Opinion |

The Source of Gaza’s Woes

As long as Hamas continues to rule in the Strip, there will be no relief for the population there and no respite for Israel

Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens
A Palestinian protester runs away from the border between Israel and Gaza, April 4, 2018.
A Palestinian protester runs away from the border between Israel and Gaza, April 4, 2018.Credit: SAID KHATIB/AFP
Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens

A straight line leads from Ariel Sharon’s forcible removal of Israeli settlers from the Gush Katif settlement bloc 13 years ago to the “march of a million shahids to Jerusalem” declared by Hamas that led to the recent demonstration at the Gaza border fence. The Gaza Strip, cleared of all Jews, is seen by them as the starting point for the Palestinian conquest of all of Palestine and the destruction of the State of Israel.

It’s the law of unintended consequences at work again. Or the proverbial good intentions that lead straight to hell. Because the intentions were good. Promoted as a step toward peace with the Palestinians and ridding ourselves of the burden of Gaza, the disengagement was supported by the majority of Israelis even though it involved great suffering for the Israeli settlers, many of whom have still not been able to set themselves up in new homes. The slogan that “we have nothing to look for in Gaza” appealed to many and blinded them to the potential consequences of this move.

As night follows day, Hamas took over Gaza as the Israeli settlers were forced out and the Israel Defense Force withdrew. And then came the rockets launched against Israel, the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit, the tunnels leading into Israel, and now the demonstrations at the fence and the burning of tires releasing fumes that pollute the air the population of Gaza is now forced to breathe. The disengagement was bad for Israel and was no favor to the two million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

Those who thought that a Palestinian leadership there would be able to transform this small sliver of territory into another Singapore were blind to Middle Eastern realities. They wanted to believe that a terrorist group like Hamas would be transformed into a benevolent organization that looks out for the welfare of the population under its control — and prove through Gaza that the establishment of a Palestinian state would be good for everyone.

That might have happened in our dreams, but in reality such a scenario didn’t have a chance.

The first condition for such a development would have been for Hamas in Gaza to form reasonably good relationships with Israel and Egypt. That could have opened up the Strip and given Gaza access to aid for its rehabilitation. As should have been expected, the very opposite occurred. Hamas let it be known that its goal was to use Gaza as a base for a battle meant to lead to Israel’s destruction. Rockets were launched and tunnels dug into Israel in full knowledge that these actions would prevent Israel from allowing free access to the Gaza Strip. Hamas aid to the ISIS terrorists in Sinai led Egypt to close its border with Gaza. To the claim that the Gaza Strip has been turned into a ghetto one must add this: If it is a ghetto it has been deliberately turned into one by Hamas.

The destruction and despondency that Hamas has caused the population in Gaza has over the years attained the dimensions of a human tragedy. The population there feels hopeless and frustrated. Hamas is trying to prod them to vent their anger, against Israel.

Relieving the misery that Hamas rule has brought to the Gaza population is most certainly a worthy cause for Israel and the world, but it is unlikely to be achieved as long as Hamas continues to rule the Strip. Pouring aid into the area, building an offshore island, constructing electricity-generating stations — in the hope that this will provide an incentive to safeguard these improvements and prevent the hostile actions against Israel is a pipe dream, as long as Hamas remains in charge. It will only provide Hamas with additional resources to pursue its objectives. As long as Hamas continues to rule in Gaza there will be no relief for the population there and no respite for Israel.

The idea that whatever would follow the destruction of Hamas in Gaza would be even worse than Hamas, which served as a guideline for Israel’s military operations in Gaza, seems to be in need of reexamination.

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