Israel wants real peace; Hamas wants carnage

Palestinians attend Friday noon prayers in the shadow of a toppled minaret at a mosque that was hit by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Keeping up with the conflicts raging around the world, it can be difficult to decipher between victim and aggressor, between good and bad.

In the case of the current situation between Israel and Hamas, however, there is no question. This is a clash of civilizations: Israel, a peace-seeking nation that cherishes life and democratic values, versus Hamas, a terrorist organization that sanctifies death.

Hamas should be held responsible for the war crimes it has perpetrated against both the Palestinian civilians of Gaza and the Israeli people.

Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve peace and security. Full disarmament of Gaza is the only way to achieve lasting security for both peoples.

For 13 years, Hamas has inflicted terror from within Gaza. Hamas terrorists have used Gaza as a base for launching nearly 3,400 rockets, building terror tunnels, and terror infrastructure. In doing so, Hamas has made the citizens of Gaza into hostages and victims.

Hamas, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, is a terrorist proxy of Iran. In its charter, Hamas makes no attempt to conceal its malintent, calling explicitly for the destruction of the State of Israel. The extensive terror tunnel network uncovered and destroyed by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) since 2007 amounts to a total cost of $1.25 billion. Such a massive investment is something only a state can be behind, and that state is Iran.

These 32 terror tunnels run from the Gaza Strip into civilian neighborhoods and kibbutzim in Israel. Some tunnels have been found to be as long as 1.5 miles with advanced layouts. Their clear purpose is to allow terrorists to cross the border undetected to carry out attacks with the intent to kill and abduct as many Israeli civilians as possible. Hamas used a similar tunnel in 2006 to infiltrate Israel, kill two IDF soldiers, and kidnap Cpl. Gilad Shalit. During the cease-fire lull of the last 72 hours, international press previously stationed in Gaza during the conflict have begun to speak out.

Restricted by Hamas in what they could report while in Gaza, independent news agencies such as India's New Delhi TV and France 24 have since released footage of Hamas terrorists setting up rocket launchers and firing from amongst civilian locations, including hotels, churches, and U.N. facilities.

At the invitation of the Egyptian government, Israeli negotiators traveled to Cairo to find a sustainable agreement for the disarmament and rebuilding of Gaza.

Unfortunately, at the conclusion of the cease-fire, Hamas renewed its rocket fire on Israel.

As Israel and the international community look for a solution to the renewed attacks, it is imperative that the resolution extends beyond another ceasefire.

It must include the full demilitarization of Gaza. The appropriate partner to broker this deal is Egypt, Gaza's neighbor and the most important country in the Arab world.

Just as Egypt has played an integral role in the most recent ceasefire, it should take the lead in establishing security and stability for the Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis. Palestinians need assistance to rebuild Gaza, and support should come from the Arab world and international organizations.

It is a great feeling to know that America stands with Israel. Thanks to appropriations from Congress and the administration, the Iron Dome missile defense system has saved hundreds, if not thousands, of Israeli lives. The Israeli people appreciate the strong statements of American support for Israel's right to defend itself.

Said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, joined by Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Ben Cardin of Maryland, "Israel has an absolute right to defend its citizens. The threats posed by Hamas rockets and tunnels whose only purpose is to kill and kidnap Israelis are intolerable, and Israel must be allowed to take any actions necessary to remove those threats."

Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina echoed, "Israel has the absolute and sovereign right to defend herself from Hamas aggression."

Luckily, the fear of rocket fire from Georgia is not a scenario the people of South Carolina have to face. If rockets capable of reaching from Hilton Head to Myrtle Beach were a reality, however, there is no doubt that every action would be taken to neutralize the threat.

The American people would never accept this threat to become a part of their daily lives, and neither should we.

Opher Aviran is counsel general of Israel to the Southeastern United States.