A Palestinian Hamas militant takes part in a rally marking the twelfth anniversary of the death of late Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas has had a lot on its plate since last week. While engaging in the routine activity of honing its members’ military skills, the terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip is also busy preparing for the Palestinian Authority’s municipal elections, scheduled for October 8.
Unlike its rivals in PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, who enjoy unwarranted international recognition and support for supposed moderation, Hamas has a thankless job. On the one hand, it does all the literal and figurative heavy lifting: operating summer camps to train Palestinian kids to commit mass murder, smuggling weapons and digging tunnels through which to kidnap and kill Israelis. On the other hand, it has to persuade the residents of Gaza that life there is simultaneously good (under its rule) and horrendous (due to Israel’s blockade and previous war, which left swaths of the enclave in ruins).
This is no easy feat in general. But last week it was particularly difficult, as news emerged that Hamas operatives, employed by foreign charities, have been posing as humanitarian aid workers and stealing many millions of dollars out of the mouths of Gaza babes.
Just as this story broke, Hamas released an election propaganda video portraying Gaza as an affluent wonderland – lush, plush and full of facilities for family fun. The clip is only partially lying, because Hamas honchos do own villas equipped with swimming pools and spas. And though Israel’s military operations against the terrorist group’s rocket bases and death tunnels were responsible for collateral damage, the amount of money that has been poured into the area for rehabilitation could have covered the cost of very luxurious living for everyone, had Hamas not appropriated it for other purposes.
To deflect voter attention from this inconvenient revelation, Hamas pulled another public relations stunt: last Wednesday, one of its unnamed representatives told Israel Radio that it was engaged in prisoner-swap negotiations with the Israeli government. This announcement came on the heels of last Tuesday’s memorial service for the Givati Brigade’s Lt. Hadar Goldin, who was killed during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014, and whose remains – along with those of Golani Brigade Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul – are being held as bargaining chips for the release of hundreds of Hamas terrorists.
The Hamas official noted, however, that before the negotiations for the return of Goldin’s and Shaul’s bodies – and the return of Israeli civilians Avera Mengistu and Juma Ibrahim Abu Anima – can even proceed, Israel would have to free the hundreds of Palestinian terrorists rearrested following their release from prison as part of the 2011 deal to free IDF soldier Gilad Schalit, who was held in Hamas captivity for five years.
When asked whether Hamas would provide proof that Mengistu and Abu Anima are still alive, the official said, “Everything comes with a price.” It is hard to know whether the content of the interview was merely an additional form of electoral grandstanding. But, as any Israeli can attest, it is certainly plausible, if past behavior is indicative of future actions.
Which brings us to the capitulation deal with Turkey, reached right before the failed coup that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been using as an excuse to imprison anyone who looks at him sideways.
In their tireless attempt to have their son’s remains returned to Israel for burial, Lea and Simcha Goldin harbored two main hopes. The first was that, rather than giving Hamas the upper hand, Israel should “turn the tables” on the terrorist organization, by making the rehabilitation of Gaza conditional. The second, born after the first was not realized, was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would not sign a rapprochement deal with Erdogan if it did not include a guarantee that Ankara would secure the return of all the Israelis held in Gaza, dead and alive, to Israel.
Turkey, Lea Goldin argued in an interview with The Algemeiner in June, “is Hamas’ patron. [It] is also a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey – with the whole [Gaza flotilla] story – proved to us that it is the country closest to Hamas and most concerned with ensuring Hamas interests. It cannot be that Turkey has no say.”
When the deal was sealed with no clause about the boys in Gaza, the Goldins were heartbroken and furious. Netanyahu had vowed to do everything in his power to return their son and the others, and here they were back at square one. Or were they?
Prior to their son’s memorial service at the military cemetery in Kfar Saba, where hundreds gathered to pay respects, the Goldins were shocked to learn that no government ministers were planning to attend. Ultimately, three did show up, along with a number of lower officials.
This bodes ill for what is going on behind the scenes, and suggests that there is truth to Hamas’ assertion that negotiations are under way. If so, this will do more for its electoral standing than a silly video that anyone who lives in Gaza knows is nonsense.
The only good news is that a Hamas victory over Fatah in the elections should not be cause for Israeli concern. On the contrary, unlike Abbas and his henchmen, Hamas is clear – in all languages – about its aim for Israel’s annihilation.The writer is the managing editor of The Algemeiner