A bus burns near Kfar Aza, Israel, on November 12, 2018, after being hit by an anti-tank guided missile fired by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip. (Image source: Hamas video screenshot)
Last week, as efforts were underway to achieve a new truce between Hamas and Israel, this author asked a legitimate and straightforward question: Can Hamas be trusted?
The conclusion was that a real truce between Israel and Hamas can be achieved only after the Palestinian jihadi terrorists are removed from power, and not rewarded for violence and threats.
Days later, Hamas itself provided proof as to why it cannot be trusted with any deal, including a truce.
Since yesterday, Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip have been firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. The current barrage began hours after Hamas terrorists attacked Israeli commandos inside the Gaza Strip, killing an Israeli officer and moderately wounding a soldier. In response, the Israeli army killed seven terrorists, including a top Hamas military commander -- Sheikh Nur Baraka.
The Israeli commando unit was not inside the Gaza Strip to kill or kidnap anyone. They were there as part of a routine covert operation to foil terrorist attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups. The commandos, all the same, were attacked by Hamas terrorists who did try to kill or kidnap some of them. The soldiers of the elite Israeli unit managed to return to Israel under the cover of Israeli airstrikes called in to aid their exfiltration.
What is clear is that it was Hamas, not Israel, that initiated the armed clash with the Israeli force. It was Hamas that attacked the Israeli soldiers, killed the officer, and then rushed to accuse Israel of launching a "new aggression" against the Gaza Strip. When the Israeli soldiers tried to defend themselves and killed seven terrorists with return fire, Hamas accused Israel of committing a "despicable crime" against Palestinians.
It is worth noting that the Hamas attack on the Israeli commandos came hours after a Qatari envoy left the Gaza Strip. The Qatari official, Mohammed El-Amadi, had arrived in the Gaza Strip last week carrying suitcases stuffed with $15 million in cash. The money was delivered to Hamas leaders so that they could pay salaries to thousands of their employees in the Gaza Strip. The Qatari financial grant was delivered to the Gaza Strip with Israel's approval. The Qatari envoy even entered the Gaza Strip through Israel's Erez border crossing.
Why did Israel facilitate the transfer of the Qatari cash to the Gaza Strip? Israel has been -- and still is -- trying to avoid an all-out war with Hamas.
Israel is not afraid of Hamas. Israel simply does not want the Palestinian civilians living under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip to pay another heavy price for the foolish acts of their leaders. Israel, in fact, has repeatedly expressed a desire to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians there.
In recent years, Israel has been actively working to support reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli measures include the upgrading of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza to more than 800 truckloads of building materials and other goods to enter Gaza on a daily basis, and facilitating the passage of more than 3.4 million tons of materials into Gaza since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
Earlier this year, Israel presented to the EU, US, UN, and the World Bank various projects that were approved by the Israeli government to develop infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, promote energy solutions and create employment opportunities for the Palestinians there.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended last week's deal with Qatar by saying it was aimed at preventing a "humanitarian crisis" in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu said that he would do "whatever I can" to keep Israelis living in communities adjacent to the border with Gaza safe, while at the same time working to prevent a humanitarian crisis.
Hamas took Qatar's $15 million cash grant, paid its employees, and days later has resumed its terrorist attacks against Israel.
This is Hamas's way of saying thank you to the Qataris and Israelis who have been working hard to reach a truce in the Gaza Strip and avoid another war -- one that is likely to cause more suffering to the two million Palestinians living there.
Hamas has clearly interpreted the goodwill gesture of Israel and Qatar as a sign of weakness. Hamas leaders have even gone on the record as saying that the $15 million grant was the "fruit" of the weekly violent riots that it has been organizing along the border with Israel since March. Shortly after the Qatari envoy delivered the grant to the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum used those very words: he boasted that the Palestinians were finally reaping the fruits of their violent protests along the Gaza-Israel border.
Hamas's stance is reminiscent of its reaction to the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Then, Hamas and other Palestinians also interpreted the Israeli "disengagement" from the Gaza Strip -- intended to give Gaza the chance to become a Singapore on the Mediterranean -- as a sign of Israeli weakness and retreat.
A few months later, Hamas even won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election -- largely because it claimed that it had forced Israel to pull out of the Gaza Strip by conducting suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Hamas told Palestinians back then: vote for us because we drove the Jews out of the Gaza Strip through the armed struggle.
The renewed Hamas attacks on Israel serve as a reminder that the terrorist group is not interested in a real truce. Hamas wants millions of dollars paid to its employees so that it can continue to prepare for war with Israel while not having to worry about the welfare of its people.
Qatar's $15 million cash grant has failed to stop Hamas from launching hundreds of rockets into Israel. On the contrary, the money has only emboldened Hamas and increased its appetite to continue its jihad to eliminate Israel. All the money in the world will not convince Hamas to abandon its ideology or soften its position toward Israel.
If Hamas is in fact interested in a truce, it is not because it wants peace with Israel. Rather, it is because Hamas needs "breathing space" that will allow it to continue developing and amassing weapons, and preparing for more attacks on Israel. Anyone who puts his or her faith in Hamas tempering its objectives is living in an illusion.
Hamas has a long-standing tradition of violating ceasefires with Israel.
Even if the Egyptians, Qataris and the UN manage to end the latest attacks on Israel, Hamas will never abandon its plan to destroy Israel and kill as many Jews as possible. Hamas will continue to violate ceasefires. If Qatar fulfills its promise to send more suitcases stuffed with millions of dollars to the Gaza Strip, Hamas will continue to laugh all the way to the bank.
What the international mediators need to understand is that there is only one solution to the crisis in the Gaza Strip: removing Hamas from power and destroying its military capabilities. They also need to understand that there is only one language that Hamas understands: the language of force. Until the mediators internalize this reality, Hamas will continue to make a mockery of everyone, including its own people and those who are trying to prevent a humanitarian disaster there. The assumption that if you pay terrorists millions of dollars they will stop attacking you -- rather than using the funds to build up their forces -- has proven to be false.
Bassam Tawil is a Muslim Arab based in the Middle East.