Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason D. Greenblatt.
(photo credit: WHITE HOUSE)
This Administration vehemently opposes everything Hamas, a terrorist organization that targets and hides behind innocents, stands for. But, judging by Yahya Sinwar’s interview published on October 5, 2018, it would appear that he agrees with the Administration’s position on some things: we agree that Palestinian children should have every opportunity to become doctors or pursue any other profession they choose and we agree that they should be able to see “what the world looks like on the other side.” We share the desire to see a thriving economy in Gaza with jobs for all those who strive to work. We both understand that war will not bring a better life to Palestinians in Gaza; in fact it will create more misery, suffering, and loss for all.
We completely disagree, however, on how to bring that better life to Palestinians. Hamas chooses terrorism, rationalizing violence as a means of achieving their political objectives. But even Mr. Sinwar points out, this has no chance of succeeding. Hamas will never defeat Israel, and each rocket, flaming swastika-displaying kite, and terror tunnel brings Gaza closer to destruction, not to prosperity.
In that same vein, the old tactic of threating violence to elicit international aid has failed. The United States, as we have said many times, cares for the Palestinian people and wants to help, but we will not empower a regime that launches attacks on Israeli kindergartens. The threats and violent behavior of Hamas prevent the international community from being able to ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza. The rocket attacks from Gaza on October 17, which hit Israeli homes and closed schools in Be’er Sheva once again have set back the world’s efforts to better the lives of Palestinians in Gaza.
Hamas must realize that the world has passed it by. The civilized world does not accept violence and terrorism as a legitimate form of resistance. Hamas must renounce these tactics and admit that Gaza needs help it cannot provide. It needs the Palestinian Authority (working with countries willing to help) to establish strong institutions and provide services to the populace. Gaza needs international engagement and support to keep the lights on and to bring safe drinking water, and it needs the United States to help Palestinians and Israelis find a way to achieve a comprehensive and lasting peace.
If, as Mr. Sinwar says, Hamas wants Gaza to be like Singapore or Dubai, it’s time for its actions to align with that goal. Hamas needs to embrace change, to embrace the values Mr. Sinwar professes to revere: democracy, pluralism, cooperation, human rights, and freedom. These do not exist in Gaza. There’s no question that violence, corruption, and suppression of freedom of speech are completely inconsistent with these values under any circumstances. These are also completely inconsistent with the peace agreement we are trying to develop. How is Hamas helping its youth realize their vast potential? Peace will give the youth an opportunity to develop their talents, which Mr. Sinwar rightly points out are stifled by the situation in Gaza.
Palestinians in Gaza have suffered growing hardship and poverty since Hamas seized power. If Hamas no longer wants to be regarded as an armed terrorist organization, we and others around the world have made it clear what Hamas’ next steps must be: renounce violence, recognize Israel, and accept previous agreements. Show the world Hamas actually cares for the
Palestinians and allow the Palestinian Authority to return so that all Palestinians can be united under one leadership. Commit to peace and the improvement of Palestinian lives.
If Mr. Sinwar’s interview was more than a marketing stunt, if Hamas genuinely wants change and peace with its neighbors, the peace plan that the Trump Administration is developing will offer a path to a change that will be the most significant gift Mr. Sinwar could ever give to his children and the children that he and Hamas claim to care for. If Mr. Sinwar’s words were just a clumsy ploy to garner attention and sympathy and distract from Hamas’ own failings, nothing will change. Hamas will continue to drive Gaza from one dreadful cycle to another.
Jason D. Greenblatt is an Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations.
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