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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Retaliation Could Play To Hamas

In the space of little more than a week, the scene has become sickeningly familiar: a suicide bomber infiltrates into a large group of Israelis, detonating himself and killing numerous innocent victims.

Then come the nauseating television pictures, complete with wailing sirens and people retrieving body parts. Israelis, enraged at the carnage, cry out for revenge.

Israel has already made it clear that it will retaliate against the latest bout of Palestinian terrorism. Most likely the targets will be in the Gaza Strip or areas of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority has control. At worst, it will be in a neighboring state. Then there will be the de rigueur meeting of the UN Security Council to condemn Israel, a move the United States would veto.

And so the peripheral casualty of the gruesome Hamas terrorism will be the Middle East peace effort, the slow, step-by-step process that has been carefully nurtured over almost two decades.

Already, Israel has broken off talks in the United States with Syria and any Israeli retaliation in Palestinian-controlled territory is bound to at least temporarily freeze the possibility of continuing negotiations with the government of President Yasser Arafat.

In addition, Israeli attacks on Hamas could easily cause retaliation against Arafat. Despite all his legendary vacillation, Arafat is an essential partner to Israel's Prime Minister Shimon Peres if the peace process is to continue. Such has been Arafat's domination of the Palestinian cause that it is hard to imagine any other Palestinian interlocutor.

There is a terrible irony in all this: The only way to end the terrorism that has traumatized Israel is to reach a peaceful solution. Yet the suicide bombers are making a mockery of these same peace efforts.

But going to war with Hamas, as understandable as it is for Israel, will do nothing to alleviate the country's security concerns, because it is impossible to cut off fanatics so determined that to them, death is not only not feared but welcomed. In a region where turning the other cheek is not the norm, each retaliation will beget more retribution.

The only road to security is to save the peace process. There is no other way but a tortuous, step-by-step process in which Palestinians gain the benefits of political power, thus marginalizing the extremists. To take full revenge and abandon negotiations would simply allow these extremists, once again, to set the agenda.

Obviously, balance is not easy to achieve in the face of violence. But the history of numerous liberation struggles in Africa and -- one hopes -- the ongoing negotiations in Northern Ireland demonstrate that the only long term solutions are negotiated, peaceful, solutions.