Foreign Policy

Clueless About Gaza

The U.S. debt will top $13.6 trillion this year and climb to an estimated $19.6 trillion by 2015, according to a Treasury Department report to Congress. Bankruptcy filings are nearing the record two million level of 2005 and unemployment is nearly 10%, yet, in mid-June, President Obama pledged a $400M aid package for supposed housing, schools, water and health care system projects in the West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza. He described these projects as a “down payment on the U.S. commitment to the people of Gaza who deserve a chance to take part in building a viable, independent state of Palestine, together with those who live in the West Bank.”

He must have forgotten that the Gazans first act of “independence” after the Israeli withdrawal from the territory in 2005 was to destroy the lucrative greenhouse industry that the Israelis left behind, but that should have served as a reminder of the billions in aid that have been squandered in pursuit of this pipedream. According to the Heritage Foundation, since the 1993 Oslo Accords, the U.S. has showered $2.2 billion in bilateral aid on the Palestinians, in addition to more than $3.4 billion for humanitarian aid funneled through dysfunctional U.N. organizations since 1950 – and yet, they are still considered “refugees”. That’s because vast amounts of these aid funds have been diverted to allow terrorist organizations like Hamas to focus on building its war infrastructure such as bunkers, fortifying positions and digging tunnels, rather than on subsidizing education, paving roads, promoting commerce and industry, or providing for and advancing the long-term interests of their people.

Should Congress approve this aid package, it will only serve to stabilize the Hamas regime, assist in consolidating its power, and inhibit the development of the social, political and economic infrastructures necessary to build a viable, unified and stable Palestinian state. Hamas political bureau head Khaled Mashal has said that “outwardly [we in] Gaza speak of reconciliation and building, but the truth is that most of [our] money and effort is directed toward resistance and military preparations.” Hamas’s desire for more construction materials has more to do with rebuilding and strengthening its war machine against Israel than the needs of ordinary Gazans so it’s fair to ask this administration: “Where’s the strategic logic behind this pledge?” Money is fungible, so where are the assurances and accountability mechanisms necessary to insure that this money will not be spent on terrorism and missiles as has occurred in the past?

Consider the nature of the regime that controls Gaza. In the wake of the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 which saw Israel expel and uproot 8,800 people from 25 communities and destroy its 26 synagogues, hundreds of businesses and 35 years of accomplishments, Hamas seized power from the Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup in June 2007 and, true to its roots as the ideological cousin of al Qaeda, and an offshoot of the extremist Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood, it fired over 7,500 missiles into southern Israeli cities and towns in the name of “resistance”, declared its intention to annihilate the Jewish state, established “summer camps” for over a hundred thousand children to learn the Koran, paramilitary training, hatred of Jews, and the glories of “martyrdom”, holds its population hostage, uses children as human shields and mosques, schools and UN facilities as weapons depots in violation of international law, proudly proclaims that its members cherish “death over life”, has denied abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit his fundamental rights under international law for four years, has diverted millions in humanitarian aid and supplies through UNRWA and other NGOs to maintain its war infrastructure in violation of 301c of the Foreign Assistance Act, inserted its “morality police” into the daily lives of Gazans, and introduced an extremist Islamic “statelet” on Israel’s southern border that serves as a base of operations for Iran – an enemy that has made no secret of its regional ambitions and nuclear aspirations.

Emboldened by recent moral support from states such as NATO member Turkey, Hamas’ confidence appears only to be growing. It shows no sign of budging on the principles that have caused its international isolation. So, in making this undertaking and forcing Israel to ease its Gaza blockade, the Obama administration has confirmed that Gaza will remain firmly under Hamas control. It will not recognize Israel, renounce violence or support any peace agreement signed by its Palestinian rivals. In one stroke, he has rendered meaningless both the Oslo Accords and the conditions set by the Quartet – namely, the abandonment of terrorism, accepting Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and recognition of the Palestinian Authority’s rule as the legitimate government. The problem with his strategy (if that’s what it is) is that it fails to consider the nature of the Hamas regime and the broader implications that arise from empowering a genocidal, virulently anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-democratic, repressive, pro-Iranian organization on the southern border of our most reliable ally in the Middle East.

Some $10B has been spent globally in the last decade on the Palestinians making them the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid in the world (with the exception of the Republic of Congo), yet places like Gaza remain as pro-terrorist as ever. Billions of dollars that are meant for schools, hospitals and infrastructure have been spent on luxury villas, casinos and payments to terrorists. Furthermore, since Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO) that controls the distribution of all goods entering Gaza, providing humanitarian aid through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Gaza may now constitute a violation of the “material support” provisions of the Patriot Act since such aid (according to the recent Supreme Court decision in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project) would “free up” other resources for Hamas to put towards its genocidal goals. It would also add legitimacy to its attempts to recruit and raise additional funds to further those objectives. By sustaining Hamas in power, this aid package may not only be illegal, but will undermine any future ability the Palestinian national movement may have of reaching a compromise with Israel.

More disturbing is the recent leak from a senior Hamas official to the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper suggesting that this pledge of aid to Gaza is the forerunner to an even more dangerous planned Obama initiative in the coming months – one that would remove Hamas from America’s designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO) list. On June 16th, a Washington-based Arabic newspaper quoted a senior official as saying that an American envoy is scheduled to meet with Hamas representatives in an Arab country and hand them a letter from the Obama administration. According to the report, Obama believes (wrongly) that he has no choice other than to deal with Hamas due to its influence in the Arab and Islamic world. Given that Obama’s ‘go-to guy’ on issues of intelligence, John Brennan, has been reaching out to ‘moderates’ in Hezbollah, it would hardly be surprising to believe that the Administration is now talking to Hamas.

And apparently, Obama isn’t alone in this belief. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) seems to have bought into it as well. Mark Perry, writing in Foreign Policy (June 30th) notes: “While it is anathema to broach the subject of engaging militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas in official Washington circles (to say nothing of Israel), in a “Red Team” report issued on May 7th and entitled “Managing Hezbollah and Hamas”, senior CENTCOM intelligence officers question the current U.S. policy of isolating and marginalizing the two movements.”

The Report notes that while Hezbollah and Hamas “embrace staunch anti-Israel rejectionist policies”, the two organizations are “pragmatic and opportunistic.” This contradicts Israel’s position that these two extremist Islamist organizations cannot change their raison d’etre and must be confronted with force. However, the Report suggests that “failing to recognize their separate grievances and objectives will result in continued failure in moderating their behavior.” One senior officer even commented in private discussions: “Putting Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda in the same sentence, as if they are all the same, is just stupid.”

Good grief. What’s “stupid” is that CENTCOM fails to see the reality that all these particular Islamist terrorist organizations are the same in at least one respect: They all share a commitment to and common interpretation of Sharia, and as such, they are all pursuing the same objective – the global triumph of Shariah under a theocratic Caliphate. While their tactics may differ, they are united in their common goal. When Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar proclaims (as he did on Future News TV on June 15, 2010 according to MEMRI): “This is our plan for this stage – to liberate the West Bank and Gaza, without recognizing Israel’s right to a single inch of land … without giving up the Right of Return for a single Palestinian refugee … to liberate any inch of Palestinian land, to establish a state on it and … [to have] Palestine in its entirety … We will not recognize the Israeli enemy”… it’s rather difficult to believe that deep down inside, this man is really a “moderate” who is “pragmatic and opportunistic”. These are people professing a powerful ideology rooted in a radical interpretation of Islam, in whose name they propagandize, proselytize, terrorize and kill. The one thing that unites them is the jihadist vision in whose name they act. When these groups see Americans bending over backwards to justify flexibility toward militant Islamists, they assume, rightly, that their political strategy is working. You can pet these scorpions all you want, but you cannot change their fundamental nature.

According to Perry: “The report argues that an Israeli decision to lift the siege might pave the way for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, which would be “the best hope for mainstreaming Hamas” as though the object of U.S. policy should be to facilitate Hamas’ takeover of the West Bank as well as Gaza. Hamas will only integrate into the Palestinian security forces once it is sure that it won’t be obliged to surrender its freedom of military action.

And even more instructive is the following line: “The Red Team also claims that reconciliation with Fatah, when coupled with Hamas’s explicit renunciation of violence, would gain widespread international support and deprive the Israelis of any legitimate justification to continue settlement building and delay statehood negotiations.” By attributing ill-will on the part of Israel, that statement suggests that the Red Team’s real agenda includes the delegitimization of Israel.

Perry concludes that the report reflects the thinking among a significant number of senior officers at CENTCOM headquarters and among senior CENTCOM intelligence officers and analysts serving in the Middle East.

The Administration’s “soft power” team seems to feel that since engagement with Islamist groups failed with Iran and Syria, it should keep trying it with Hezbollah and Hamas based on the assumption that dialogue with Islamists can resolve most issues. Einstein would have called that insanity. In the end, if this is the paradigm of this Administration and CENTCOM – that radical Islamist organizations can be house-trained – they will be opening Pandora’s Box. Recognizing Hamas, as CENTCOM and the Obama administration seem poised to do, would be a colossal blunder that will have major ramifications for American interests and American credibility in the Middle East for years to come, and provide Iran with its long sought after base within missile range of Tel Aviv. These types of actions are destructive to our efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, and to the American people, who have the right to expect their leaders to adopt realistic policies against those who threaten our way of life, our global interests, our security, and our allies.

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