President Obama’s visit to Ireland yesterday bookended a tumultuous week in Washington. After a blow-up with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu over whether the 1967 borders with land swaps should be the starting point of negotiations or a concession that Israel provides as part of a negotiation -- President Obama, unlike every president before him, decided it should be the former -- Obama, in his AIPAC speech on Sunday, tried to reassure Israel and the majority of Americans who steadfastly support the Jewish state that Israel’s survival is of paramount concern.
Now the president is in Ireland praising the Good Friday Peace Agreement that ended decades of strife in Northern Ireland. He praised the ability of former adverseries to "reimagine their relationships," in a not-too-subtle hint to the Israelis and Palestinians that if Ireland’s feuding Catholics and Protestants can make peace, so can they.
Peace in the Holy Land should be a key objective for every president. But it’s also a useful reminder that it may take more than imagination or territorial compromise. It also requires facing some hard truths and, in this respect, Northern Ireland is instructive.
The Irish Republican Army is not Hamas. While it fought a brutal terrorist campaign against the British government, military and the British people, as well as Northern Ireland’s Protestants, IRA never sought the destruction of Britain nor the mass murder of Protestants. It was a deadly terrorist organization, but it was not genocidal in either action or ideology. Its terrorist attacks were designed not to maximize casualties but to maximize fear and, in many cases, it gave authorities prior warnings that an attack would occur.
Hamas, in contrast, seeks to murder as many Israelis and Jews as possible. Its genocidal beliefs are clear in its founding charter, reinforced in countless speeches by its leaders, and its signature suicide attacks are designed with this goal in mind (including bombs filled with nails laced in rat poison to inflict maximum injury). Hamas attacks occur without warning and are also sometimes staged in waves so that the first suicide bomber murders civilians and then subsequent suicide bombers detonate their bombs in order to kill first-responders and others rushing to the scene of the original attack.
Peace cannot be fashioned with Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel and the mass murder of Jews, and draws support from an Iranian regime building a nuclear weapon. To believe otherwise is to assume that political pressure can overcome a dedication to Jihad. One hopes that the resignation of George Mitchell, who presided over the Good Friday agreement, and President Obama's forceful condemnation of Hamas as an enemy of peace, are signs that the Obama administration understands the difference between terrorism as a reprehensible tactic and jihad as an unyielding ideology.
Mark Dubowitz is the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.