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June 7, 2018 8:04 am

Hamas Will Go for Broke in Gaza, and Must Be Removed

avatar by Yoni Ben Menachem / JNS.org


Hamas leaders in Gaza at the Rafah crossing, Apr. 26, 2018. Photo: moi.gov.ps.

JNS.org – According to Hamas sources, the movement’s leadership has made a strategic resolution to continue to clash with Israel “until the end” in order to bring about an arrangement whereby the embargo on the Gaza Strip will either be removed completely or at least significantly eased.

Therefore, Hamas is putting continued pressure on Israel through its “March of Return” campaign on the border fence, and by firing mortars and rockets toward Israel.

The ceasefire brokered by Egypt is very shaky, and Hamas is trying to impose new combat rules upon Israel based on the assumption that Israel’s hands are tied. They believe Israel is not interested in an all-out war on two simultaneous fronts — one on the northern border and the other at the Gaza border.

The Hamas government has caused the residents of Gaza incalculable damage over the past 11 years. It is not prepared to give up its control of Gaza, which it took by force through a military coup, and hand it over to the Palestinian Authority. The main reason for the embargo on Gaza is the fact that Hamas is a terrorist organization that wants to fight Israel and is trying to bring arms and other weaponry for this purpose by sea and land.

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Israel is not interested in retaking or ruling over Gaza. It gave up on that idea when it carried out the 2005 Disengagement Plan. Hamas is living amid an absurd internal conflict. On the one hand, it wants to turn Gaza into an army base from which “the liberation of Palestine from the sea to the river” will come. On the other hand, it does not have the military power for this, so it is aiming for a long-term ceasefire arrangement with Israel in order to recover from its wretched situation.

Fatah asserts that Hamas’ use of mortars and rockets against Israel serves the purposes of the Netanyahu government, which presents Hamas to the world as a terror organization. In the meantime, Israel is deepening its control of the West Bank.

Hamas has so far failed in achieving its goals despite a violent campaign that has lasted longer than two months. Israel has stood firm, absorbing the violence and terror, but it has not given in. It is possible that the escalation from Hamas is on the orders of Iran, which controls it and the Islamic Jihad movement, and seeks to take revenge on Israel after its last military defeat in Syria.

Therefore, the situation is very volatile and Hamas may provoke an all-out war by using mortar and rocket barrages.

One important key to removing the Gaza embargo or easing it is in the hands of Egypt, which is the main mediator between Israel and Hamas. Egypt is also an important player in the embargo on Gaza because it controls the Rafah crossing.

Hamas, however, is also working against Egyptian interests. Instead of calming tensions, it is fueling the fires and harming stability in Egypt.

In the end, it appears that the way to find a solution for the problems of Gaza is to restore the rule of the Palestinian Authority in the area. While Hamas is in power, there will be no solution and Israel and the international community will not assist an armed terrorist movement that calls for and tries to bring about the destruction of Israel.

Israel has nothing to look for in the Gaza Strip, but it needs a government there that it can speak to. Hamas is not that government. The only realistic alternative is the Palestinian Authority or the Fatah Party led by Mohammed Dahlan if the Palestinian Authority falls apart once Mahmoud Abbas departs.

At the end of the 1990s, there was a small airport in Gaza and advanced plans for the construction of a seaport, as per the conditions of the Oslo Accords. This would still be possible, but not if a terrorist organization is ruling Gaza. The Palestinians need to remember this. The solution is in changing the government in Gaza, even if takes time.

Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israeli radio and television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as Director General and Chief Editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

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