The horrible history of terror committed by Hamas brings into focus the tragic lack of accountable leadership that has befallen the people of Gaza. Since taking control of the enclave in 2007, the U.S. State Department-designated Foreign Terror Organization (FTO) has proven wholly incapable of serving as a positive governing body for Gazans.
The dream and determination of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, when he led Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, has been destroyed, but it can be and must be rebuilt. However, this cannot be accomplished with Hamas, which uses terror and control as its methodologies for governance and diplomacy, remaining in control of Gaza and the innocent residents there who deserve a better life.
What is needed is the establishment of a Gaza protectorate to replace Hamas.
Hamas, the Arabic acronym for the Islamic Resistance Movement, has spent donated aid on the missiles and incendiary devices it has been launching for decades into Israel, as well as on building terror tunnels. It has ripped sewer pipes out of the ground to create rocket- engine bodies, and repurposed fiberglass for rockets, although the materials had been sent to repair and upgrade fishing boats.
Moreover, when Israel has in the past sent trucks with humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, the convoy was often greeted by a barrage of Hamas mortar shells at the Erez border-crossing terminal. As a new form of terror during the past few years, Hamas has launched incendiary balloons over the Gaza border fence, to torch Israeli forests, recreation areas, schools and communities.
Hamas puts terror, not people, first. This behavior has not only deprived Gazans of much-needed food, clean water and air, electricity, quality education, a wholesome life and hope; its misfired rockets and use of human shields against Israeli counterstrikes has led to the death of Gazan children and the destruction of their homes.
Hamas is essentially in full control of Gaza, notwithstanding its past fake pronouncements with the Palestinian Authority to relinquish governmental oversight and to turn over its weapons. The notion that the P.A. can play a positive role in governing Hamas or Gaza is also a fiction.
With Hamas and other Islamic resistance organizations controlling lives, educational curricula, young minds, money and a climate of terror dedicated to the destruction of its neighbor, the State of Israel, it is clear that the freedom-loving world must step in now, before more lives are destroyed along with any hope for a bright future for the women, children, men and families currently held hostage.
The United States must lead the international community in establishing a true Gaza protectorate of countries that care about education, quality of life and a brighter future.
Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the European Union, the U.S., the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and others who have proclaimed their commitment to democracy, freedom, security, education, self-dignity, human rights and creating a better day for all the people of Gaza have the opportunity and the ability to end Hamas’s reign of terror, hate and injustice and focus on the needs of the people.
Throughout history, protectorates have served to transition regional communities towards autonomy: empowering the people to take ownership over domestic affairs, thus offering limitless potential for more features of self-governance that necessarily can only come with the eradication of extremism.
It is not enough to send in engineers to rebuild what has been destroyed; it is time to truly build a quality life in Gaza. A possible component to consider is the establishment of a “New Gaza City,” on land to be leased from Egypt in the Sinai, and to which non-terrorist families can relocate from their war-torn disaster zone. New Gaza City, with the help of donor nations, can build apartment buildings, schools, hospitals, religious institutions and even government centers and new or revitalized forms of mass transit designed to give people voice, hope, freedom of movement and a future.
In doing so, people from Gaza willing to at least temporarily relocate from Gaza to New Gaza City. Distanced from the blinding oppressive fabrications imposed upon them by Hamas, they can watch international institutions and builders work together to deconstruct Hamas’s reign of terror and reconstruct their homeland of and in Gaza—one building and one neighborhood at a time.
When the new communities in sections of Gaza are rebuilt and security without fear or control by Hamas is established, the people of Gaza can safely relocate back to Gaza with a sense of purpose and dignity, and on the path that we all share and know to be within reach for the region: peace, economic integration and prosperity.
Is the dream of a better future for the people of Gaza realistic?
The greenhouses destroyed by Hamas after Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, when Israelis were forced to leave their homes, synagogues and livelihoods in Gush Katif, can be rebuilt, allowing flowers to again bloom, livelihoods to be established, economic development to be realized, clean water to flow and 24/7 electricity to be turned on.
The often-discussed Gaza seaport, and potential for gas exploration off the coast of the enclave, could lead to economic stability for all the people of Gaza, with benefits to its neighbors, Egypt and Israel. A carefully structured Gaza protectorate can stop terror, the launching of missiles, the teaching of hate and mandate the return of the deceased Israeli soldiers and live citizens being held by Hamas and its henchmen, in violation of international law.
Today, there is relative quiet in Gaza. Egypt is playing an important stabilizing role; Qatari funding for Hamas has been reduced, if not eliminated; and Hamas leadership is being courted, and is courting, Egypt as its renewed patron.
The leadership of Egypt, working with other countries to be engaged in the Gaza protectorate, could indeed enhance the crucially important momentum towards peace in the Middle East that has been realized through the historic signing of the Abraham Accords just one year ago, and the resultant movement towards normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
It was unthinkable that countries of the Arab League, beyond Egypt and Jordan, would establish sincere ties with Israel, but this new reality perhaps also provides an opportunity to achieve real progress for real people with real problems in Gaza. Hamas cannot be trusted to lead this effort; nor can it continue to be in control of the lives and existence of the people of Gaza.
Perhaps a protectorate—and a new day—can be realized.
Richard D. Heideman is Senior Counsel of Heideman Nudelman & Kalik, P.C., the Washington law firm that represents American Victims of Terror, is the author of the forthcoming book The Bloody Price of Freedom (Gefen) and of The Hague Odyssey: Israel’s Struggle for Security on the frontlines of Terrorism and her Battle for Justice at the United Nations (Bartleby Press) and, and is the Honorary President of B’nai B’rith International and Chairman of The Israel Forever Foundation. The opinions expressed in this article are his own and not attributable to any organization.