by Uri Dromi*
In her seminal book “The March of Folly,” Barbara Tuchman listed the great paradoxes in history, where governments pursued policies against their own interests: Trojans who let Romans smuggle the deadly horse into their city; popes who encouraged the creation of the Protestant Church; George III, who let America get away (at least he got some good moments in “Hamilton”); America’s fiasco in Vietnam.
If a sequel were written today, Hamas’ barbarous attack on Israel on Oct. 7 might have been another notorious example.
What was Hamas’ aim in launching that attack? In 2018, Yahya Sinwar, the man who had masterminded it, told La Repubblica reporter Francesca Borri that prisoner exchange was his main priority. If true, though, then Hamas didn’t need to abduct 240 people; it could have settled for one. In 2011, Israel, under Benjamin Netanyahu, exchanged 1,027 Palestinian prisoners — Sinwar himself among them — for one Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
But then Sinwar surprised the Italian journalist by saying that he didn’t want war anymore. “I want the end of the siege,” he mused. “You walk to the beach at sunset and you see all these teenagers on the shore chatting and wondering what the world looks like across the sea. What life looks like,” he added. “I want them free.”
So the goal of the October attack, then, was lifting the siege on Gaza? A worthy cause, one might say, at least in the eyes of the people of Gaza, if one disregards the fact that it was the terrorism of Hamas itself that brought about the siege.
Except that on Oct. 26, in Doha, Qatar, Khalil al-Hayya, one of Hamas’s top leaders, confessed to the New York Times that Hamas couldn’t care less about the plight of fellow Gazans. “Hamas’ goal is not to run Gaza and to bring it water and electricity and such,” he frankly admitted. “This battle was not because we wanted fuel or laborers,” he added. “It did not seek to improve the situation in Gaza.” So what was it about? Here we come to the crux of the matter: “We succeeded in putting the Palestinian issue back on the table,” said al-Hayya, “and now no one in the region is experiencing calm.”
That is quite a reasonable goal. The policy of the Israeli governments under Netanyahu, of ignoring the Palestinian problem and trying to circumvent it by reaching out to the Gulf states, was wrong, perhaps enough to win a chapter in a sequence to The March of Folly as well. However, the question arises: what, according to Hamas, is the meaning of putting the Palestinian issue back on the table again?
Wadah Khanfar, President of Al Sharq Forum and former Director General ofAl Jazeera Media Network, has an answer. In a recent, long interview, this Hamas sympathizer explains that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be solved when all the Palestinian territories lost in 1948 and 1967 will be returned to their owners and all the Palestinian refugees will return to their homes. As simple as that. And what about the nine million Jews who live there now? Khanfar dodges the direct question and instead praises the good old Muslim days, when Arabs lived so amicably with Jews (forgetting to mention that the Jews had to pay a special tax to be treated fairly).
Unlike the slick Khanfar, however, Ghazi Hamad, a member of Hamas’s political bureau, had the straight answer. In aninterview with Lebanese TV channel LBC on October 24, he said plainly that “Israel is a country that has no place on our land.” When asked whether this meant the complete annihilation of Israel, Hamad replied: “Yes, of course.” Actually, one doesn’t have to wait for Hamad to remind us of this. Already the Hamas Charter, published in 1988, stipulates that “(t)he land of Palestine is sacred Muslim land and no one, including Arab rulers, has the authority to give up any of it.”
By launching its monstrous attack on Israel, Hamas has indeed accomplished its goal of reminding the world of the Palestinian problem. The consequences, however, will be the total opposite of what it had hoped for. President Biden, in Oct. 25, summarized it well: “There’s no going back to the status quo as it stood on Oct. 6, that means Hamas can no longer terrorize Israel and use Palestinians as human shields” Biden said. “It also means, when this crisis is over there has to be a vision of what comes next, and, in our view, it has to be a two-state solution.”
In other words: Hamas will be destroyed, or at least critically weakened, and Israel is here to stay. What a chapter this could make in a sequel to “The March of Folly.”
*the spokesman of the Rabin and Peres governments from 1992-1996
**first published in: Miamiherald.com