By Shira Sorko-Ram
Back in the early 2000’s the U.S. focused on urging the Palestinian people to create a democratic state. After all, everyone knows that democracy is better than non-democracy. And of course, you create a democracy through free and fair elections, right? So when Yasser Arafat – who simply didn’t seem able to make peace with Israel – died in 2004, the West believed there was a window of opportunity for real peace. The vision was two nations (Jewish and Palestinian) living side by side in peace and safety.
Pressured by the U.S., Europe and the UN to evacuate Gaza, Israel bowed to their demands. Israel’s army and all its civilians left Gaza, leaving their homes and farms behind. Not a single Israeli remained anywhere in Gaza.
It was so clear to the West that the next step for Gaza should be to have free and fair elections. The free world was excitedly awaiting for this nascent democratic state to be born!
But somehow, something unforeseen and unexpected went wrong. Out of the Gaza Strip’s 2006 elections, Hamas won 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats, while the PLO [Fatah] faction whose headquarters are in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) won only 43. Hamas had brought an end to 40 years of PLO domination of Palestinian politics.
The free world was stunned. Many nations stopped the flow of millions into the Gaza Strip as punishment. Iran, Syria and other Arab nations quickly filled the gap and paid the bills. But then when Gaza declared war on Israel, the U.S. and Europe were far away on other continents. And so the 10,000 rockets that have hit Israel’s cities and villages over the last eight years haven’t received a whole lot of attention. However, when Israel blockaded ships bringing heavy weapons to Gaza’s shores, the world was outraged. How dare Israel make Gaza into one big “prison”?
THE PALESTINIAN GOVERNMENT SPLITS IN TWO
Soon a power struggle developed in Gaza and Hamas kicked out all Palestinian Authority (Fatah) civil servants from the Gazan branch of government, killing 100 in running battles and wounding 500. Fatah and Hamas split, leaving Fatah in control of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Hamas in control of Gaza.
Enter John Kerry, the well-meaning Don Quixote of America. He determined to bring peace to the Middle East in nine months. Never mind, the West had been trying to “make peace” in the Middle East since 1949. Never mind that Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas didn’t want to negotiate for peace. Because, if he made peace with Israel, he would not be able to realize his dream of filling the streets and homes of Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with his millions of “Palestinian refugees.” And if he made peace, he would not go down in history as the Arab leader who obliterated Israel.
Really for Abbas, there was no need to negotiate with Israel at all because he was winning victory after victory against Israel through the UN which was slowly working to crush Israel through sanctions, boycotts and creating a world image of a pariah state. Soon, Abbas believed, the UN would vote his nation into statehood without him having to give up a single item on his wish list. Time was on his side. Why should he negotiate with Israel?
On the other hand, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t want to negotiate with Abbas because of the impossible unbending demands of the Palestinians. Demands that were clearly existential for Israel. Foremost in Israel’s mind was the fact that Abbas would not recognize Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people – although the Fatah leader had no problem whatsoever claiming the same land as a homeland for the newly-emerging Palestinian people.
Abbas’ refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state said everything. To Netanyahu and his government, Fatah’s goal was clear – to destroy Israel. Not through violence as Hamas preferred, but through diplomatic warfare.
THE CARROT AND THE STICK
But John Kerry was not a man to be denied. With a stick he pressured Israel into freeing hundreds of Palestinian terrorists – murderers of Israeli citizens – so that the Palestinians would agree to negotiate the creation of a Palestinian state. Kerry bullied Israel by telling the world that Israel was in danger of becoming an apartheid state. He even seemed to be behind a recent wave of European threats to boycott Israeli products grown or produced in the settlements.
He warned Israel that failing to win a peace treaty with the Palestinians could cause unknown responses from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community.
To the Palestinians he gave the carrot. He said he understood the Palestinians’ reticence to negotiate with Israel. But, he told them, Netanyahu’s government had agreed to free from jail one hundred and four Palestinian murderers – if only Abbas would just promise to negotiate with Israel. Nothing else. Just negotiate.
Now there is almost nothing more important to the Palestinians than to get their terrorists back who have been locked up in Israeli jails. In fact, when a Palestinian inmate who has been convicted of a serious crime is let out of jail, he immediately receives $50,000, plus a high-paying job in the Palestinian Authority.
Of course we can’t forget that the purpose of said negotiations was to give the Palestinians their own state. So why wouldn’t Fatah want to negotiate for that? And now on top of that he would get as a bonus 104 freed inmates!
And so Secretary of State Kerry headed up the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis for nine months – with absolutely nothing to show for it at the end. Kerry then hinted that to extend the talks Israel would turn over 400 more prisoners to the Palestinian Authority! (I’m guessing that during the entire nine months 95% of Israelis and Arabs knew nothing would come of the talks.)
Gaza-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (second from left) and a senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmed
from the West Bank (left) attend a news conference on April 23, 2014, announcing a reconciliation agreement
between Hamas and Fatah, after a bloody conflict lasting seven years. (Photo: APIMAGES)
NEGOTIATIONS ARE OFF
But then, when Israel realized that Kerry had promised the Palestinians some of the freed inmates in the last group of the 104 would be Arab Israeli citizens, Israel put her foot down. Israel said, “No go.” No Israeli Arabs would be freed. Abbas, who had hosted huge celebrations for the first 82 prisoners freed, was furious he was not getting the last 22. All negotiations were off. And so he woke up one fine morning and called the UN to begin the process of officially recognizing the state of Palestine. This would not be difficult as the General Assembly is controlled by Arab and Muslim countries together with their friends. And then Abbas went to Hamas – with whom he had been divorced for seven years – and asked for reconciliation.
Hamas had lost much of its daily largess when Egyptian General al-Sisi threw out Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, and himself became president (by a free election). Sisi declared war on the Brotherhood, the parent-organization from which Hamas was born, and most of the Egyptian Brotherhood leaders were jailed, many awaiting their death. Other Arab nations, also fearful of the powerful fundamentalist Brotherhood, followed suit and cut off donations to Hamas.
Poor and deserted, Hamas swallowed its pride and reunited with Abbas’ Palestinian Authority in a new marriage. Then Abbas and Netanyahu awaited the world’s verdict. How would the free world respond? Abbas hoped the world would accept the reunion and Netanyahu hoped they would reject it. After all, Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S., the EU and many democratic nations.
What should these Western nations do? Why, recognize the newly united Palestinian government, of course! The Obama administration was the first to do so, promising to work with the new unified government.
The British foreign secretary then led the band of EU members, praising the Fatah-Hamas unity accord. The rest of Europe followed immediately, along with Russia and most of the world.
Israel first responded by announcing all negotiations were off as Israel will never negotiate with an organization which exists to violently destroy the Jewish State. The only thing Israel forgot was that the negotiations were already off!
Israel’s second response was the only rational one left to Israel: build more houses in Judea and Samaria. Settlement construction is the only non-military option she has. Israel, whose motivation is survival, reasons that if the Palestinians will not make a peace treaty with the Jewish state based on rational principles, then expansion in the Promised Land is their only recourse. Of course, the world is furious.
WHY DID ABBAS DO IT?
But let us return to the Palestinian Authority for a moment. What was in it for Abbas to pull this Hamas rabbit, as it were, out of the box? Why would he return to Hamas when he knows that Hamas and Israel will not mix? I can only guess. But I think Mr. Abbas is old and tired. At 78 years, he feels he’s done all he can. Probably most importantly, he has educated his people to hate Israel to the bitter end. Propaganda in the schools, on TV, celebrations for jihadists, monthly salaries to families of jailed murderers, glorification of terrorists…
Following in the footsteps of Yasser Arafat, he has prevailed. He has achieved many accomplishments within the UN and is on the way to obtaining an official status for Palestine to be recognized as a nation in the UN.
There’s only a few things yet left undone. He has not succeeded to give the final blow to the state of Israel. His 5,000,000 refugees are not yet living in Israel proper. He has not made Jerusalem Allah’s capital. He has not yet kicked the Jews out of Judea and Samaria. (He has publicly promised that when there is a Palestinian state, there will not be one Jew living there. Is that not called “apartheid?”) So, he reasons, why not let Hamas have a go at it?
He surely knows that by creating this unity government with plans for the next free and fair elections in December, 2014, there is a chance, in fact a very good chance, that Hamas will take over the West Bank just like it did Gaza. One of the main reasons Hamas won the Gaza elections in 2006 was because of the unmitigated corruption in the Palestinian Authority which had been in leadership for 40 years. And that has not changed.
Then, if Hamas does win the next free and fair election, they can create their own troop surge against Israel from the West Bank. Rockets can fly out of Judea and Samaria – just like they do out of Gaza. This time they can easily reach Jerusalem, and Tel Aviv – indeed, almost all of the nation. Every plane that flies in or out of Ben Gurion airport will have to fly right over the top of their weapons.
As I finish this article, “breaking news” bulletins are coming over my iPhone. Israel Defense Forces Chief, Lt. General Benny Gantz, warns that the only nations in the world that have more powerful armies than Hezbollah are the U.S., China, Russia, France, the UK and Israel!
And, the General says, Hezbollah is gaining critical battle experience as an ally with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the terrible war in Syria. Hezbollah and Iran are developing a radical Islamic axis with jihadists coming from all over the world.
In fact, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza have 170,000 rockets poised at Israel, and terrorists are adding GPS-based guidance systems to their rockets.
Iran’s goal for nuclear weapons has not diminished and it has hundreds of long-range missiles that can hit Israel. So says Israel’s chief military man.
But here is the Hope of Israel as He sees the Middle East:
For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter; and whether bond or free, there was no helper for Israel. And the Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven; but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.
Israel, like all the nations of the world, needs salvation. Its people are as the prophet Isaiah said, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” But God has not said he will destroy Israel. In Bible days, God protected Israel, even through wicked rulers like Jeroboam.
God is preserving Israel for the great day of salvation, when “all Israel shall be saved.” Israel will be saved. Because He promised.
AUSTRALIA’S MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, JULIE BISHOP
A very unusual statement has come out of down under. Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has stood up against nearly the entire world. She rejects labeling the eastern half of Jerusalem as “occupied.” She added that she does not support the popular anti-Israel terminology that defines the Middle East peace process.
Earlier this year, Bishop insisted it was wrong to call Jewish settlements “illegal.”
When told by a journalist that international law has declared them illegal, she replied, “I would like to see which international law has declared them illegal.”
Most people don’t know that Judea and Samaria were not the recognized sovereign territory of any other nation at the time Israel seized control of it. Second, there is overwhelming historical and archaeological evidence that the area is part, and even the central part of the Jews’ ancestral homeland.
Bishop pointed out that the original intent of the Israeli Palestinian peace process was to not prejudge a negotiated outcome, even in regards to the settlements. For the world to already condemn the Jewish settlements as “illegal” is a gross violation of that principle.
Hillary Clinton, looking towards the presidency in 2016, wrote in her memoir Hard Choices that Obama’s demand which he made public at the beginning of his office, for a settlement construction freeze in the West Bank only hardened the stance of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who eventually rejected negotiations because the freeze did not include East Jerusalem.
“In retrospect, our early, hard line on settlements didn’t work,” wrote Clinton.
EXCERPTS OF HAMAS’ 2006 WINNING ELECTORAL PLATFORM
- True Islam with its civilized achievements and political, economic, social, and legal aspects [Sharia] is our frame of reference and our way of life.
- Historic Palestine is part of the Arab and Islamic land and its ownership by the Palestinian people is a right that does not diminish over time. No military or legal measures will change that right.
- The Palestinian people, wherever they reside, constitute a single and united people and form an integral part of the Arab and Muslim nation. We have the right to end the occupation using all means, including armed struggle. We have to defeat the occupation and establish a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
- The right of return of all Palestinian refugees and displaced persons to their land and properties, and the right to self-determination and all other national rights, are inalienable and cannot be bargained away for any political concessions.
- We uphold the indigenous and inalienable rights of our people to our land, Jerusalem, our holy places, our water resources, borders, and a fully sovereign independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.
- The issue of the prisoners is at the top of the Palestinian agenda.