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Demilitarizing Gaza – an international responsibility
By REUVEN BEN-SHALOM
07/24/2014
Implying that Gazans are “denied dignity” by Israel is twisting reality, as Hamas is to blame for betraying its own people and condemning them to misery.
 
The dismantling of the vast underground terrorist infrastructure in the Gaza Strip is removing a strategic threat to Israel. However high the price in terms of lives lost, we must keep in mind the horrific attacks that would have been launched someday through these tunnels into Israel. It is no cliché to say that our soldiers have not fallen in vain.

The entire world knows exactly what this is all about and what we are up against.

Hamas is an Iranian forward-operating base, on the same list as other notorious terrorist organization such as the Islamic State, Hezbollah and Boko Haram. For years, Hamas has been using Qatari money, international aid and Iranian, Syrian and selfmade weapons to forge an empire of evil.

The movement’s leaders adhere to no morals or ethics. To them, the end of annihilating Israel justifies every means, including sacrificing their own civilians. They understand that this is first and foremost a battle of narratives, so they operate in a way that maximizes their “dead baby strategy.”

The extensive use of human shields is horrific. They fire rockets from schoolyards, calculating that retaliatory fire will kill children.

People are sent to rooftops after warnings of an imminent attack, and people are ordered to stay in war zones despite being urged by the IDF to leave. Entire residential areas such as the Shejaia neighborhood in Gaza City are in fact terrorist strongholds loaded with weapons and explosives.

Hamas has done nothing to build Gaza and is now doing everything it can to destroy it.

How is the world relating to the situation? There have been many heartwarming expressions of solidarity with Israel, such as Canada’s unwavering support and the EU foreign ministers’ condemnation of Hamas, but also disappointing statements from those who should be the first to stand by us and stand up for what is right.

The US administration’s comments have gradually improved, but they started out disappointingly lukewarm. Every statement began by reasserting Israel’s right to defend itself from rockets (thank you very much), but – there’s always a but – expressing “concerns” over civilian casualties and that “there’s more that can be done” to prevent them. US officials understand Hamas’s cruel tactics and know very well that Israel is doing all it can to keep civilians out of harm’s way, but this hollow rhetoric serves a purpose.

The UN Human Rights Council passed a despicable resolution on Wednesday, accusing Israel of war crimes and practically disregarding the atrocities carried out by Hamas.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Qatar this week – a country that harbors Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, and which funds Hamas’s terrorist enterprise. In statements delivered in Qatar, Egypt and Israel, Secretary Ban acknowledged Israel’s right to defend itself, but also reflected a troubling agenda.

Having the UN refer to a terrorist organization as a “party” in a conflict is outrageous.

Ban said the “root causes” had to do with restrictions on Gaza, and that Hamas has resorted to violence as a way of expressing its “grievances.” Apparently the secretary hasn’t a clue as to what the root causes are, mainly that Hamas wants us dead. His implication that terrorism is an understandable way of expression is shameful.

Implying that Gazans are “denied dignity” by Israel is twisting reality, as Hamas is to blame for betraying its own people and condemning them to misery.

In calling all sides to “return to the negotiating table” and referring to the “two-state solution,” Ban wrongly connects the attack of a ruthless terrorist organization on Israel, and the peace process with the PLO.

We never negotiated with Hamas, which believes in a one-state solution – its own Islamic entity from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

The problem with distorting reality and assuming a fake balanced posture is not that it isn’t fair toward Israel, but that it ignores the big picture of how we reached this situation, and distances us from resolving it.

Hamas is to blame for the pain and suffering of the people of Gaza, but the international community is very much responsible and accountable for letting it happen. Self-righteous and condescending statements are an attempt to localize the conflict, assume the posture of a neutral party, and shed all responsibility for actions, or inaction, that led to these events.

The world stood idly by as Hamas poured millions of Qatari dollars and international aid into weapons, and poured millions of cubic meters of cement into its network of terror tunnels instead of building homes and schools. Everyone turned a blind eye as Israel repeatedly warned of the imminent danger, and fought off criticism over restrictions put in place to prevent dual-use raw materials from reaching Hamas.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency did not protest or warn of the horrendous infrastructure being constructed under its nose, and continued to supply Gazans with basic needs, allowing Hamas to cynically drain all national resources for its cause of destroying Israel. UNRWA is now expressing concern over unexploded ordnance, but it neglected to say anything as explosives were being carried into homes and mosques and even stored in UNRWA schools.

The UN has much self-examination to do in rethinking the role of UNRWA as a perpetrator of the refugee problem, supplying a murderous regime with a comfortable environment in which to carry out its monstrosities.

The Human Rights Council harassed and bashed Israel after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and is now setting out on the same course. This shameful conduct empowers terrorist organizations and promotes further violations of human rights.

The UN secretary-general speaks of “recovery and reconstruction” after cessation of hostilities, but without appropriate measures, this may only mean Hamas’s recovery, and the reconstruction of its terrorist apparatus.

The world is responsible for what is taking place, and the world has a responsibility and the capability to improve the situation.

The suffering of Gaza civilians is a direct consequence of this kind of war and cannot be avoided, so our united goal should be to prevent this kind of war altogether, by denying terrorist organizations the capacity to accumulate such devastating power.

Even as hostilities are still taking place, international organizations and governments should take stronger positions and actions aimed at de-escalating the situation, and not just “express concerns.”

In its attempt to ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza, even Israel has a part in the international enabling of Hamas activity.

Israelis risk their lives to supply Gaza with electricity, gas and truckloads of goods.

Hamas terrorists drive around in ambulances refueled by Israel. Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

Ban calls for a “concerted international effort for urgent action,” but his vague “end to violence” plea, aimed at Israelis and Palestinians alike, is pointless. Instead he should be vigorously demanding and even threatening Hamas to force it disengage and disarm.

President Barack Obama’s reiterated idea of returning to the 2012 cease-fire is disappointing and outrageously nearsighted. We can no longer settle for calm and quiet, for experience has shown us that these times are used for deadly force buildup. Then, when all hell breaks loose, we ask: “Why did we let it reach this point?” We ourselves have fallen into the “quiet” trap. Here are some of the goals set before and during the operation: “Stop the rocket fire,” “restore the calm,” “reinforce deterrence,” “prevent escalation” and “damage the tunnel infrastructure.”

If Hamas had ceased firing at any point, we might have found ourselves in another dangerous “calm.” We must change our goals. “Quiet will be answered with quiet” just won’t cut it anymore.

Demilitarization of Gaza under international supervision is the only appropriate course of action. A cease-fire is not the goal, but a first step in toppling the terrorist regime in Gaza and neutralizing its deadly capabilities.

There is no doubt that the IDF can complete this campaign militarily, but the consequences would be suffered mainly by the people of Gaza. A common Israeli narrative is: “We can trust only ourselves.” I offer a better version: “We should always be ready to do it ourselves, but prefer to do it together.”

It will take a combined and decisive effort, sponsored by the entire international community, including the Arab League – mainly Egypt and Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, the UN, the US and the EU. My friend Dror Ben David calls it an “alliance of the moderates.”

Kadima leader Shaul Mofaz has been promoting a “Demilitarization for Dollars” plan which I believe is the right way to push forward. The benefit for the people of Gaza would be tangible and relatively swift.

With international resolve, Gaza could finally become the Riviera of the Middle East. Hamas may not stop dreaming of destroying Israel, but we can prevent it from trying to realize it.

After the drums of war subside, and a new course is set for Gaza, the international community should give some thought to Hezbollah in Lebanon. The image of “calm” and “quiet” on Israel’s northern border is but a dangerous illusion.

The writer is a former pilot in the IAF, and founder of Cross-Cultural Strategies Ltd.

www.CCSt.co.il
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