As often happens in war, plans are overtaken by events. Following Hamas’s attack this morning on Givati forces in Rafah during the US-UN ceasefire, I realized that my assumption that a ceasefire is possible, on which I based my latest column was no longer supported by evidence.
I wrote the following column in light of what I now realize about Hamas’s rationale for fighting. I urge the US citizens reading this column to contact their Congressional representatives and ask them to take action, as set forth below.
Why did Hamas attack the Givati forces, kill two soldiers and capture 2nd. Lt. Hadar Goldin Friday morning in violation of the US-UN brokered 72-hour cease fire?
Hamas acted as it did, because it thinks it can get away with it. And Hamas thinks that it can get away with it because Hamas is convinced that it will win this war.
And as long as Hamas is convinced that it will win this war, it will continue to attack, no matter what its situation is on the ground in Gaza. It will continue to attack Israel no matter what Israel does.
As a consequence, there is no way for Israel to disengage. There can never be a ceasefire with Hamas for as long as Hamas is convinced that it will win this war.
To understand why Hamas is convinced that it will win, it is necessary to understand first why Hamas is fighting in the first place.
Hamas went to war with one goal, to reopen Gaza to the world.
Hamas is fighting to open Gaza’s border with Egypt, to end Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza coast, and to reinstate its lines of finance.
Today Hamas’s leadership, snug in their multi-million dollar villas in Qatar and well-equipped bunkers under Shifa Hospital in Gaza City are certain that they will achieve their goal. They will win.
And as a consequence, they will not stop attacking Israel.
Hamas’s goal of opening Gaza to the world has nothing to do with helping the people of Gaza. Hamas wants open borders so that it can import arms and the means to rebuild its tunnels. It wants to open the borders so that it can replenish its coffers.
In other words, Hamas’s purpose in fighting this war is to ensure that Hamas can keep fighting.
From a financial perspective, it isn’t simply that Hamas is expecting to receive cash payments from Qatar, Turkey, Iran and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas runs Gaza. Hamas is the tax authority.
As Dr. Moshe Elad explained to Globes, Hamas siphons money off every dollar in aid transferred to Gaza because it controls all the aid pipelines. Every dollar of international humanitarian aid to UNWRA and every other organization goes through that pipeline and part of the funds are transferred to Hamas.
Hamas taxes all businesses in Gaza. And it taxes all imports. According to Elad, Hamas levied a flat tax of $2000 on every car load of goods smuggled into Gaza from Egypt in addition to 25 percent of the value of every shipment.
As a result, all economic activity in Gaza funds Hamas.
In other words, as long as Hamas rules Gaza, all aid to Gaza is aid to Hamas. All economic activity is hostage to Hamas. All of Gaza is hostage to Hamas.
The reason that Hamas is certain that when the war ends, it will achieve its goal of opening Gaza’s borders is simple. The United States says so.
The official position of the US government is that a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas will involve opening Hamas’s borders to the world. This position was spelled out by Secretary of State John Kerry in the draft cease fire that he sent to Israel last Friday.
Kerry’s draft said that a permanent cease fire agreement must include, “arrangements to secure the opening of the crossings, allow the entry of goods and people and… transfer funds to Gaza for the payment of salaries for public employees…”
This position was reiterated by President Barack Obama in his telephone conversation with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last Sunday. According the White House’s press release of that phone call, “Building on Secretary Kerry’s efforts, the President made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement… The President underscored the enduring importance of… alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs.”
After 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin was captured, Secretary of State John Kerry called the Qatari and Turkish foreign ministers to ask them to get Hamas to release him. Kerry’s move demonstrated that the US continues to view Hamas’s chief state sponsors as the most attractive allies in achieving a sustainable ceasefire. As Hamas’s sponsors, Qatar and Turkey insist that Hamas’s demand for open borders be met.
Under these circumstances, Hamas has no reason to stop fighting.
As a result there are only two options, moving forward.
The first option is for Israel to retake control over Gaza. The aim of the operation would be to decimate Hamas physically.
Such an operation will be prolonged. It will result in the deaths of thousands of Gazan civilians, hostages as they are, to Hamas.
It will result as well in massive losses of IDF soldiers.
In short, it will be a very painful, heartbreaking process. But it will make it impossible for Hamas to enjoy open borders and so continue fighting.
The other option is for the US to credibly reverse its position and oppose any opening of Gaza’s borders for as long as Hamas remains in charge. For this to work, it is not sufficient for the Obama administration to retract its current position and publically oppose the opening of Gaza’s borders. Given the administration’s track record, Hamas’s leadership won’t believe that the policy reversal is real.
Strong Congressional action is also required.
The relevant committees in both houses must begin serious examinations of all manner of US funding to the Palestinians and how this money serves Hamas. Such an investigation should focus on UNWRA.
During this war – and in previous Hamas campaigns against Israel – we have seen Hamas use UNWRA schools as missile storage sites and missile launching pads. This week three soldiers were killed trying to seal a tunnel whose entry shaft was located in an UNWRA clinic booby trapped with over a ton of explosives built into one of the walls.
At a minimum, this tells us that UNWRA is subservient to Hamas. All UNWRA installations and personnel are controlled by Hamas. As a result, UNWRA is a subsidiary – willing or unwilling – of Hamas and all funds to UNWRA must be suspended until Hamas is no longer in control of Gaza.
Again, the central point is that for as long as Hamas exercises control over Gaza, everyone in Gaza and every entity operating in Gaza is controlled by Hamas. All assistance to Gaza assists Hamas and communicates the message that Hamas will win the war.
As a result, the only way for anyone to help the people of Gaza is to free them from Hamas. And the only way to free them from Hamas is to defeat Hamas.
After Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, in keeping with binding UN Security Council resolution 1373 from 2001, Israel imposed a maritime naval blockade of the Gaza coast to prevent material aid to the terrorist organization from getting through.
The blockade is the most passive way possible for Israel to abide by the stipulations of the resolution that prohibits nations from providing assistance to territories controlled by terrorists.
Rather than support Israel’s efforts, the Obama administration has adopted Hamas’s language and refers to the blockade as “a siege,” intimating that there is something illegal about it.
It would be reasonable for the Armed Services Committees of both houses to pass resolutions calling for the US Navy to assist Israel in maintaining the blockade. They can also bring the commanders of the US Navy before them to testify regarding how the US is or can assist Israel in sustaining the blockade.
Such moves would symbolically communicate US commitment to keeping Gaza’s borders sealed. Certainly they would communicate to Turkey that its intention to take action to break Israel’s blockade is strenuously opposed by the US Congress.
And this brings us to another key move that Congress can make. Given the active support Turkey and Qatar are providing to Hamas in its terrorist war against Israel, it is imperative that Congress begin questioning nature of the Turkish and Qatari regimes and the legality of US military and other strategic ties with these two state sponsors of Hamas and al Qaeda.
In the case of Qatar, a good place to start is for members of both houses to follow the lead of House Chief Deputy Whip Rep. Peter Roskam who sent a letter to Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew Thursday questioning US diplomatic ties with Qatar in light of its massive financial support for Hamas and its facilitation of the funding of al Qaeda affiliates ISIS and the al Nusra Front.
Members of the Senate Armed Services committee can exercise oversight and state their intention to cancel through legislation the $11 billion dollar arms deal with Qatar that the Pentagon announced last week. In light of what the US now knows about Qatar’s central role as the banker and bankroller of Hamas and other Islamist terror groups, continued military sales to Qatar may well be prohibited under the Arms Export Control Act.
As for Turkey, under the dictatorial regime of Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, NATO member Turkey has joined Qatar, Iran and Syria as a massive state sponsor of terrorism. It funds and provides other material support for Hamas. It is a major funder of al Nusra and ISIS.
To date, Turkey has largely avoided Congressional scrutiny for its support for terrorism. As a member of NATO its forces continue to train with US forces and Turkey is contracted to receive a hundred F-35 warplanes from the US over the next several years.
With Turkey actively involved in Hamas’s war against Israel, the time has come for Turkey’s support for terrorism to be scrutinized, with an eye towards designating Turkey as a state sponsor of terrorism, or at a minimum, demoting its position in NATO. Relevant committees in both houses of Congress should hold formal hearings about Turkey’s support for terrorism.
Hamas is a genocidal terrorist organization dedicated to the annihilation of the Jewish people and our state as a first step towards Islamic world domination.
It is waging war against Israel because it believes that the US supports its goal of opening Gaza’s borders so that Hamas can continue fighting Israel.
As its bipartisan resolutions expressing support for Israel issued this week made clear yet again, the US Congress shares Israel’s concerns for its security, as well as its concern for the wellbeing of the people of Gaza who are being held hostage by Hamas.
In order to minimize suffering of the people of Israel and Gaza, and to ensure Israel’s national security and US national security interests in the Middle East, the US must join Israel in its goal of defeating Hamas. To that end, both the administration and the Congress must openly and credibly join Israel in rejecting any cease fire arrangement that provides for the opening of Gaza’s physical and financial borders so long as Hamas remains in control of the area.