The Hamas charter does not talk about improving the living conditions of the Palestinians. It does not talk about boosting the economy or creating job opportunities for unemployed Palestinians. Instead, the charter talks about jihad (holy war) and urges all Arabs and Muslims not to abandon the fight against Israel. Pictured: Hamas gunmen parade on trucks with rockets in a street in Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on May 27, 2021. (Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP via Getty Images)
Palestinian leaders have again proved that they are continually and cynically putting their own interests before the best interests of their people.
On September 13, Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid presented a plan for improving the conditions of the two million Palestinians living in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Addressing a conference of the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at Reichman University in Herzliya, Lapid called his plan -- dubbed "Economy for Security" -- a "more realistic approach towards reconstruction [of the Gaza Strip] in exchange for disarmament [of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups]."
The plan consists of two phases. The first stage would include an overhaul of the Gaza Strip's electricity, health and transportation systems in exchange for Hamas halting its military build-up. The second phase would include major infrastructure projects in the Gaza Strip, including the construction of a seaport, connecting the coastal enclave to the West Bank and encouraging international investment in the Palestinian economy.
This was not the first time that an Israeli official had offered to help the residents of the Gaza Strip at a time when most of the Arabs are doing nothing to assist their Palestinian brothers.
In 2018, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman offered to turn the Gaza Strip into a prosperous territory by creating jobs and building infrastructure.
Lieberman proposed turning the Gaza Strip "into the Singapore of the Middle East" by building a seaport and an airport and by creating an industrial zone that would provide jobs to 40,000 Palestinians. Lieberman set one condition -- that Hamas agree to demilitarization and to dismantling its tunnel and rocket systems.
Hamas rejected the Israeli defense minister's offer and said that it would never agree to lay down its weapons or stop its terrorist attacks against Israel. Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Zahar said that if Hamas wanted the Gaza Strip to be like Singapore, it would already have made it happen.
Zahar responded in a similar manner to the recent offer by the Israeli foreign minister. Hamas rejects Lapid's "failed" plan, he said, adding that the terrorist movement, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist, will not surrender its weapons.
Zahar stressed that Hamas continues to adhere to its charter, which calls for the "liberation of all of Palestine," a euphemism for the elimination of Israel.
The Hamas charter does not talk about improving the living conditions of the Palestinians. It does not talk about boosting the economy or creating job opportunities for unemployed Palestinians.
Instead, the charter talks about jihad (holy war) and urges all Arabs and Muslims not to abandon the fight against Israel:
"Leaving the circle of conflict with Israel is a major act of treason and it will bring curse on its perpetrators. World Zionism and Imperialist forces have been attempting, with smart moves and considered planning, to push the Arab countries, one after another, out of the circle of conflict with Zionism, in order, ultimately, to isolate the Palestinian people."
Another Hamas official, Hazem Qassem, also rejected the offer by the Israeli foreign minister to improve the living conditions of the residents of the Gaza Strip.
Qassem too dismissed any talk about disarming Hamas and other terrorist groups. "The people of the Gaza Strip want their freedom," he said.
"They want the return of their land. Israel does not know the reality of the Palestinian people and believes that economic solutions would prompt the Palestinians to abandon their goals of liberation and achieving the right of return. This is not an economic or material issue."
When Hamas leaders say that the Palestinians want "the return of their land," they mean that they want to replace Israel with an Islamist state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, when they talk about the "right of return," they are referring to the demand to flood Israel with millions of Palestinians and turning Jews into a minority in their state.
Hamas's rejection of Israeli offers to boost the economy of the Gaza Strip does not surprise anyone. The leaders of Hamas have repeatedly shown that they do not care about the well-being of their people. They have shown that Hamas prefers to invest millions of dollars in building tunnels and manufacturing rockets to attack Israel instead of creating jobs and easing the suffering of their people.
What is surprising, however, is that Hamas's rivals in the Palestinian Authority (PA) are also opposed to any plan to solve the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip. The PA leaders want to see the people in the Gaza Strip suffer, with the hope that they would one day revolt against Hamas. The PA leaders will never forgive Hamas for humiliating them and expelling them from the Gaza Strip in 2007.
Commenting on the Lapid plan, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said: "The problem of the Gaza Strip is a political one." In this regard, the PA and Hamas agree on the need to deprive their people of a better life until a political solution is reached to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The PA and Hamas leaders are apparently worried that the Palestinians would forget about the jihad against Israel once they have jobs and a strong economy.
That is why the PA and Hamas rejected former US President Donald Trump's plan for peace in the Middle East, "Peace to Prosperity."
With the potential to facilitate more than $50 billion in new investments over 10 years, "Peace to Prosperity" represents the most ambitious and comprehensive effort for the Palestinians. The plan includes creating a business environment that provides investors with confidence that their assets will be secure by improving property rights, the rule of law, fiscal sustainability, capital markets, and anti-corruption policies.
Additionally, the plan includes investing billions of dollars in the electricity, water, and telecommunications sectors, as well as private-sector investment in entrepreneurship, small businesses, tourism, agriculture, housing, manufacturing, and natural resources.
Instead of welcoming the Trump plan, the PA and Hamas immediately rejected it and vowed to continue the "struggle" against Israel. "We will not kneel and we will not surrender," said PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Hamas, for its part, rejected the plan as a "conspiracy" against the Palestinians.
Had the Palestinian leaders accepted the Trump plan, the Palestinians would have been in a better situation today. Had they accepted Israel's offer to turn the Gaza Strip into Singapore, the Palestinians living there would not be complaining now about poverty and unemployment.
By rejecting all the offers, the leaders of the Palestinians are actually telling Israel, the US and the rest of the world: For the Palestinians, the conflict with Israel is not about financial aid or boosting the Palestinian economy. Do not expect the Palestinians to make any concessions to Israel because of the billions of dollars that you are offering or have already given to us.
This is an important message that needs to be grasped by the Biden administration in the aftermath of its decision to resume financial aid to the Palestinians. The Biden administration and other Western donors are wrong to assume that their funds could change the hearts and minds of the Palestinians. The only way to bring about such a change is by ending the anti-Israel rhetoric of Palestinian leaders and media outlets -- something that is not likely to happen, at least not in the foreseeable future.
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.