Let’s stay vigilant!

Hamas is essentially run via remote control by a host of chieftains who were either expelled from previous bases or who had chosen to stay far from Israel’s grasp.

Mashaal 311 (R) (photo credit: Reuters)
Mashaal 311 (R)
(photo credit: Reuters)
The Schalit swap stipulates that the 40 men deemed the likeliest recidivists and the most dangerous among the 1,027 released terrorists be deported rather than allowed back next door. These deportations are cited as an outstanding achievement by Israeli negotiators in the laborious haggling over every last niggling detail of the exchange.
Indeed, the deportations are the closest we get to a consolation prize of sorts in what otherwise constitutes an inventory of excruciating Israeli sacrifices.
The rationale for taking heart from the deportations is that we’re better off with the most heinous terror masterminds removed as far as possible from their home base and crime scenes. Had these same hardened linchpins been welcomed as heroes right under our noses, things would have undeniably been significantly worse.
Notorious mass-murderers reestablished in our immediate vicinity might become catalysts for terrorist reorganization.
But beyond that, the reintroduction of charismatic topmost Hamas protagonists into the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority might well greatly destabilize the anyway wobbly regime of Mahmoud Abbas and boost his Hamas-sponsored challengers.
It is not in Israel’s interest to toss flaming matches into the already highly combustible PA tinderbox.
There’s no disputing that keeping the most magnetic, aggressive and ambitious Hamas personalities out of Abbas’s latifundia does him an incontrovertible favor. He is the direct and most unquestionable beneficiary of the deportations. Israel’s gain, if any, is far more fleeting and certainly more ambiguous.
In years bygone, particularly before the advent of cyberspace, exile might have served to enforce a more effective disconnect. Yet in our day and age it is disingenuous to suggest that a credible cut-off from the terror infrastructure can be a realistic expectation. Consequently, it is delusory to suppose that physical distance in itself would even partially douse murderous intentions.
If anything, our reality repeatedly proves the precise reverse. Hamas is essentially run via remote control by a host of chieftains who were either expelled from previous bases or who had chosen to stay far from Israel’s grasp in such hypothetically safer locations as Syria – which announced a willingness to absorb many of the Schalit deal deportees.
This is underscored by even a cursory glance at the terror hall of fame established in Damascus (and reportedly primed to relocate to Cairo should autocrat Bashar Assad be toppled).
The most extreme and principal Hamas puppet-master is Khaled Mashaal. The man who called the shots in the Schalit talks is a deportee himself. If anyone could accurately assess the limitations of deportation, it is he.
Mashaal, who narrowly survived an Israeli assassination attempt in Amman in 1997 and was expelled from Jordan in 1999, set up the Hamas headquarters in Damascus.
There he has functioned as the organization’s leader since the 2004 assassination of Abdel Aziz Rantissi.
Not only has Mashaal’s Damascus domicile not diminished his clout, but it rendered him less vulnerable to targeted Israeli hits. He operates with relative immunity and has been elevated in stature to the point where he hobnobs with Western statesmen such as former US president Jimmy Carter.
The deputy head of the Hamas political bureau in Damascus is Musa Abu Marzouk, an American citizen. He too was kicked out of Jordan 12 years ago. Ironically, it was he who briefed the press on which countries (Syria, Qatar and Turkey) will welcome the 40 deportees.
Then there is the Hamas prisoners minister, Saleh Aruri, who was detained here as leader of Izzadin Kassam – Hamas’s armed wing. Aruri was released last year by court order after it was guaranteed he’d be deported to Damascus.
He wasn’t idle there. He established seven of the most dangerous Hamas cells, some of which have already inflicted casualties, among them British tourist Mary Jane Gardner, who died of wounds sustained last March in the bus-stop bomb outside Jerusalem’s International Convention Center.
There are numerous such examples.
They illustrate that distance clearly is no antidote to malice. Therefore, complacency is no option for us. We need to stay vigilant and very worried.