This past month made very clear what Hamas’s two-pronged strategy is: take power from the Palestinian Authority with a pseudo-democratic move of entering a unity government with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, on the one hand, and capturing Palestinian hearts through brutal acts of terrorism, such as the kidnapping and murder that recently left three Jewish youths dead, on the other hand.
The rocket-fire from Gaza, to which Hamas has turned a blind, confirms that Gaza is the country in which Hamas can demonstrate, to Israel and Abbas, that they are like Hezbollah, and that the see opportunities to kill Jews in Judea and Samaria. They are no different from other Palestinian terror organizations, only more efficient.
Attempts by the United States and other Western nations – and, I regret to say, by Israelis, even our public officials – to imagine that the “political Hamas” is separate from the “military Hamas” range from simply naïve to pathetic.
Israel must strike while the iron is still hot by implementing the most effective form of deterrence: deporting Hamas operatives from Judea and Samaria.
About a month ago an Egyptian court sentenced 683 members of the Muslim Brotherhood to death.
Hamas members officially define themselves as belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel doesn’t have the death penalty, and that’s good.
But deporting the Hamas terrorist infrastructure from Judea and Samaria to Gaza will create significant deterrence. Deportation like this from inside PA territory is feasible from a legal perspective, as well.
As someone who has seen this conflict from close up for decades, I’m saying that a move like this will be tremendously effective against terrorists and potential terrorists.
This is a move the prime minister, defense minister and attorney-general should promote with all their might, and quickly. Mass deportation that includes senior members of the organization, members of its parliament and leaders in various parts of Judea and Samaria – the Hebron region would be a top priority following the attack – will send a clear message to Hamas and the president of the PA: we will not allow the unity government to be an umbrella for protecting senior Hamas officials.
At the beginning of 2006, when Hamas won elections in Gaza, Abbas decided to establish a unity government headed by Ismail Haniyeh. Even then the PA president made Hamas joining his government conditional upon a declaration and commitment to stop terrorism. The Quartet (the US, the EU, Russia and the UN) set three conditions for stopping terror. Hamas rejected the Quartet conditions, and Abbas shut his eyes and prayed for the best. But Hamas didn’t answer his prayers. A year later, Hamas staged a military coup in Gaza and ousted all PA officials. Since then, Abbas, the president of (all) Palestine, has not visited the Gaza Strip.
In June 2014, Abbas once again set up a unity government with Hamas. A mere two weeks went by before Hamas kidnapped and murdered three Israeli teenagers, once again making it clear to Abbas that reconciliation was designed to bolster Hamas.
What is he hiding? It’s amazing to see Abbas portrayed as having nothing to do with the attack, despite the fact that terror operations are the essence of Hamas, with whom he reconciled and established a unity government. He knew all the while that Hamas wouldn’t stop its terror activity. Abbas’ condemning the kidnapping and murder of the boys is no substitute for practical steps, the first and foremost of which should be removing Hamas leaders from his government.
As long as Abbas is the elected president of the PA, dialogue about the future of two states must be conducted with him and him alone. But it’s important that he show up for meetings with us and with leaders of democratic nations without his mask, which we need to tear off, anyway.
What is his mask hiding? • Under his magic wand, the PA allocates $60 million (1.5 percent of its total budget) to paying salaries of terrorists serving sentences in Israeli prisons.
• On the anniversary of Fatah’s founding, Abbas praised the contribution to the Palestinian people made by terrorist leaders like Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine founder George Habash, Fathi Shakai (of the Islamic Jihad) and Izzadin Kassam.
• Abbas knows that Hamas is behind the kidnapping and murders of the Jewish teens. He knows perfectly well that making up with the group and the unity government were designed to serve Hamas in the face of difficulties resulting from the closure of the routes from Sinai to Gaza so as prevent weapons, supplies and money from being smuggled to Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip.
• Hamas can’t pay the salaries of its people in Gaza. That’s part of why Hamas needs Abbas as a way of accessing a cash flow.
The unity government Abbas set up has an actual army. But Hamas has tens of thousands of rockets of sufficient range to trouble Israel, as well as antitank and anti-aircraft missiles and an army with tens of thousands of terrorists in a hierarchical military structure.
Tens of thousands of weapons, explosives and pieces of terrorist military infrastructure complete the threat against us.
A unity government that includes a terrorist organization is a terrorist government.
This fact dictates not only the need to wipe out the terrorist military infrastructure in Gaza, but also the timetable for planning and executing the operation. Let us make no mistake – this is a campaign that won’t take a week or even a month. This campaign will last a year or more. It requires us to act with caution to minimize casualties to our forces and prepare the home front properly. Giving in to the PA on weapons and military capability that violate agreements will put Israel under pressure to buckle to unreasonable compromises in the future.
The lessons learned from the ineffectiveness of Western and Arab states during the dramatic developments that recently took and are taking place in the Middle East require us to set our sights on Gaza and the terrorist alignment.
Egypt has cut off the Gaza Strip, not out of any desire to help Israel but to prevent weapons from moving out of the Gaza Strip back into Sinai and into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.
We have to clear out this swamp, and do it ourselves.
The author is a former internal security and Home Front defense minister , Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director and Knesset member.