The Palestinian Hamas terrorist group that controls the Gaza Strip has reportedly accepted, in principle, an Egyptian and United Nations initiative for a long-term ceasefire with Israel. According to some reports, the initiative calls for a ceasefire of five to ten years in return for the easing of economic sanctions and humanitarian and economic aid to the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
This ceasefire initiative is rather disturbing: it requires no meaningful concessions on the part of Hamas. It leaves, for example, wholly intact Hamas's extremist ideology, which calls for the destruction of Israel, and does not demand that Hamas lay down its weapons.
Essentially, the message to Hamas from the international community is that it will reap rich rewards for nothing more than temporarily halting its terror attacks on Israel.
As the past few weeks have shown, Hamas appears to be more than willing to sit quietly in order to get the benefits and privileges offered by Egypt and the UN. Hamas has been facing a severe crisis as the result of the economic sanctions imposed on the Gaza Strip, particularly those initiated by its rivals in the Palestinian Authority government of President Mahmoud Abbas. Thus, Hamas is grabbing hold of the Egyptian and UN proposal as a kind of life-vest.
Once the ceasefire agreement goes into effect, Hamas will have additional time to continue amassing weapons and tightening its grip on the Gaza Strip.
Under the umbrella of the ceasefire, Hamas will be able to continue building new tunnels that will be used to infiltrate Israel to kill civilians and soldiers. Hamas will also be able to continue smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip through tunnels along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Thanks to the Egyptian and UN-brokered ceasefire agreement, Hamas will be able to do all these things without having to worry about an Israeli military response.
The proposed ceasefire agreement will give Hamas five to ten years to prepare for the next war with Israel. During this period, Hamas will have recruited tens of thousands of more Palestinians into its ranks, turning them into jihadists in preparation for the jihad (holy war) against Israel.
In other words, the proposed ceasefire agreement absolves Hamas, the de facto government in the coastal enclave, of its duties and responsibilities towards its own constituents. Hamas will no longer have to worry about improving the living conditions of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip because the UN and the rest of the international community will be fulfilling that job.
The international community and the UN will, according to the proposed ceasefire, attend to the needs of the Palestinian population and will even launch various economic and humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas leaders will be sitting in their luxurious offices and homes and laughing at the duped Western donors, who will even be funding fuel and electricity supplies to the people living under its rule.
Worse, the proposed agreement, now being discussed by Hamas leaders with Egyptian and UN officials, offers the Hamas rulers a seaport and airport in the nearby Egyptian peninsula of Sinai. Of course, there is no guarantee that Hamas will not use these ports to smuggle weapons into the Gaza Strip. Those who believe that the Egyptians will be able to prevent the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip are living under the dangerous illusion of a bribery-free Middle East.
Besides, the Egyptian authorities already have their hands full with the various Islamist terrorist groups that have been operating in the Sinai Peninsula in recent years. If the Egyptian army and other security agencies have thus far been unable to root out the problem of the terror groups in Sinai, how exactly are they supposed to deal with Hamas's weapons smuggling?
Moreover, what about Hamas's involvement with some of the jihadi groups in Sinai? For the past few years, reports have surfaced in several Arab media outlets about Hamas's cooperation with some of these groups in carrying out terror attacks against the Egyptian military and civilians in Sinai.
Far more worrying is that any ceasefire agreement will be perceived as a reward for Hamas-sponsored terrorism and violence against Israel. Since last March, Hamas has been dispatching thousands of Palestinians, including women and children, to the border with Israel as part of the so-called March of Return. As part of these protests, Palestinian have been throwing explosive devices, petrol bombs and stones at Israeli soldiers. They have also been launching hundreds of flaming kites and balloons at Israeli communities along the border with the Gaza Strip, and causing fires that have destroyed tens of thousands of acres of agricultural fields and forests.
Pictured: The Kerem Shalom Crossing burns on May 4, 2018, after it was torched by Palestinian rioters from Gaza. Kerem Shalom is used to transfer thousands of tons of goods and humanitarian aid from Israel to the Gaza Strip. (Image source: IDF/Flickr)
As if that were not enough, Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip last week again fired more than 180 rockets and projectiles at Israeli communities.
Such rocket attacks are far from uncommon; they have been taking place since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. It was then that Israel handed the entire Gaza Strip to the Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA). In 2007, Hamas violently ejected the PA from the Gaza Strip, and has been in control of the territory since then.
A ceasefire may sound good, but in the current circumstances it will send a deadly message to Hamas and the other terror factions in the Gaza Strip: namely, that long-term terror bombardment of Israel gets you economic and humanitarian projects funded by the United Nations and Western donors and, if things go well, perhaps even a seaport and airport.
The proposed ceasefire agreement, therefore, is nothing but a UN and Egyptian bribe to Hamas to agree to a temporary halt of terror attacks against Israel. Appeasing terrorists, however, is a recipe for perpetuating and escalating the conflict and emboldening the terrorists. In addition, it will only increase Hamas's appetite to continue extorting Israel and the rest of the world for more concessions.
Negotiating with Hamas grants legitimacy to terror groups, making them appear as acceptable parties. By contrast, one might note that the UN never considered initiating a negotiated ceasefire between the US and Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror group or ISIS. The current negotiations that the Egyptians and the UN are conducting with Hamas to achieve a ceasefire with Israel sends precisely the wrong message to jihadi groups around the world. These negotiations will, in fact, spur these groups to continue their terror attacks with the hope of gaining legitimacy and forcing the international community to follow suit and negotiate also with them, as they have been doing with Hamas. Is there any difference between Hamas and Al-Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram, the so-called Islamic State in Western Africa? Not really.
Hamas, as mentioned, is of course happy that the Egyptians, the UN and other international parties are chasing it and literally begging it to accept a temporary truce with Israel, especially under such golden conditions. Hamas has nothing to lose by agreeing to a ceasefire that will allow it further to strengthen its military power in the Gaza Strip, while not being required to cease bad behavior or do anything to help its own people.
A sign of Hamas's elation can be found in a statement issued by its leaders in the Gaza Strip on August 8, 2018. The statement, which was issued after a series of meetings between Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups, added that Hamas will not pay any "political price" for the lifting of the sanctions on the Gaza Strip.
So here we have Hamas itself making it clear that even if a ceasefire agreement is achieved with Israel, the terror group will never abandon its dream of pursuing the fight until Israel is replaced with an Islamist state.
We are left with some questions: Why is the United Nations negotiating with a terror group that is sworn to Israel's destruction? Why, instead, are the UN and Egypt and other parties not demanding that Hamas disarm and relinquish control of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, who have been held hostage for the past 11 years? Why is the UN apparently prepared to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the Gaza Strip while keeping Hamas in power and even allowing it to become stronger? Why is the UN being allowed to play the role of savior of Hamas? The next time Hamas targets Israeli civilians, perhaps the UN and all those who are now trying to appease Hamas will have some answers.
Bassam Tawil, a Muslim Arab, is based in the Middle East.