Analysis

After Gaza-Israel Flare-up, I Would Ask Hamas' Military Chief This One Question

Gaza's suffering will not and cannot be alleviated by any long-range rocket or armed drone. Why not try something different and recognize Israel?

s leader in the Gaza Strip, Yahya Sinwar, at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, April 20, 2018
Khalil Hamra / AP

If I were to interview Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, I would ask him: Why not recognize Israel? Try, what do you have to lose? You tried to establish a Palestinian Sparta on the Mediterranean coast, a state whose fuel is historic hurt and a desire for revenge against the Jews who expelled your forefathers from their villages in Mandatory Palestine and imprisoned you in an oppressive and suffocating siege. You built an army of rockets and snipers and even a naval commando. Wow. What have you achieved? Only more funerals, pain and suffering that will not and cannot be alleviated by any long-range rocket or armed drone.

Yahya, I would say to him, maybe “honorable chairman” or something like that, you spent enough years in Israeli prisons, you know us well and you should already realize that you won’t defeat Israel with rounds of rockets, suicidal demonstrations on the border and anti-tank missiles against cars. We are stronger, the world is behind us, nobody will come to help you if you continue like this.

You managed to rule for 12 years under siege and closure, bombings and sniper fire. You have demonstrated an ability to rule and to remain steadfast under harsh conditions. But you know that’s not enough. Your rule is not legitimate, you have few friends and your people live between tragedy and resuscitation.

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Learn from the Israelis: We were weakest when the defense budget was at its height and every child dreamed of being a pilot or paratrooper. We matured, we softened our attitude, we understood the importance of a flourishing economy and successful trade and international support and Eurovision, and more importantly, our rulers discovered that the citizens prefer a new house, cheap flights to Europe and an academic degree for their children to the mentality of eternal reserve duty and ceremonies in the military cemeteries.

In order to arrive to that point we had to understand and recognize that there are Palestinians and we have to live alongside them. We didn’t fulfill their aspirations, but there was a time – not so long ago – when we called them “two-legged animals” and a meeting with a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization put you in jail. Today, Shin Bet security service chief Nadav Argaman and GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nadav Padan meet every day with those same PLO members in order to coordinate operational activity. It’s possible to change.

You say that the intifadas removed Israel from some of the territories and with the help of the international pressure, forced us to recognize the Palestinian national movement and to conduct a dialogue with it. That’s true, but the essential condition that made the change possible was Israeli public opinion, which wanted to try something different from breaking bones and imprisoning leftists.

And it got there only because it heard words of peace from then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Not because of the Katyusha rockets that the PLO deployed in Lebanon, and not because of the hijacking of planes and the murder of athletes. Those only hardened our hearts. Arafat’s interview with Israeli journalist Uri Avnery from besieged Beirut influenced the Israelis far more than the “Palestine Liberation Army.”

And another piece of advice, don’t get excited by the Israelis who applaud you and compare you to the ghetto resistance movements. It’s not identification out of concern, but the fulfillment of a fantasy of heroic protest to the strains of the songs from the Spanish Civil War and films about the Vietnam War. So you fire, and in Israel they flee to the shelters and begin live broadcasts on all the TV channels and report attacks against “hundreds of terror targets.” And then when the shooting stops it turns out that once again you didn’t achieve a thing. Sticking a pin into a great power? Applause from people without hope and a future? You know that it’s worthless.

You tried rockets and mortars and Kornet anti-tank missiles and abducting bodies and people and internal operational coordination and even discussions with Egyptian intelligence and money from Qatar. Forget it, that won’t extricate you from the distress and destruction. Try something else: recognize Israel, force that opinion on the factions and organizations in Gaza – and create internal pressure in Israel for a change in direction, and a chance for international recognition of the entity you established in Gaza.

Demonstrate that despite its religious ideology, Hamas recognizes the reality. After all, in Israel too, members of the Union of Right-Wing Parties Bezalel Smotrich and Rabbi Rafi Peretz and Itamar Ben Gvir will soon be members of a government that will transfer money to Gaza and conduct security coordination with the Palestinian Authority.

Take a chance Yahya, and recognize us, I would say to him. Maybe it would do more for you than another round of fighting.