As time goes by, Hamas is evolving from a local and regional threat to a global security challenge and a severe impediment to a regional peace with international ramifications. This is a change that should be recognized by the international community, and which calls for a new approach to tackle the problem.
In 2007 Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip ended the Oslo Peace process. It ended it by undercutting Oslo’s basic assumptions, a core principle of which was for Israel to give up territory in exchange for peace. This principle fell apart when the Palestinians split into two warring entities. The Palestinians have been split since 2007. It's high time to acknowledge that and to think anew.
Hamas is not bound by any past agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, and its rise to power created a dead end situation, in which the Palestinians have nothing they can deliver to Israel.
The end of Oslo was totally and wishfully ignored by the international community, until the arrival of the Trump Administration.
The current US Administration understands that ignoring this truth was counterfactual, and formulated a new position: There could be no Israeli-Palestinian agreement that excluded the Gaza Strip. This was the first time that an American administration recognized reality in the region as it is, and the opportunities that stem from that.
Meanwhile, in Israel, both the citizenry and the government realize there is no solution to the problem of Gaza in its present form.
Despite several rounds of escalation in recent months, and mass arson attacks on southern Israeli fields, the Israeli political system is almost unanimous in its understanding that Israel has nothing to gain by reconquering Gaza.
As a result, Israel has made do with deterring and containing Hamas, and accepting that the objective of real quiet is, for now, out of reach.
Yet the world must not turn away from the issue of Gaza. Gaza doesn't just pose a challenge to Israel. It poses a challenge to which the world must rise. Gaza unresolved creates greater regional and global damage with time.
While Israel will always know how to deal with security threats from the strip, and will always be capable of defending itself, the fact of the matter is that the Hamas-ruled enclave cannot remain caged and contained forever.
Egypt, at some point, will have to open the Rafah Crossing and allow Gazans passage into their territory. Hamas’s destructive policies are an obstacle to such opportunities.
International pressure and the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza will create the desire for tens of thousands—or hundreds of thousands—of Palestinians to flee the failing Strip. Some will head to Egypt, but others will head to Europe.
In Gaza, every child is exposed to radical jihadist indoctrination programs as reprehensible in content as the brainwashing used by ISIS. With two million people living in an extremist ideological environment, a refugee influx from such a population into European states would likely create a serious security threat.
As a result, there exists a clear interest in tackling Hamas now. The international community must stop the continued indoctrination of the Gazan populace. It must alleviate the dire humanitarian situation created by Hamas’s actions.
The way to do this is to create a new regional reality in which Gaza can be the catalyst for change among the Palestinians. Solving the Palestinian issue would yield a new level of cooperation between Israel and the Sunni Muslim world.
A paradigm shift is required to achieve this, based on the understanding that Hamas is not Israel’s ‘private’ problem, but rather, a global problem. Just as the world understood that ISIS is its problem, it must reach the same conclusion regarding Hamas.
Policies that stem from such an understanding could lead to an international coalition putting pressure on Hamas to become partners in the construction of a new Palestinian state in Gaza and the northern Sinai region.
If Hamas is isolated, and faces pressure and threats from Israel, Egypt, Europe, and the US, Hamas would likely agree to take part in an initiative aimed at creating an enlarged Palestinian state in Gaza and north Sinai, which would offer a new horizon for Gazan civilians.
Of course, such a pressure campaign can fail. In that case, those same international forces should launch a military campaign, to either destroy Hamas, or to force it to come to heel. A military campaign against Hamas should be as forceful, sustained and determined as that which is currently waged against ISIS.
A failure to create this change will mean that Israel will pay a relatively small price, which it can deal with. The cost of ignoring Hamas will be paid, first and foremost, by the Gazan people, then Egypt, and then Europe.
The two million Gazans trapped in their enclave will not remain there forever, and at some point, if the situation is left untreated, they will begin to permeate into areas beyond Gaza, and influence other regions. They won't enter Israel—this has already been tried in recent months, and it ended in failure. In the end, many will flee to Europe.
According to internal polls over half of the Gazan population has expressed a desire to emigrate due to their poor conditions. Some have said they will leave the first chance they get. If the current situation is left as it is, it will only be a matter of time until this happens.
It is in everyone’s interest to take decisive and preventative action now.