In a rare interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica reporter Francesca Borri, writing for the Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Achronot Hamas arch-terrorist Yahya Sinwar declared that Hamas does not want war with Israel.
The interview was conducted via an Italian journalist as Sinwar had denied granting an interview directly to the Israeli daily. Yet the interview, which was subsequently published in Israel sends a clear political message: there are no promises of peace, but rather the real threat of war.
If you want to truly understand the Middle East, you must read very carefully what the arch-terrorist who was elected as the political leader of Hamas in February 2017 means when he says that he doesn’t want war. Let’s try to decipher it: “You know very well what we are capable of doing, you bear the signs on your skin, you know loss through those we have killed, and in the fires that have burned your crops. Very well. It may be interrupted for a while, but it could get worse. Our terrorists are ready, and so, too, are the young people we send to die on the border with kites and Molotov cocktails in hand.”
These are the terms to Israel: If you don’t force Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas (known commonly as Abu Mazen), you Israelis who are his friends, to provide us with the funding that he has cut and of which we desperately need, and unless you compel him to allow Qatar, Iran, along with all our various nice financiers to give us the money and goods that belong to us, then the situation in Gaza will explode. If funding comes, at least for a while we can cease carrying out terrorist attacks and the “March of Return” protests, which otherwise may become much more violent.
Sinwar states in the interview that he will immediately promote a strategy in which all those who are fond of this terrorist organization, which is dedicated to the systematic murder of innocents, will like hearing: “I’m not saying I won’t fight anymore. I’m saying I don’t want any more wars. What I want is an end to the siege.” However, this simply means Sinwar wants to make clear to Abu Mazen that the P.A. leader should stop asking Hamas for weapons in exchange for money. In the Hamas view, weapons are more important than bread. While bread can provide quiet, weapons bring power.
In short, it is not very important to Sinwar if a ceasefire arises every now and again. Sinwar is an intelligent inventor of strategies that simultaneously combine the violence of demonstrations along the Israeli border with a claim to legality; fidelity to the Muslim Brotherhood with the request for help from its worst enemy Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi; and systematically using terrorism together with ambiguous sentences of diplomacy.
Sinwar, who spent 22 years in Israeli prison before being released seven years ago in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, is a man who has literally killed with his own hands those he suspected of being collaborators with Israel, and who is quoted as saying “we will tear out Israeli hearts from their bodies.” He then sends out his men to act accordingly. He promotes the digging of tunnels for terrorists, and has explicitly explained his strategy, stating, “we decided to turn the bodies of our women and children into a dam blocking Arab collapse.”
He has strengthened Hamas’s relationship with Iran and Hezbollah, and brags about it. Now politely in light of the lack of funds and access due to Abu Mazen’s decision to close the Palestinian Authority’s purse strings, and since he faces mounting criticism by his own people, Sinwar—through his interview with the La Repubblica and Yediot Achronot—now calls for Israeli intervention in order to save him, and uses calls for Israel to “end the siege” as diplomatic cover. At the same time, Sinwar calls upon Gazans to amass along the border in violent protest. Yet let’s imagine the Gaza seaport being opened, and Iranian ships being able to carry lethal weapons into it.
Sadly, it is quite possible that Sinwar’s pleas, in relation to the primary needs of the people of Gaza, may ultimately result in Israel pushing on Abu Mazen to restore its financing of Hamas. After all, Israel has always remained sensitive to the humanitarian pleas of the people of Gaza. Every day hundreds of trucks carrying fuel, food and medicine pass through the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel.
That is of course until Hamas decides that it is time, like it often does, to close the passage with another terror attack that men like Sinwar take pride in carrying out. Because beyond the current circumstances, this is the only real strategy they know and have remained faithful to for the past several decades.
Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies, served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Translation by Amy Rosenthal.