Thursday, Apr 11, 2024

U.S. Security Council Abstention Encourages Hamas to Dig In

The U.S. decision to abstain in a vote by the U.N. Security Council Monday permitting a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza to pass by a 14-0 vote, has emboldened Hamas to reject the deal now on the table and keep holding out for a permanent cease-fire and other demands that Israel has said are unacceptable, while heightening the growing tension between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu over Israel’s plans to attack the last four Hamas battalions in the city of Rafah on the Egyptian border.

The resolution was offered by the 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council and was also supported by all 22 Arab nations that are members of the United Nations, as well as Russia and China. The resolution called for the cease-fire in Gaza to start immediately and last through the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, on April 9. However, because the U.S.-backed negotiations in Doha, Qatar, over details of the proposed cease-fire and hostage deal between Israel and Hamas have broken down once again, it is not clear how long it will take for any cease-fire deal to be finalized, or how long it will last.

The resolution was opposed by Israel, in part, because it does not explicitly tie the demand for a cease-fire to a requirement that it be accompanied by the release of the remaining hostages being held by Hamas, although it does separately call for, “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages” and emphasizes the urgent need to protect civilians and deliver humanitarian aid throughout Gaza.

Prime Minister Binyomin Netanyahu responded by issuing a statement calling the American abstention, “a retreat from the consistent American position in the Security Council where it only a few days ago made a connection between a cease-fire and the release of the hostages. This withdrawal harms the [Israeli] war effort as well as the effort to liberate the hostages, because it gives Hamas hope that international pressure will allow them to get a cease-fire without releasing our hostages.”

NETANYAHU’S PREDICTION QUICKLY COMES TRUE

Sure enough, on Monday night, just hours after the U.S. abstained in the Security Council vote, Hamas said that it had informed mediators that it would stick to its original position on demanding a permanent cease-fire, the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Gaza, an immediate return of all displaced Palestinians to their homes in northern Gaza, and a full exchange of “prisoners,” all of which are demands that the Israeli prime minister has repeatedly rejected.

In reaction to the Hamas re-assertion of its original unacceptable cease-fire demands, Netanyahu recalled the Israeli negotiating team from Doha, where it had been for the previous eight days.

An unnamed diplomatic source told Israeli news media that the Israeli delegation was recalled because “there is no one to talk to on the other side and the Israeli negotiating team has nothing to do in Qatar.” Netanyahu’s office refused to comment on reports that a small team of Mossad negotiators stayed behind in Doha to continue the talks on a cease-fire and hostage release deal, which a spokesman for the Qatari foreign ministry said on Tuesday were still ongoing.

However, the prime minister’s office did issue a statement which said that Hamas’ decision to reject the compromise that was on the table at Doha, is “clear proof it is not interested in continuing talks, and a sad testament to the damage caused by the U.N. Security Council resolution,” which passed after the United States refused to cast its veto. The statement also accused Hamas of retreating to its original “extreme demands,” including a complete end to the war and a full Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza, and insisted once again that, “Israel will not cave to Hamas’ delusional demands.”

While Hamas has renewed its insistence upon conditioning any further hostage releases on an Israeli commitment to permanently end the war in Gaza, Israel still insists that its campaign to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities will resume once any hostage return-truce deal is implemented, and that the remaining Hamas battalions in Rafah must be destroyed to prevent the terrorist organization from regrouping and launching another October 7-style attack against Israel.

ISRAEL’S DETERMINATION TO FINISH THE WAR IN GAZA IS BEING TESTED

In a radio interview Tuesday morning, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the U.S. decision to allow the Security Council resolution to pass, was “a moral and ethical mistake.

“In our view, it sent a no-good message to anyone on Hamas’ side that the U.S. does not support Israel as much [as it did at the start of the war], and so we need to prove, militarily, that we will stand by our goals,” the foreign minister said.

Netanyahu also said Monday, immediately following the American abstention at the U.N., that he was canceling a planned visit to Washington by an Israeli delegation headed by Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi. President Biden had requested the visit in a phone call with Netanyahu to hold high-level discussions on the U.S. objections to Israel’s planned operation against the last four battalions of Hamas with an estimated 3,000 fighters, who are hiding in the tunnels underneath the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

In an interview the next day with Bloomberg TV, Dermer said that Israel’s war in Gaza, is in “the home stretch,” and implored the U.S. to “stand with us, let us finish the job, and let’s get to a day after where can have a real peace process that can give hope not only to Israelis, but also to Palestinians.”

WHITE HOUSE ACCUSES NETANYAHU OF CREATING A FALSE CRISIS

Meanwhile, the Biden White House told reporters that Netanyahu had over-reacted to the U.S. decision not to kill the Security Council resolution with its veto, and suggested that Netanyahu was deliberately trying to create a false sense of crisis in U.S.-Israel relations by canceling the Israeli delegation’s visit to Washington.

U.S. officials also insisted that their demand conditioning a cease-fire on Hamas’ release of Israeli hostages has not changed.

“It seems like the Prime Minister’s Office is choosing to create a perception of daylight here when they don’t need to do that,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a press briefing.

Meanwhile, in a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week, during his sixth visit to the region since the October 7 attack, Netanyahu said that to declare victory over Hamas, Israel must destroy its last battalions in Rafah. “I told him that I hope we would do this with U.S. support but, if necessary, we will do it alone.”

A recent opinion poll by the Israel Democracy Institute shows that around three-quarters of Jewish Israelis support the expansion of military operations against Hamas into Rafah as a national security imperative.

Netanyahu’s controversial right-wing national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, whose pro-West Bank settlement policies have been harshly criticized by Biden White House officials, called the U.S. abstention at the Security Council Monday, “proof that President Biden is not prioritizing Israel and the free world’s victory over terrorism, but rather his own political considerations,” in a reference to White House fears that the president’s support for Israel could cost him crucial Muslim and pro-Palestinian Democrat votes in the November presidential election.

Ironically, some of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s most outspoken Israeli political critics have charged that Netanyahu is delaying a hostage deal in order to prolong the political survival of his government. Gershon Baskin is a former Israeli hostage negotiator who helped broker the 2011 hostage deal in which Hamas exchanged captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit for the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. Baskin said that “he [Netanyahu] wants a [hostage] deal, but he doesn’t want to pay the [political] price of the deal and he wants to prolong the war.”

“LASTING” SUBSTITUTED FOR A “PERMANENT” CEASE-FIRE

The U.S. agreed to abstain on the Security Council resolution, permitting it to pass, after its 10 Security Council sponsors agreed to a U.S. request to remove the language demanding a “permanent cease-fire” from the original text, due to strong Israeli objections, and replace it with a more ambiguous call for a “lasting cease-fire.” The final text of the resolution calls for “an immediate cease-fire, leading to a lasting sustainable cease-fire, and also the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

After the vote, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, explained that the U.S. abstained instead of voting for the resolution Monday because the revised text still failed to condemn the October 7 attack by Hamas that started the war.

On the other hand, Thomas-Greenfield said, “We fully support some of the critical objectives in this non-binding resolution. We believe it was important for the council to speak out and make clear that any cease-fire must come with the release of all hostages. This is the only path.” She added that, with the change in language, the resolution passed by the Security Council was consistent with the ongoing diplomatic efforts by the United States, Qatar, and Egypt to broker a temporary cease-fire in Gaza in exchange for a Hamas-Israeli hostage for prisoner release. The negotiators, who were meeting in Doha, Qatar, include David Barnea, the head of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency; U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns; Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and the head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel.

WHY THE CEASE-FIRE TALKS WITH HAMAS BROKE DOWN

However, those talks broke down over the weekend when negotiators were unable to bridge the differences between Israel and Hamas over when civilians should be allowed to return to northern Gaza, and the ratio of Palestinian prisoners to be released by Israel in exchange for Israeli hostages being held by Hamas.

Hamas is demanding the immediate return of all of the civilians who fled their homes in northern Gaza following Israeli military requests ahead of its invasion in October. Israel is only willing to permit a gradual flow of civilians northward starting two weeks after a cease-fire deal is signed so that the flow can be properly monitored by Israeli security. Israel is also pushing back against Hamas demands for the release of 30 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails after having been convicted of serious crimes in exchange for the return of each female Israeli soldier being held hostage by Hamas.

Israeli officials said that they expect the negotiations to go slowly because every new proposal must be submitted for approval to Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, who is often hard to communicate with because he is believed to be hiding from the Israeli military in Hamas’ underground tunnel network.

Before voting in favor of the Security Council resolution which passed Monday morning, the Russian Federation expressed disappointment that the resolution did not call for a “permanent” cease-fire but rather for a “lasting” one because the wording was not strong enough. Russia then proposed an amendment to the draft resolution which would have restored the demand for a “permanent cease-fire,” but the amendment did not pass.

After the resolution was approved, Hamas issued a statement declaring that a truce was needed in order to “bury our martyrs who have remained under the rubble” and for “humanitarian needs.” Hamas also thanked the Security Council for its demand for an immediate and “permanent cease-fire that leads to the withdrawal of all Zionist forces from the Gaza Strip, and the return of the displaced to the homes from which they left.” The statement also said that Hamas is willing “to engage in an immediate prisoner exchange process that leads to the release of prisoners on both sides,” and it accused “the occupation [Israel]” of conducting a “war of genocide and ethnic cleansing against our people.”

FOR THE SECURITY COUNCIL, ISRAELI BLOOD IS CHEAP

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, accused the authors of the resolution of hypocrisy. “On the one hand, the resolution says that taking civilians hostage is in violation of international law, yet on the other hand — despite the fact that you know Hamas won’t listen to your calls and release the hostages — you demand a cease-fire.”

He then asked the Security Council why it did not openly condemn Hamas for its human rights abuses and hostage taking on October 7 in the same way it did the Boko Haram terrorist group ten years ago when it kidnapped hundreds of school girls in Nigeria.

“Why can this Council call on Boko Haram to lay down their arms, but the same can’t be demanded of the murderous Hamas terrorists?” the Israeli ambassador asked. “Is the life of little baby Kfir Bibas worth less than the life of a Nigerian child?”

“Sadly, it’s for the same reason why you can condemn [recent] terror attacks in Russia and Iran, but not in Israel. To this Council, Israeli blood is cheap. This is a travesty and I’m disgusted,” Erdan answered.

ISRAEL SUSPENDS COOPERATION WITH UNWRA

David Mencer, a government spokesman, also announced Monday that Israel is suspending all cooperation with UNRWA, the U.N.’s Palestinian relief agency in Gaza, because of the close connection of many UNRWA employees with Hamas. “UNRWA is part of the problem, and we will now stop working with them. We are actively phasing out the use of UNRWA because they perpetuate the conflict rather than try to alleviate it,” Mencer said.

Israel has long complained that UNRWA has helped to perpetuate the conflict with the Palestinians because, unlike any other refugee aid group around the world, it confers refugee status on the descendants of the original 700,000 refugees who were displaced during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. UNRWA also uses textbooks with overtly antisemitic content in its schools to indoctrinate Palestinian children with hatred for Israel.

After Israel submitted convincing proof that a dozen UNRWA employees were directly involved in Hamas’ October 7, the United States, UNRWA’s biggest donor, and several other countries paused their funding imperiling the organization’s finances. But some countries, including Canada, Australia, and Sweden have since restored their contributions to UNRWA to enable it to continue the delivery of humanitarian aid to more than a million civilians in Gaza who have been displaced by the war.

U.S. ABSTENTIONS AT THE U.N. SIGNAL TROUBLE FOR ISRAEL

Over the years, the United States has routinely vetoed dozens of Security Council resolutions criticizing Israel, and on the few occasions when it abstains in votes on such resolutions, allowing them to pass, it is usually to signal the Israeli government that the White House is deeply unhappy with its policies. That was what happened during the last days of Barack Obama’s presidency in 2016 when the U.S. permitted the Security Council to pass a resolution condemning resolution Israel’s West Bank settlements as illegal, and three months ago, when the Biden administration abstained on a resolution demanding more humanitarian aid for Gaza.

However, moments after Monday morning’s Security Council vote, White House National Security spokesman John Kirby denied that the U.S. abstention, permitting the resolution calling for a cease-fire to pass, represented a shift in U.S. policy on the Gaza war away from Israel’s position.

“Nothing has changed about our policy — nothing,” Kirby said. “We still want to see a cease-fire, and we still want to get hostages out — all of them. And we would still want to see more humanitarian assistance get in to the people of Gaza.

“We have been clear, and we’ve been consistent in our support for a cease-fire as part of a hostage deal. That’s how the hostage deal is structured. We wanted to get to a place where we could support that resolution, but because the final text does not have key language that we think is essential, like a condemnation of Hamas, we could not support it.”

Referring to the visit by Israeli officials to Washington that Netanyahu canceled, Kirby remarked, “We were looking forward to having an opportunity to speak to an Israeli delegation later this week about exploring viable options and alternatives to a major ground offensive in Rafah because we don’t believe that a ground offensive in Rafah is the right course of action,” Kirby said. “We felt we had valuable lessons to share.”

“If in fact, there’s not going to be a delegation visit this week, then we will obviously keep having conversations with our Israeli counterparts and doing the best we can to continue to share our perspectives with them.”

“We said weeks ago that we believe a major ground operation in Rafah would be a disaster, absent any proper accounting for the safety and security of the refugees that are still there,” Kirby explained. “We still believe the same thing.”

DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS THAT ISRAEL WILL NOT STOP SHORT OF VICTORY

Kirby also confirmed that the meetings scheduled between Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who arrived in Washington shortly before the Monday Security Council vote, and senior Biden administration officials would go forward as scheduled to discuss the issues of hostages still being held in Gaza, expediting the delivery of humanitarian aid and the details of how Israel plans to protect the civilians in Rafah during its planned offensive. Last month, Israel put forward an evacuation plan for civilians in Rafah. It envisions sending them to 15 campsites of around 25,000 tents each to be erected on sites, outside of the Rafah battle zone, complete with suitable medical facilities.

Ahead of Gallant’s meetings with Biden’s National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, and his host and American counterpart, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austen, the Israeli defense minister issued a statement declaring that “I will make clear the importance of collapsing the Hamas regime and returning the hostages to their homes. We will act against Hamas everywhere, even in areas where we have not been yet.” He also declared that Israel has “no moral right to stop the war in Gaza until we return all the hostages to their homes.” Gallant also warned that “If we don’t reach a clear and absolute victory in Gaza, it could bring a war in the north [against Hezbollah] closer.”

Hamas remains committed to its 1988 charter which declares that “there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through jihad,” and the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

An aide to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas also issued a tweet on his behalf, welcoming the Security Council resolution and calling “for a permanent cessation to this criminal war and Israel’s immediate withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.”

During a televised interview with ABC News Sunday, Vice President Kamala Harris refused to say what kind of consequences Israel would face from the U.S. if it launched a major attack on Hamas in Rafah. “We’re going to take it one step at a time. . . I am ruling out nothing.

“We have been clear in multiple conversations and in every way that any major military operation in Rafah would be a huge mistake,” Harris said.

“I have studied the maps. There’s nowhere for those folks to go. We’re looking at about a million and a half people in Rafah who are there because they were told to go there… so we’ve been very clear that it would be a mistake to move into Rafah with any type of military operation,” the vice president declared.

But Trump’s longtime friend and ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, was very skeptical of Harris’ claim, suggesting that, “it must have been an awfully small map [that] left out Egypt and other Arab countries.”

NETANYAHU’S PURIM ANALOGY

That same day, when Netanyahu was visiting with Israeli troops celebrating Purim, the prime minister compared Haman to Hamas, by declaring that “absolute evil cannot be defeated by leaving it alone in Rafah.

“Like in ancient times, like our brothers, we too unite, dream, and win,” Netanyahu declared. “We will enter Rafah and achieve absolute victory. We eliminated Haman, we will also eliminate [Yahya] Sinwar,” the leader of Hamas who is now in hiding in Gaza.

Also on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron said in a phone conversation with Netanyahu that any forced transfer of people from Rafah would constitute “a war crime.”

Macron also condemned Israel’s declaration last week of almost 2000 acres (3.8 square miles) in the West Bank as state-owned land suitable for new settlements. The French president urged Netanyahu to immediately open all Israeli crossing points into Gaza to permit the entry of all humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Iran’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, predicted that the war in Gaza will lead to a “new world order” that will work to Iran’s advantage. According to Iran’s Fars News service, Raisi “described Palestine as the most important issue in the Muslim world, and stressed that the resistance by the Palestinian people in Gaza will lead to major changes in the region’s status quo.” That is why, according to Seth J. Frantzman, the senior Middle East correspondent and analyst for the Jerusalem Post, Iran doesn’t care about the human suffering, and is happy to see the fighting in Gaza continue.

U.S. EMBARRASSED BY VETOES FROM RUSSIA AND CHINA

Last Friday, the U.S. proposed its own Security Council resolution on Gaza which called “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” an imperative. Because it was the first time the U.S. explicitly called for a cease-fire, the resolution was seen as a warning to Israel from Biden against launching an attack on the last Hamas strongholds in Rafah. But in the end, it became a diplomatic embarrassment for the United States, when it was vetoed by Russia and China. The vote was 11 in favor of the U.S. resolution, and 3 votes against, including Algeria, with the South American country of Guyana abstaining.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia accused the American ambassador and Secretary of State Blinken of “deliberately misleading the international community,” by submitting a resolution that was “some kind of an empty rhetorical exercise. . . [whose] sole purpose [was]. . . to play to the [American] voters [who object to Biden’s support for Israel], to throw them a bone in the form of some kind of a mention of a cease-fire in Gaza … and to ensure the impunity of Israel, whose crimes in the draft are not even assessed.”

China’s U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun, said, “If the U.S. was serious about a cease-fire, it wouldn’t have vetoed time and again multiple council resolutions.” The U.S. had previously used its veto in the Security Council to kill three previous resolutions because they had demanded the imposition of a permanent cease-fire, which would have given Hamas a de facto victory over Israel.

Speaking in support of the U.S. draft resolution U.S. Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said, “By adopting the resolution before us, we can put pressure on Hamas to accept the deal on the table.”

After that resolution was vetoed, Thomas-Greenfield said that Russia and China had “deeply cynical reasons” for refusing to allow the American-sponsored cease-fire resolution to pass. They could not bring themselves to allow Hamas to be condemned by the international community for its terrorist attack on southern Israel on October 7, which the American resolution would have done for the first time.

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. BLASTS RUSSIA’S HYPOCRISY

She accused Russia of putting “politics over progress” and having “the audacity and hypocrisy to throw stones when it lives in a glass house” after having launched “an unprovoked war on its neighbor,” Ukraine, in February 2022. She also said that Russia and China were casting their vetoes for the “petty” reason that they “simply did not want to vote for a resolution that was penned by the United States.” John Kirby agreed with her assessment when he said that Russia and China would “rather shoot down something we authored simply because we authored it.”

Before he left Israel to fly back to the United States Friday after his meeting with Netanyahu in Israel, Secretary of State Blinken, also condemned the “cynical” Russian and Chinese vetoes of the U.S.-sponsored resolution at the Security Council. “We were trying to show the international community a sense of urgency about getting a cease-fire tied to the release of hostages, something that everyone, including the countries that vetoed the resolution, should have been able to get behind,” the secretary of state said. “It’s unimaginable why countries wouldn’t be able to do that.”

BIDEN STILL PUSHING FOR THE 2-STATE SOLUTION

The U.S. had previously vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding the war in Gaza since it began, two of which were opposed by Israel because they would have demanded an immediate cease-fire. Those vetoes further angered pro-Palestinian demonstrators, including progressive Democrats, American Muslims, and Hamas sympathizers, who have been protesting President Biden’s support for Israel on college campuses and in cities across the country since the war in Gaza began last October.

But Biden did not step up his public pressure against Prime Minister Netanyahu and announce his “red line” against Israel’s planned final ground offensive against Hamas in Rafah in an MSNBC televised interview until the anti-Israel demonstrators organized sizable protest votes against President Biden’s delegate slates in state Democrat primaries earlier this month in Michigan and Minnesota, threatening his re-election chances against Donald Trump in November.

While the cease-fire talks are now deadlocked again, the Biden administration still hopes that they will yield an initial temporary cease-fire and prisoner swap, leading to a follow-up agreement between Israel and Hamas extending the cease-fire indefinitely, enabling the release of the remaining hostages, both alive and dead, and the return of Gaza’s civilians to their homes. Ultimately, the Biden administration dreams of an international partnership to rebuild the war-devastated portions of Gaza, as part of the long-sought two-state solution. It would include a demilitarized Palestinian state, ruled by a reformed version of the Palestinian Authority, living side-by-side in peace with Israel, “happily ever after.”

But a word of warning: “Don’t hold your breath!” Opinion polls taken since October 7 show that large majorities of both Israeli Jews and Palestinians living in both the West Bank and Gaza are opposed to restarting negotiations to establish a two-state solution, both now and for the foreseeable future.

TRUMP URGES ISRAEL TO FINISH THE WAR QUICKLY

Meanwhile, in an interview with former president Donald Trump published here, Trump was very supportive of Israel’s position, but urged its leaders “to finish up your war” as quickly as possible because the one-sided news pictures “of bombs being dropped into buildings in Gaza. . . It’s a very bad picture [of Israel] for the world.”

Trump blamed military officials in Israel’s Defense Ministry for releasing too many pictures of destruction. “Every night, I would watch buildings pour down on people. . . I think Israel wanted to show that it’s tough, but sometimes you shouldn’t be doing that,” the former president said.

“Israel has to be very careful because you’re losing a lot of support,” Trump warned. “You have to get the job done. And you have to get on to peace, to get on to a normal life for Israel, and for everybody else.”

Part of Israel’s public relations problem is the fact that, in addition to their liberal bias, the major international news outlets reporting in Gaza hire local reporters and cameramen as stringers who are well aware that they might be killed if they dare to report or photograph any stories that reveal Hamas’ dark side to the rest of the world.

Hamas also controls the war casualty figures issued by Gaza’s Ministry of Health, which, according to Abraham Wyner, a professor of statistics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, are completely unreliable. Also, the ministry’s claim that more than 32,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war started does not acknowledge that almost half that number were Hamas fighters killed in combat with Israel, and that a significant portion of the remaining civilian casualties were killed by the estimated 12% of Hamas missiles aimed at Israel which fell short and landed in Gaza.

In fact, because Israel routinely has consistently gone far out of its way to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza, the ratio of civilian to Hamas casualties is far lower than in comparable battles in densely populated urban battlefields, such as the U.S.-led assault that drove ISIS fighters out of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq in 2017.

By contrast, Hamas routinely uses Palestinian civilians as human shields against Israeli attacks. When Israel defeats Hamas’ military formations in combat, its surviving gunmen then melt into the civilian population to engage in guerrilla warfare against Israeli soldiers, and when Israeli troops counter-attack, they are then falsely accused of attacking Palestinian civilians. Those are some of the reasons why Israel has been losing the public relations war against Hamas so badly while defeating it on the Gaza battlefield.

JARED KUSHNER SUGGESTS MOVING GAZAN CIVILIANS INTO THE NEGEV

Meanwhile, Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who was instrumental in negotiating the successful Abraham Accords between Israel and several anti-Iran Arab states while Trump was president, was heavily criticized by the liberal news media last week over his recorded comments at a February 15 Harvard event which were posted online last week, in which he suggested an alternative end game for the war in Gaza. “From Israel’s perspective,” Kushner said, “I would do my best to move the people out [of Gaza] and then clean it up.” Kushner then suggested that Israel should consider moving Gaza’s civilians temporarily into vacant areas of the Negev desert, an idea which the Biden administration has told Israel would be unacceptable. In the long run, Kushner added, “Gaza’s waterfront property could be very valuable … if people [there] would focus on building up livelihoods [instead of terrorism].”

The idea is not entirely new. Before the Second Intifada started in 2000, there was a thriving legalized gambling casino operating in PA-controlled Yericho, and patronized by Israeli Jews. Also, a month before Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, Israeli businessman Shmuel Flatto-Sharon was in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to turn the vacated Israeli settlement of Elei Sinai in northern Gaza into a resort town with a hotel and casino.

Unfortunately, that plan never materialized. The beautiful homes and operating businesses that the Jewish settlers left behind in Gaza were trashed by the Palestinians and sold for scrap instead of being used as the foundation for economic development. Just two years later, Hamas staged a bloody coup, ousting the Palestinian Authority from Gaza, and turning it into a giant base for launching missiles and terrorist attacks against Israel, ultimately leading to the October 7 attack. But as Kushner now reminds us, it didn’t have to end that way.

FINISHING THE JOB

Once Hamas is finally defeated, Israel will have a real opportunity to shape a lasting peace with its Arab neighbors. But first, it must prove to its so-called friends and enemies alike that it is determined to finish the job that it has started in Gaza, hopefully with, but if not, without, continued support from President Biden.

 

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