by Meir Indor
The emerging Israeli desire to involve Abbas in negotiations will quietly lead to legitimation of Hamas and impede Israeli action against it
Cabinet ministers ought to take an honest look at what is happening in Cairo and listen carefully to what Palestinian delegation head Azzam al-Ahmad has to say: “The era of Hamas rule in the Strip is over. Action should be coordinated fully with the Palestinian Authority and the government of Rami Hamdallah such that it enjoys sovereignty on the ground, including in Gaza.” At first glance, this is great: Hamas rule has come to an end!
Hamas’ weapons, though, have not been confiscated. Over the course of negotiations with Israel, the ultimate demand that Hamas be disarmed—at least of its artillery—is gradually disappearing, as is the demand for the return of the soldiers’ bodies.
Israel is regressing to the sad, familiar situation that held sway in 1996, when the PA did in fact officially govern the territories, but Hamas kept up a steady schedule of terrorist attacks under its very nose.
This double game poses a threat to Israel. Any production jointly put on by Hamas and the officially recognized Palestinian Authority will allow that Palestinian duo to have the best of all worlds in Gaza.
When terrorism again breaks out, Abbas’ people will blame Hamas. “We do not have absolute control,” they will say, “but we will try to bring about a stable ceasefire.”
As a brokerage fee for these attempts at a ceasefire, Israel will provide the PA with a series of gestures and political favors. Ramallah will profit from its mediation, and the double game in Gaza will score points for its patrons in the PA. Even at this very moment, the idea of releasing a fourth batch of terrorists demanded by Abbas is again being raised at the negotiating table in Cairo.
The same goes for releasing the Hamas operatives in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), among them convicts who were previously released in the Schalit Deal but were returned to custody after the three youths were abducted. Israel will be forbidden to conduct targeted assassinations of Hamas operatives and leaders. Mohammed Deif will be free as a bird, while those he murdered remain in their graves. Even in emergencies, during an unfolding security event or faced with a “ticking bomb,” it is doubtful that Israel will enjoy the same freedom of action it does today.
The Abbas–Meshaal team in Cairo, then, is turning the military achievements of the IDF’s troops into a political defeat:
Israel’s erstwhile opposition to the Abbas government and Hamas is set to lose its relevance. Hamas gains a legitimating makeover courtesy of the PA, while its armed forces in Gaza retain their weapons. A thousand soldiers from Ramallah will be positioned at the crossings. They will not prevent Hamas’s smuggling and terrorism, but they just might serve as reinforcements in the next installment of violence against Israel, as happened when Palestinian forces joined Hamas in firing at Israelis at the outbreak of violence in 2000. This time, though, the forces in question have undergone intensive training under the command of US Army General Dayton. The general himself has already been heard to say that there is no guarantee the forces he trained will not take part in warfare against Israel in case of a political crisis.
What else does Hamas stand to gain? Here is a short list of its demands. Even if only a few are accepted, the terrorist organization will have made a considerable profit from shelling Israel:
• Expansion of Gaza’s fishing waters so that the Israeli Navy has to keep a watchful eye on events within 18 kilometers (11.2 miles) of the coast. The danger will increase in proportion to the area conceded.
• Payment of salaries to workers in Gaza—including Hamas officers and fighters—via the PA. Put simply, the terrorists who fought us not long ago will soon receive salaries, as well as delayed wages for their past work.
• Hamas’ demands for a seaport and airport will receive additional backing from the PA. Containers sent to Gaza by sea will have double hulls, with no quick way to discover what lies inside while at sea.
• If that seaport isn’t enough, the Hamas regime will finally be able to take receipt of weapons airlifts. The munitions need not come straight from Tehran. They can make stops in Qatar and Sudan along the way.
• Naturally, the operations of land crossings to Gaza also will expand in scope. Currently, the Palestinians in Cairo are demanding that “the crossings between Israel and Gaza be opened, people and goods be permitted to move through them, and transportation of building materials between the West Bank and Gaza be permitted,” which of course would guarantee Hamas a supply of concrete for tunnels and people for terror. Instead of Gaza’s current system of communications with Judea and Samaria, existing links will be upgraded to the point of joint training exercises.
Yet aside from and in addition to these dangers, there is a certain implicit statement to the world in agreeing to Abbas’ proposal: the partial siege of Gaza that was initiated with the rise of Hamas there has come to an end. From now on, the gates of the State of Hamas are open to all. In a very real way, this could be the last obstacle standing in the way of international recognition of a sovereign Hamas state.
Of course, anyone who is ready to rely on “strong reactions” as a substitute for continuation of the current ground operation ought to recognize that Abbas and Hamas’ shared umbrella will get in the way of any military action by Israel.
These are just a few of the issues that the government of Israel should keep in mind as it moves toward signing an agreement with Hamas, the PA, and Egypt.
Originally published on NRG, 18 August 2014