomly, the Israel Defense Forces have attempted to counter Hamas' attacks with surgical strikes against their leaders and their rocket factories. However, Hamas' leaders nestle their headquarters and rocket factories in civilian neighborhoods, and civilians suffer collateral damage. That appears to have made Palestinians angry, and not at Hamas for its bellicosity but at Israel for responding to these cruel attacks. According to Khalil Shikaki, the Palestinian pollster who headed the aforementioned poll, never in the 15 years that the poll has been conducted has a majority of Palestinians favored rocket assaults on Israel or an end to negotiations. For handing over Gaza to the Palestinians, this is the thanks Israel has received. Now Palestinians want further Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank. One does not have to be a student of the late Niccolo Machiavelli to advise against further withdrawals. Shikaki's poll demonstrates that such withdrawals only make the Palestinians angrier.