Israel: Don’t Repeat the Mistakes of the Past

Playing with fire by underestimating Hamas has been Israel’s pastime for a few years now. The eminently preventable tragedy unfolding before our eyes requires a serious rethinking of Israeli and Western strategy.

Speculation has focused on the lack of rapid response, notification, security, and intelligence gaps, and these are worthy of exploration, but focusing on these alone misses the forest from the trees.  The bigger issue is, why did Israel acquiesce to an uneasy coexistence with Hamas after Hamas forcefully grabbed the Gaza Strip in 2007, especially given that Hamas’s charter clearly laid out its goal of destroying Israel (preamble), that Israeli land is a holy Islamic possession (art. 11), and that armed jihad is the only solution and peace talks useless (art. 13)?  The short answer is that as the violent equilibrium between Hamas and Israel was somewhat controlled, it actually benefited both parties.

First, there was the Netanyahu Doctrine, which intentionally kept Hamas alive as a counterweight to the Palestinian Authority, for the purpose of keeping Palestinians divided.  Netanyahu famously said, “The Palestinian Authority is a burden, and Hamas is an asset” — a political strategy now obviously revealed as too clever by half.

Second, following the money often sheds light on the material incentives of both parties.  Israel receives $4 billion in armament credits payable to the Pentagon, which handsomely provides guaranteed business for our defense manufacturers, who in turn lobby for continued funding.  Having Hamas as a viable boogeyman has certainly helped in this regard.  But this too was another penny-wise, pound-foolish endeavor that ended up hurting Israel’s domestic weapons industry and provided Washington meddling rights regarding Israel’s security and domestic policies.  However one feels about this corporate welfare loop engineered by Israeli leaders, the U.S. military-industrial complex, and its “bought and paid for” politicians, what is even more outrageous was the constant Western and Israeli-engineered flow of funds to a coterie of Palestinian thugs possessing a 7th-century theological outlook with no compunction about killing and oppressing innocent civilians, whether Israeli or Palestinian.

Whereas the popular perception is that Israel has sought to squeeze Hamas and Palestinians in every way, the opposite is demonstrably true.  Netanyahu had agreed for Qatar to transfer millions of dollars annually to the Hamas leadership, and even as early as 2009, it was common knowledge that Israel was transferring truckloads of cash to Hamas.  Additionally, over the years, Hamas has amassed billions of dollars through Arab and Western “humanitarian” aid conveniently diverted to enrich the leadership and for terrorist purposes.  Even when aid was “controlled,” Hamas managed to use such aid for its own objectives, as when irrigation systems installed through international aid were dug up by Hamas for their rocket launchers.  Naturally, NGOs take their cut of the aid provided, so there is a built-in incentive to lobby for the largesse to keep flowing and to turn a blind eye when glaring Hamas diversion of funds and resources occurred.

Given both sides slurping from this gravy train, what prompted Hamas to blow it all up?  It’s a question of motivation and mindset that Westerners and even Israelis can’t naturally grasp because we are materialistically, rather than ideologically, minded.  It’s clear that this attack has been meticulously planned over the last two years by a group that loves death more than life, as stated by their own leaders.  Senior Hamas official Ali Baraka stated, “We made them think that Hamas was busy with governing Gaza, and that it wanted to focus on the 2.5 million Palestinians [in Gaza], and has abandoned the resistance altogether.”  No longer content with being the administrators of the Gaza “open-air prison” fed and maintained with Israeli, Arab, and Western largesse, Hamas has just embarked on a risky strategy of global conflagration with the hope that Israel will be overwhelmed and collapse as a result of a wider war.  Hamas is clearly driven by an ISIS-like apocalyptic ideological commitment, and the mistake of the West and Israel has been the belief that Hamas could be bought off and tamed.  It’s wise to know and believe one’s enemies — Sun Tzu 101.

So where do we go from here?  Clearly, the corporate welfare and humanitarian aid to both Israel and Hamas have served primarily to enrich special interests while legitimizing and strengthening Hamas rule over an oppressed population denied basic individual freedoms, such as speech, religion, assembly, and fair justice.  Christians are routinely persecuted throughout Palestine but especially in Gaza.  Israel’s policy of Hamas containment and appeasement are primarily responsible for not only endangering Israelis, but also the suffering of the Palestinian people.

The silver lining of the recent tragic events is that they give Israel an opportunity to atone for its past mistakes.  It cannot (and should never have been under the illusion that it could) coexist side by side with an entity ideologically committed to its destruction and the imposition of strict Islamism on Palestine.  It will now have to undo the effects of the billions of dollars in aid it allowed Hamas to receive.  This will involve a house-to-house invasion campaign to uproot jihadists, blow up their tunnels, and decimate the political and military infrastructure of Hamas.  Anything less invites further suffering for both Israelis and Palestinians.  “In war there is no substitute for victory” (General of the Army Douglas MacArthur).

Albert R. Veldhuyzen, U.S. Army colonel, retired.  Colonel Veldhuyzen has traveled extensively in the Middle East and North Africa and served as the U.S. Army’s CENTCOM area Linguist Support Program Director while on active duty from 2017–18.

Image via Pxfuel.

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