Richard D. Heideman
Perhaps more than any other issue in the Middle East today, the situation in Gaza under the control of Hamas—a designated foreign terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel and aspiring to the genocide of world Jewry—is one of the greatest obstacles to regional peace, security and prosperity.
Since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, and after Hamas brutally seized control from its Palestinian rival Fatah in 2007, conditions for residents have dramatically worsened. Hamas has stolen vast amounts of money, humanitarian goods and building supplies designed to aid Gaza and repurposed them for weapons like rockets, terror tunnels and kite bombs that Hamas has used to terrorize Israeli civilians, and burn lands, nature preserves and forests.
Rightly so, current proposals from the White House focus on “Gaza First.” U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman wrote a July 19 op-ed in The Washington Post, condemning Hamas for needlessly prolonging the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza and calling for Hamas’s leadership to renounce terrorism or relinquish control of Gaza.
Hamas responded to the White House: Hamas (which is the Islamic Resistance Movement) ramped up its terror attacks, launching hundreds of rockets at Israel from Gaza, many of which landed in or near kindergartens, summer camps and homes in southern Israel. Yet the world focused on Israel’s response rather than Hamas’ terror. Little attention was paid to the plight of those living in Gaza or Israel, who are subjected to Hamas’s reign of terror. The world must stop treating Hamas, which uses residents of Gaza, including children, as human shields, differently than it treats other terrorists. No country would tolerate hundreds of rockets being launched into its sovereign territory. Israeli families were again forced to huddle in bomb shelters, an unacceptable and unconscionable condition ignored by the world media.
Although Hamas and Israel have agreed on a one-year ceasefire that will allow humanitarian relief to flow into Gaza, the question must be asked: Will Hamas use the money and aid for the people of Gaza, or will they continue syphoning resources to rebuild their arsenal for their next round of terror launchings against the Israeli people? It must be remembered that Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of Israel and the continued rejection of Israel as a member of the family of nations.
In spite of these factors, the Jewish state appears ready to begrudgingly accept Hamas as the de facto leaders of Gaza, but only as long as Hamas terrorism can be constrained.
The Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman op-ed called for Hamas to stand down and for the Palestinian Authority to resume control over the administration of Gaza. Gaza needs a governing body dedicated to a better future. It is questionable if the P.A. can, or even has the will, to do so.
At the United Nations, UNRWA, which utilizes bloated numbers to classify Palestinian refugees, has failed in its educational responsibilities, and can no longer be vested or trusted with the authority to monitor education to ensure the children of Gaza are taught a hate-free curriculum.
It is essential to establish a terror-free government for Gaza that can assume responsibility for education while helping create jobs and providing welfare to those who are desperately in need, giving the people of Gaza the chance for a new future. Israel can be an important ally to a terror-free Gaza by sharing its desert conversion technology—not only to make the desert bloom, but also to ensure a 24/7 flow of stable electricity, gas, clean water, irrigation and economic development.
Moreover, as Gaza is located on the Mediterranean between Israel and Egypt with its southern border adjacent to Egypt’s sparsely populated Sinai Peninsula, parts of the Sinai could be leased or acquired from Egypt to alleviate the population density in the coastal strip. This land could be used for new construction of housing and community institutions for the people of Gaza as a terror-free government works to rebuild Gaza’s crumbling infrastructure. Justly compensating and supporting Egypt, while ensuring that radicals do not expand into that country, is crucial to enabling the international community to begin rebuilding neighborhoods and perhaps even a New Gaza City as they work towards helping Gaza become governable, democratic, free and no longer a terror threat to any of its neighbors.
Expanding Gaza into the Sinai and establishing a government supported by democratic countries—free of Hamas terror and control—could help push Gaza into being part of the solution in truly establishing a terror-free region and achieving a durable peace, stability and economic development.
Richard D. Heideman is senior counsel of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, P.C., which represents American Victims of Terror; author of The Hague Odyssey: Israel’s Struggle for Security on the Front Lines of Terror and Her Battle for Justice at the United Nations; and is president of the American Zionist Movement.