Leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip Yahya Sinwar
Our extortion arrangement with Hamas
Opinion: Israel might think its strong, but Gaza Strip leaders know we're as squeezable as ever, especially as elections near yet again; a strong country would have sent Hamas soul searching, with no gas or fishing perimeter, until they realize they have to stop the firebombs and explosives
Yahya Sinwar leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip understood years ago, back when he was held in the Israeli prison: Israel is not really a strong country. It knows how to make noise, but its leadership has no back bone.
The wave of incendiary balloons in Gaza border Israeli communities ended yet again with another arrangement that has no hope of lasting, which is a microcosm of failing Israeli policies.
This time, it started because of a conflict between two Palestinian ministers: Ghazi Hamad, the Hamas government's man on civilian welfare, including the distribution of the Qatari stipend for the needy. The other, his counterpart in Ramallah, Ahmed Majdalani, who keeps some loyal clerks in Gaza looking out for the Palestinian Authoritiy's interests.
Earlier this month, when the Qatari representative arrived in order to distribute $100 to 100,000 families in need, Majdalani discovered that several thousands of the families were of Hamas members. He lodged a complaint with Qatar and Israel, and the money distribution was halted. The UN has also not yet given Hamas the money it promised it, in order to pay unemployed workers.
Hamas then began its extortion procedure: if the PLO and UN give us trouble, we will pressure Israel. It's bound to sort things out for us.
And that's how things fly: more than 15 fires every day, far more explosive devices on the border fence and a bonus — Hamas announced it is experimenting with long-range missiles. Israel's Pavlovian response was quick to come: it limited the Strip's fishing perimeter and gas supply.
Security officials know they're making fools of themselves with these failed zig zags in policy, but play along.
Hamas is convinced that Israel is even more squeezable as elections near, and isn't too worried about a day or two with no electricity. IDF and government spokespeople, however, are quick to tell us how Hamas is begging Israel to stop. If we believe them, the tear supply in Gaza is in danger of running out, after a year of pleading.
Hamas didn’t even have to go very far this time around. Egyptian intelligence emissaries were already in the Strip, ready to cool things down and get the PA and Hamas talking.
When things heated up, one delegate drove by Jerusalem and suggested Israel call it a day. That it should give them the Qatari money, their fishing perimeter, their gas and they'll calm down. Hamas thinks so little of Israel it even demanded that it increase the number of permits to leave the Strip through the Erez crossing as a condition for the deal. Israel was just brave enough to decline.
Throuhout this crisis, Israel was busy at work, building infrastructure for water and power to Gaza.
An independent and secure country should have sent Hamas packing until it has no choice but to stop. This extortion only leads to future extortion. And if that's not enough to make Israelis understand it they are led by people that are too far-sighted to see beyond the tip of their nose — we might even deserve this.