by Mark Silverberg
The U.S. debt will top $13.6 trillion this year and climb to an estimated $19.6 trillion by 2015, according to a Treasury Department report to Congress. Bankruptcy filings are nearing the record two million dollar level of 2005, and unemployment is nearly 10%, yet, in mid-June, President Obama pledged a $400M aid package for supposed housing, schools, water and health care system projects in the West Bank and Hamas-ruled Gaza. He described these projects as a “down payment on the U.S. commitment to the people of Gaza who deserve a chance to take part in building a viable, independent state of Palestine, together with those who live in the West Bank.”
He must have forgotten that the Gazans first act of “independence,” after the Israeli withdrawal from the territory in 2005, was to destroy the lucrative greenhouse industry that the Israelis left behind but that should have served as a reminder about the billions in aid that have been squandered in pursuit of this pipedream.
According to the Heritage Foundation, since Oslo Accords in 1993, the U.S. has showered $2.2 billion in bilateral aid on the Palestinians, in addition to more than $3.4 billion for humanitarian aid funneled through dysfunctional U.N. organizations since 1950. Vast amounts of these aid funds have been diverted to allow terrorist organizations like Hamas to focus on building its war infrastructure — such as bunkers, fortifying positions and digging tunnels, — rather than on subsidizing education, paving roads, promoting commerce and industry, or providing for, and advancing, the long-term interests of their people.
Should Congress approve this aid package, it will only serve to stabilize the Hamas regime, assist in consolidating its power, and inhibit the development of the social, political and economic infrastructures necessary to build a viable, unified and stable Palestinian state.
Hamas’s desire for more construction materials has more to do with rebuilding and strengthening its war machine against Israel than the needs of ordinary Gazans, so it is fair to ask this administration: Where is the strategic logic behind this pledge? As money is fungible, where are the assurances and accountability mechanisms to insure that this money will not be spent on terrorism and missiles as has occurred in the past?
Consider the nature of the regime that controls Gaza: In the wake of the Israeli withdrawal in 2005, Hamas seized power from the Palestinian Authority in a bloody coup in June 2007, and, true to its roots as the ideological cousin of al Qaeda — and an offshoot of the extremist Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood — it fired over 7,500 missiles into southern Israeli cities and towns in the name of “resistance;” declared its intention to annihilate the Jewish state; established summer camps for over a hundred thousand children to learn the Koran, paramilitary training, hatred of Jews, and the glories of “martyrdom.” It still holds its population hostage; uses children as human shields; and mosques, schools and UN facilities as weapons-depots in violation of international law; proclaims proudly that its members cherish “death over life;” denies for over four years abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit his fundamental rights under international law; diverts millions in humanitarian aid and supplies through UNRWA and other NGOs to maintain its war infrastructure in violation of 301c of the Foreign Assistance Act; inserts its “morality police” into the daily lives of Gazans, and continues to introduce an extremist Islamic “statelet” on Israel’s southern border that serves as a base if operations for Iran — an enemy that has made no secret of its regional ambitions and nuclear aspirations.
Emboldened by recent moral support from states such as NATO member Turkey, Hamas’s confidence appears only to be growing. It shows no sign of budging on the principles, contained in its Charter, that have caused its international isolation.
In forcing Israel to ease its Gaza blockade, therefore, the Obama administration is confirming that Gaza will remain firmly under Hamas control. It will not recognize Israel, renounce violence or support any peace agreement signed by its Palestinian rivals. In one stroke, Obama will render meaningless both the Oslo Accords and the conditions set by the Quartet – namely, the abandonment of terrorism, accepting Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, and recognition of the Palestinian Authority’s rule as the legitimate government.
The problem with his strategy (if that is what it is) is that it fails to consider the nature of the Hamas regime and the broader implications that arise from empowering a genocidal, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-democratic, repressive, pro-Iranian organization on the southern border of a democratic ally in the Middle East.
Some $10B has been spent globally in the last decade on the Palestinians, making them the largest per capita recipients of foreign aid (with the exception of the Republic of Congo); yet places like Gaza remain as pro-terrorist as ever. Further, as Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO) that controls the distribution of all goods entering Gaza, America’s providing humanitarian aid through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Gaza may now constitute a violation of the “material support” provisions of the Patriot Act, as such aid (according to the recent Supreme Court decision in Holder vs. Humanitarian Law Project) would “free up” other resources for Hamas to finance its other less pleasent goals — as well as adding legitimacy to Hamas’s attempts to recruit and raise additional funds to further these objectives. By sustaining Hamas in power, this aid package may not only be illegal, but can only undermine any future ability the Palestinian national movement may have of reaching a compromise with Israel.
More disturbing is the recent leak from a senior Hamas official to the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper suggesting that this pledge of aid to Gaza is the forerunner to an even more dangerous planned Obama initiative in the coming months — one that would remove Hamas from America’s designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO) list.
On June 16th, a Washington-based Arabic newspaper quoted a senior official as saying that an American envoy is scheduled to meet with Hamas representatives in an Arab country and hand them a letter from the Obama administration. According to the report, Obama believes — wrongly — that he has no choice other than to deal with Hamas, due to its influence in the Arab and Islamic world. Given that John Brennan, Obama’s Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, has been reaching out to “moderates” in Hezbollah, it would hardly be surprising to believe that the Administration is now talking to Hamas.
Apparently, Obama is not alone in this belief. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) seems to have bought into it as well. Mark Perry, writing in Foreign Policy (June 30th) notes: “While it is anathema to broach the subject of engaging militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas in official Washington circles (to say nothing of Israel), in a ‘Red Team’ report issued on May 7th and entitled ‘Managing Hezbollah and Hamas,’ senior CENTCOM intelligence officers question the current U.S. policy of isolating and marginalizing the two movements.”
The Report notes that while Hezbollah and Hamas “embrace staunch anti-Israel rejectionist policies,” the two organizations are “pragmatic and opportunistic.” This contravenes Israel’s position that these two extremist Islamist organizations cannot change their raison d’etre and must therefore be confronted with force. The Report suggests, however, that “failing to recognize their separate grievances and objectives will result in continued failure in moderating their behavior.” One senior officer even commented in private discussions: “”Putting Hezbollah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda in the same sentence, as if they are all the same, is just stupid.”
What might really be “stupid,” however, is CENTCOM’s failure to see that all these Islamist terrorist organizations are the same in at least one respect: They all share a commitment to and common interpretation of Islamic Sharia Law, and as such, they are all pursuing the same objective: the global triumph of Shariah Law under a theocratic Caliphate. While their tactics may differ, they are united in their common goal. When Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar proclaims (as he did on Future News TV on June 15, 2010, according to MEMRI): “This is our plan for this stage – to liberate the West Bank and Gaza, without recognizing Israel’s right to a single inch of land ….. without giving up the Right of Return for a single Palestinian refugee ….. to liberate any inch of Palestinian land, to establish a state on it and …… [to have] Palestine in its entirety ….. We will not recognize the Israeli enemy”….. it is difficult to believe that this man is really a “moderate” who is “pragmatic and opportunistic.”.] The people in these groups profess a powerful jihadist ideology rooted in a radical interpretation of Islam, in the name of which they propagandize, proselytize, terrorize and kill. When these groups see Americans bending over backwards to justify flexibility toward militant Islamists, they assume, rightly, that their political strategy is working.
According to Perry, “The report argues that an Israeli decision to lift the siege might pave the way for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, which would be ‘the best hope for mainstreaming Hamas,'” as though the objective of the U.S. policy should be to facilitate Hamas’s takeover of the West Bank as well as Gaza. Hamas will only integrate into the Palestinian security forces once it is sure that it will not be obliged to surrender its freedom of military action.
Even more instructive is the following: “The Red Team also claims that reconciliation with Fatah, when coupled with Hamas’s explicit renunciation of violence, would gain widespread international support and deprive the Israelis of any legitimate justification to continue settlement building and delay statehood negotiations.” By attributing ill-will on the part of Israel, this statement suggests that the Red Team’s real agenda includes the delegitimization of Israel.
Perry concludes that the report reflects the thinking among a significant number of senior officers at CENTCOM headquarters and among senior CENTCOM intelligence officers and analysts serving in the Middle East.
The Administration’s “soft power” team seems to think that as engagement with Islamist groups failed with Iran and Syria, it should keep trying it with Hezbollah and Hamas — on the assumption, in direct conflict with past experience, that dialogue with Islamists can resolve most issues. If that is the paradigm of this Administration and CENTCOM — that radical Islamist organizations can be house-trained — they will simply be emboldening the Islamists. Recognizing Hamas would have major harmful ramifications for American interests and American credibility in the Middle East for years to come, and provide Iran with its long-sought-for base within missile range of Tel Aviv.
These types of actions run counter to our efforts to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, and to the interests of the American people, who have the right to expect their leaders to adopt clear-eyed policies against those who threaten our way of life, our security, and the global interests of us and our allies.