Hady Amr’s Middle East

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It appears that under President Joe Biden, the United States is fine with Hamas, despite the fact that it is a terrorist organization.

During his media appearance with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken indicated that rebuilding Hamas-controlled Gaza in the wake of Hamas’ latest assault on Israel is the most pressing issue on the agenda.

Although Biden said last Thursday that relief efforts for Gaza will be conducted “in a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal,” his advisors recognize that there is no way to prevent Hamas from intercepting international humanitarian aid and using it to rebuild its war machine. Ahead of Blinken’s visit, a senior State Department official was asked to relate to this concern.

“How can the U.S. guarantee aid to Gaza won’t be diverted toward replenishing the Hamas arsenal?” a reporter asked.

The official responded, “As we’ve seen in life, as we all know in life, there are no guarantees.”

In other words: It could happen.

In fact, it isn’t simply that it could happen—Israel’s counter-offensive against Hamas’ terror infrastructure in Gaza revealed that it is guaranteed to happen. Over the past decade, Hamas spent hundreds of millions of dollars building an underground offensive tunnel system with more than one hundred miles of tunnels. The subterranean complex housed Hamas’ missile launchers and its missile stores. It served as bunkers and assembly points for Hamas’ terror forces. It served as weapons production facilities. The materials for Hamas’ spending spree were, of course, repurposed construction materials imported to Gaza for “humanitarian” and “civilian” purposes.

During the latest round of fighting, supporters of aid to the Gaza Strip pointed to Gaza’s ongoing water and sewage crises. But here too, the record is clear. In 2014, Egypt blocked most missile imports to Gaza when it destroyed Hamas’ tunnel network between Gaza and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. But with technical assistance from Iran, Hamas developed a massive domestic missile production capability. The key components of those missiles were water pipes imported into Gaza over the previous seven years for “humanitarian” purposes.

Given this state of affairs, it is impossible to view “humanitarian aid to Gaza” as anything other than a resupply for Hamas—and a guarantee that the terror group will rebuild its capabilities and launch a new war against Israel in due time.

The lead State Department official on U.S. policy toward Hamas specifically, and the Palestinians more generally, is Hady Amr, deputy assistant secretary of state for Israel and the Palestinians. Amr was dispatched to Israel during the recent 11-day war to advance the Biden administration’s new policy.

In 2018, Amr was the lead author of a Brookings Institution paper on U.S. policy toward Hamas. Titled, “Ending Gaza’s Perpetual Crisis—A New U.S. Approach,” the report proposed a new U.S. policy toward Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Amr called for the U.S. to use the next round of war between Hamas and Israel to launch a new policy toward the terror group and the Jewish state.

Amr’s plan had three components. First, it effectively accepted Hamas as a legitimate actor despite the fact that it is a terrorist organization controlled by Iran. Second, it called for the PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) to unite with Hamas and gave the PA a free pass for funding and supporting terrorism against Israel and rejecting Israel’s right to exist. Finally, in regards to Israel, Amr’s report called for the U.S. to use direct and indirect means to coerce Israel into making unreciprocated concessions to both Hamas and the PA, even while admitting such concessions would endanger Israel.

U.S. law bars the government and private citizens from providing material aid to terrorist organizations. So since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, the U.S has avoided any direct support for the terror-controlled enclave. Instead, the U.S. sought to empower the PA and bring prosperity to the Palestinians governed by the PA in Judea and Samaria while pursuing peace between the PA and Israel. The idea was that the Palestinians would abandon support for Hamas when they saw the disparity between impoverished Hamas-controlled Gaza and the wealthy PLO-controlled PA in Judea and Samaria.

This policy did not pan out. It didn’t work, on the one hand, because corrupt PA officials systematically looted international aid primarily to pay salaries for terrorists, but also to feather their own nests. The PA’s corruption and support for terrorism blocked economic development in its governed areas.

On the other hand, the U.S. permitted Hamas to draw funds from other international financial backers—especially Qatar and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN agency devoted to Palestinian “refugees.” This aid has enabled Gaza to stay afloat financially while permitting Hamas to build its military machine.

The result is that Hamas remains more popular than the PA among Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, as well as Gaza. A testament to this came earlier this month, when PA President Mahmoud Abbas canceled elections he had scheduled for the PA legislative council and the presidency. Abbas realized that, as has been the case since he first began his four-year term in office 16 years ago, Hamas will win any new PA election in Judea and Samaria.

In 2018, Amr argued the best response to PA corruption and support for terrorism is to sponsor other Palestinian terrorists. Specifically, he argued, the time had come for the U.S. to begin supporting Hamas. True, it’s illegal. But Amr argued, in deliberately bureaucratic language, that the U.S. can easily sidestep such laws.

As he put it, “The United States may also want to further refine and reissue its ‘contact policy,’ which is more than a decade old, to give U.S. NGOs the confidence that they can effectively engage in the Gaza Strip in a manner that is responsible but makes the risk of litigation more manageable.” The “contact policy” Amr referred to is the guidance USAID issued to contractors in the Palestinian-ruled areas a week after Hamas first seized control over the Gaza Strip in 2007. That guidance stated that contractors may not have any contact with people affiliated with any designated terrorist organization.

In plain English, Amr’s solution for the widespread infiltration of Palestinian terrorist affiliates in Palestinian government in both Judea and Samaria and Gaza is to change the law to permit greater U.S.-sanctioned cooperation with terrorists or terrorist-backed entities operating there. Amr wants contractors working with the U.S. government to have the confidence that the U.S. will not prosecute them when they collaborate with group such as Hamas.

Amr also called for the U.S. to reinstate its funding of UNRWA. Unfortunately, this policy is itself legally questionable since more than half—some say up to 90 percent—of UNRWA employees in Gaza are members of Hamas.

Amr noted ruefully that following the U.S. transfer of its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and its closure of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem that had served as an unofficial embassy to the PA, the PA cut off its ties with America. To rebuild those ties, Amr called for the U.S. to restore funding to the PA despite its funding of terrorism. He also called for the U.S. to coerce Israel into transferring 50 percent of land it controls in Judea and Samaria to the PA.

Amr called as well for the U.S. to minimize the significance of the transfer of the embassy. During his visit with Abbas in Ramallah Tuesday afternoon, Blinken made clear that the Biden administration is following Amr’s playbook on Jerusalem as well. He announced the Biden administration is opening a consulate in Jerusalem for the Palestinians. Likewise, the administration’s announcement this week that former U.S. consul to Jerusalem Michael Ratney will arrive in Jerusalem next month to serve as acting ambassador signaled it intends to downgrade the significance of the embassy move and embed the Palestinians’ demand for the partition of Jerusalem into the administration’s hostile posture toward Israel.

As for Israel, Amr argued that Israel should be forced to abandon its policy of containing Hamas and instead give Hamas control of its supply lines. Amr called for ending Israel’s maritime blockade of the terror regime’s Mediterranean coast, removing limitations on the supplies entering Gaza, permitting the entrance of Gazans into Israel and their transit through Israel to the PA-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria. Amr argued that Israel should also be compelled to accept a unified PA government that includes Hamas terrorists.

Israel would be convinced to act against its own security and national interest, Amr maintained, through direct U.S. pressure and economic pressure from the European Union. Regarding the latter, Amr called for EU diplomatic and economic sanctions against Israel—or, as he euphemistically wrote, the EU should “provide economic and political incentives and disincentives for Israel as part of a Gaza aid package.”

Before his appointment, Amr had a long history of antagonism toward Israel and support for Hamas and U.S. engagement with the terror group, more generally. Now, as the Biden policies to date have made clear, Amr is both the author and the primary implementer of U.S. policy toward Israel and its terrorist enemies. That policy, as his 52-page Brookings paper from three years ago made clear, is to empower Hamas terrorists and weaken Israel.

The Biden administration’s rhetorical endorsement of Israel’s right to defend itself provides a welcome contrast with the antagonism of many leading congressional Democrats. But alongside the rhetoric lies a more sinister and destructive substantive policy. If left unchallenged, the fruits of that policy will be seen in the coming years, as Hamas terrorists renew and expand their war against the Jewish state.

Originally published at Newsweek.com.

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