Hamas has burned to a cinder more than 35,000 dunams of flourishing Israeli land – half the area of Tel Aviv, the whole of Beersheba – since launching its “March of Return” on March 31. But if the Palestinian terrorist rulers of Gaza walk off with the $650m aid package the UN, Egypt and Qatar are offering for a long-range truce accord with Israel – applauded by Washington – they will win the biggest prize ever awarded a serial arsonist.
During Hamas’s 11-year rule, billions of aid dollars have poured into Gaza to ease the pain of a suffering populace, but only a fraction reached its destination; the lion’s share was spent on “resistance” – i.e., consolidating Hamas’ terrorist wing, the Ezz-e-din al-Qassam and its unrelenting campaign of violence for displacing the Jewish state.
Under the new deal, Hamas will make a cool $162,500 for every month of rocket fire against Israeli towns and villages, attacks on the Israel border fence, gunfire and firebombs aimed at the Israeli troops defending the border, the sabotage of IDF equipment, and arson by incendiary kites and exploding balloons.
Nonetheless, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot concluded last week that Hamas terrorist chiefs, having failed to achieve anything by a host of different brands of violence, would again lose out in its campaign of arson. But it is that very campaign which has triggered the international plan to cap Hamas’ success with an exceptionally generous truce package. It stands to be rewarded with such perks as a multi-million dollar bounty; a berth at the Egyptian Suez Canal city of Port Said; a landing strip in northern Sinai’s El Arish air field; the lifting of the Israeli and Egyptian blockades on the Gaza Strip; the opening of both border crossings; more electricity power from Israel; and a large desalination plant. All in all, not such a bad haul for four months of “different brands of terror.”
The final straw for the IDF – and the most humiliating – was its failure to stop the most primitive of terror tools, balloons. It achieved what four months and 500 Hamas rockets and mortar shells failed to do.
DEBKAfile lists those gains:
- Hamas has emerged as the first Palestinian military group to force the IDF, and the Israel government along with it, to allow terrorists to dictate the rules of the contest by dint of an oppressed civilian population held hostage.
- Full advantage was taken of the IDF’s shying away in its counter-terror operations from causing causalties. Hamas’ top strategists were therefore never in harm’s way. Although a mass Palestinian rush on the Israeli border fence orchestrated by Hamas led to 159 deaths, most were civilians. Hamas successfully used its human shield tactic for bringing international condemnation down on Israel, embellishing its propaganda with fabricated “children”, “journalists,” a “baby” and a “nurse” who were allegedly targeted by Israeli troops.
- Israel’s counteraction consisted of air strikes on Hamas facilities of minor importance, most of which had been evacuated in good time to escape casualties.
- Even the IDF’s success in disarming the terror tunnels snaking under the Israeli border, before they were used to attack communities, was to prove limited in value. For each tunnel blown up, Hamas built another, manufacturing a complex, spreading underground warren on the principle of Lego.
- The truce accord on offer requires hardly any quid pro quo from Hamas. The Palestinian terror group is asked to uphold a truce (it would be the first time), but is not required to dismantle its military (terror) arm, relinquish its arsenal of rockets, or even hand over the remains of the Israeli soldiers and hostages it has captured. Neither is anyone demanding reparations for the huge damage – material and emotional – caused neighboring Israeli communities by more than a decade of Palestinian terror and vandalism.
- While one provision is the transfer of Gaza’s governing administration to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, no one expects it to be implemented, for the simple reason that Hamas will never hand over its armed wing, and the PA is not strong enough to assume control. That provision alone is tantamount to international recognition of Hamas rule of the Gaza Strip, which it snatched from the Palestinian Authority in a military coup 11 years ago.
- The Trump administration’s interest in forging this accord derives from the door the Palestinian Authority has shut against its “Middle East Peace Plan of the Century.” That plan will remain on paper so long as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is alive, and so Washington has turned away from Ramallah to the Gaza Strip. When this door began to open, the White House this week indicated that the peace plan staff was to be beefed up ahead of its publication. A deal for Gaza will give it a head start for refocusing Palestinian national aspirations on the Gaza Strip and northern Sinai.
From the perspective of Washington, arrangements are falling into place for Israel’s northern and Gaza fronts to settle down. Russia has taken direct charge of the Syrian borders with Israel, while the US, through the Bulgarian UN mediator Nikolai Mladanov and Egypt, is gaining a remote handle on the Gaza-Israel imbroglio.
Israel’s leaders may pat themselves on the back for dumping the two perils in the laps of Russia and America. But the arrangements taking shape are hardly likely to be sustainable for long, given the bad actors involved. With Syrian/Hizballah/pro-Iranian Shiite troops ensconced at the edge of the Israeli Golan, and Hamas only biding its time between truces for another onslaught, those arrangements are about as stable as a house of cards in a storm.