Early Signs of a Historically Horrendous Deal
A reported "comprehensive plan" to end the Israel-Hamas war is dangerously confusing motion with progress, based on plenty of history.
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On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States, Egypt, and Qatar are pushing Israel and Hamas to accept a comprehensive plan that would end the war, see the release of hostages held in Gaza, and ultimately lead to full normalization for Israel with its neighbors and talks for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The plan, whose implementation is scheduled to be completed within 90 days, would bring all fighting to an extended halt, during which time the Palestinian terror group, in the first stage, would free all civilians.
Israel would simultaneously release hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners, pull out of Gaza’s cities, allow freedom of movement in the Strip, cease drone surveillance over Gaza, and double the amount of aid entering the Hamas-controlled territory.
The next stage would see Hamas release female IDF soldiers and bodies of kidnapped Israelis, as Israel releases more Palestinian prisoners. The third phase would have Israel pull back troops to the Gaza border, while Hamas frees the last hostages — soldiers and fighting-age men it considers soldiers.
Finally, there would be talks about a permanent ceasefire, normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia in addition to other Arab countries, and a new process leading to a Palestinian state. The Wall Street Journal report did not indicate what would happen to Hamas under such an agreement.
In other words, a completely bad deal for Israel, and one that effectively rewards the Palestinians for what Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad unleashed on October 7th, 2023.
Even if the Palestinian Authority is to replace Hamas as the governing power in Gaza, it is hard to imagine that this incredibly corrupt organization could significantly change in such a short period of time, with an 88-year-old leader whose kleptocracy and nepotism know no bounds, and thus does not make the situation any more optimistic, neither for Israelis nor Palestinians.
But this would not be the first time Israel was pressured into a bad deal with the Palestinians.
The Oslo Accords, a pair of agreements between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization signed in 1993 and 1995, did not deliver what each side had expected from it, leading to a series of claims and counter-claims about breaches of the accords, and perpetuating a downward spiral of mistrust and hostilities. Can we honestly expect anything different this time around?
Benzion Netanyahu, the late historian, said the Oslo Accords were “a trap that the Arabs and our enemies among the Europeans set for us on purpose.” However, his complaints were not against the other sides, but against “those who entered the trap. After all, the blame lies with the mouse, not the trap. Israeli leftist politicians entered completely blindly and were trapped. And they pulled us all into this trap with them. Did they not know about Arafat’s phased plan?”
Benzion Netanyahu was referring to then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s decision to enter into the Oslo Accords as part of a longer-term strategy comparable to the notorious Treaty of al-Hudaybiya between the Islamic Prophet Muhammad and the Quraish Tribe of Mecca in the year 628, which Muhammad broke two years later when he attacked them and conquered Mecca.
Arafat even went as far as to tell a Palestinian journalist:
“I am entering Palestine through the door of Oslo, despite all my reservations, in order to return the Palestine Liberation Organization and the resistance to it, and I promise you that you will see the Jews fleeing from Palestine like mice fleeing from a sinking ship. This will not happen in my lifetime, but it will happen in your lifetime.”1
Still, Israel adhered to the Oslo Accords, withdrawing its troops from Gaza in 1993. The Palestinian National Authority was promptly created to administer self-rule over 98 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza, while receiving an estimated $25 billion in financial aid from the U.S. and other Western countries, the highest-per-capita assistance in the world. But the money ended up going to places not named peace or prosperity for the Palestinian people.
“Instead of creating the independent and robust civil institutions necessary for good governance, promoting peace with Israel, and improving the lives of its people, the billions of dollars of international aid were used to create a corrupt dictatorship focusing on enriching its elites, inciting its people against Israel, advocating terrorism, and waging a massive international campaign to demonize, delegitimize, and destroy the Jewish state,” according to Ziva Dahl, a Senior Fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.2
Does the deal reported by the Wall Street Journal sound any different? And what precisely will happen with Hamas? Do we really expect their leaders to just go away after, from their point of view, the most successful attack on their enemy, ever, by a long shot?
In 1982, during the First Lebanon War, the Palestine Liberation Organization, then considered one of the world’s worst terror organizations similar to Hamas today, was surrounded at their headquarters in West Beirut and subjected to heavy Israeli bombardment. So the PLO forces and their allies negotiated passage from Lebanon to Libya (and ultimately to Tunisia), with the aid of the U.S. and the protection of international peacekeepers.
By expelling the PLO, Israel hoped to sign a treaty with Lebanon which then-Israeli prime minister, Menachem Begin, promised would give Israel “40 years of peace.” But Hezbollah (literally “the party of Allah” in Arabic) was founded in 1985, the First Intifada broke out in three years later, and the PLO ended up making its way to the West Bank by the early 1990s.
According to a 1993 report by the British National Criminal Intelligence Service, the PLO was “the richest of all terrorist organizations,” with $8 to $10 billion in assets and an annual income of $1.5 to $2 billion from “donations, extortion, payoffs, illegal arms dealing, drug trafficking, money laundering, and fraud.”
This sounds almost identical to Hamas’ story, with its 1,700 millionaires and handful of billionaires, and to expect them to just go away to some other country forever is like trusting that the PLO would remain in Tunisia.
Plus, the Palestinians have a long history of duplicity and treachery toward Arabs and Muslims who once unequivocally supported them. After the 1967 Six-Day War, Palestinian fedayeen guerrillas relocated to Jordan. By 1970, they began calling to overthrow Jordan’s Hashemite monarchy, leading to violent clashes in June of that year.
The following year, the Palestinians were forced to relocate to Lebanon. There, they became involved in the Lebanese Civil War. In 1976, the Palestinians tried to overthrow the Lebanese government using the same barbaric tactics that Palestinians used on October 7th, 2023. At one event in Damour, a Maronite Christian town south of Beirut, they butchered hundreds of Lebanese civilians, raped women, and shot babies in the head from close range.
The Lebanese Christians fought back and thousands of Palestinians left for the Gulf states, including Kuwait. There the Palestinians, who had been treated extraordinarily well, inexplicably supported Iraq’s 1990 invasion into Kuwait, so the Kuwaitis kicked out hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
After the 2000 Camp David Summit in the U.S. failed to produce meaningful progress toward a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, the Second Intifada immediately ensued, resulting in more than a thousand Israeli deaths, the worst result since Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.
It was at this time that the Palestinian Authority underwent another change: incorporating Islam into its political rhetoric and adding jihad to its agenda. As a result, the Palestinian Authority gained even more support financially and politically within the Arab and Muslim worlds.
According to a report from 2001, during the first year of the Second Intifada, the amount of money officially donated to the Palestinian Authority jumped 80-percent, from $555 million to more than $1 billion.
In 2013, six years after Hamas violently disposed of Fatah (which runs the Palestinian Authority) in the Gaza Strip, the terror group made no effort to convince the new Egyptian government that it was not a hostile force, especially with regard to security in Sinai, leading Egypt to impose an unparalleled blockade.
The same way that, today, Hamas is completely unapologetic about what it unleashed on October 7th. Just yesterday, the terror group said that its onslaught was “a necessary step and a normal response to confront all Israeli conspiracies against the Palestinian people.”
The point of all of this is simple (yet difficult to digest for folks overly obsessed with peace): There is no negotiating with Hamas, and there is no relying on the Palestinian Authority to do anything of meaning or value for the Palestinians. As Dror Eydar, Israel’s former ambassador to Italy, recently wrote:
“There are two alternatives for Gazans: a decent and dignified life, somewhere new, far from Hamas’ malign influence, or remaining in the Gaza Strip in pitiful conditions and with no hope. We should not delude ourselves: Even if we build luxury neighborhoods for Gazans, life there will soon return to Third World conditions, because the Strip will continue to live under the ideology of death and destruction. For now, hope for Gazans lies outside of Gaza.”3
I get it, though, the Egyptians, Qataris, and Americans want to show their populaces that they are steadfastly doing everything humanly possible to resolve this conflict. The visibly aging U.S. President Joe Biden, who likely has the most leverage within this group, is facing reelection in November and seems to desperately need as many feathers in his cap to fend off whomever his competition will be.
But in Israel, and for Israelis and even Jews across the world, the stakes are too high. We cannot afford to confuse motion (a deal for the sake of a deal) with progress (a deal that actually ensures all parties safety, security, and dignity over the long run).
Therefore, Israel must be clear with the U.S. that the Jewish state is a sovereign nation, with its own complex security requirements, not an American territory somewhere in the distance that must acquiesce to American political demands.
Even then, I suppose that the best way to analyze the potential effectiveness of the comprehensive plan the Wall Street Journal reported is this: If the United States, Egypt, or Qatar was in Israel’s position, would any of these countries accept the plan they are proposing?
I think we all know the answer.
“The Oslo deception: New evidence.” JNS.
“Palestinian kleptocracy: West accepts corruption, people suffer the consequences.” The Hill.
“Gazans aren’t predestined to be eternal refugees.” Asia Times.