OpinionMiddle East

The case for Mohammed Deif

And the case for the U.S. government going after and punishing those who kidnap Americans.

Palestinians who were freed from Israeli jails, as part of a prisoner-exchange deal to have for Israel Defense Forces kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit returned home, arrive at the Rafah crossing border in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 18, 2011. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90.
Palestinians who were freed from Israeli jails, as part of a prisoner-exchange deal to have for Israel Defense Forces kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit returned home, arrive at the Rafah crossing border in the Gaza Strip, Oct. 18, 2011. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90.
Farley Weiss
Farley Weiss is chairman of the Israel Heritage Foundation (IHF) and former president of the National Council of Young Israel.

The leader of the military wing of Hamas, Mohammed Deif, appeared on Hamas television within a few hours after launching the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks that led to the massacre of more than 1,400 Jews, and thousands more wounded and in Israeli hospitals. There are very few evil leaders capable of committing such crimes, and the failure to get rid of Deif is what led to this massacre. No one doubts that if Hitler had been assassinated, Nazi Germany would never have become the danger it grew to be. It is hoped that Israel will achieve its goals to destroy the Hamas military and political leadership, and that Deif’s decades as military chief will finally come to an end. Still, it is important to see how we got to this day in order to prevent more mistakes in the future.

The deaths include 30 Americans to date, and some of the nearly 200 hostages captured by Hamas and taken to the Gaza Strip are Americans as well. Unfortunately, this could have all been prevented if proper action had been taken even decades ago. On Dec. 19, 1997, I represented the National Council of Young Israel in a conference call with then-U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. I used my one chance for a question to ask why the United States had changed its policy on pursuing terrorists who murder Americans. The Clinton administration was not pursuing Deif, who at the time was residing in Gaza, a safe haven provided by PLO chief Yasser Arafat.

Albright responded that the United States had not changed its policy on terrorists who murder Americans and that she didn’t know anything about Deif. Her answer was quite shocking, as President Bill Clinton had visited the grave of dual U.S.-Israeli citizen Nachshon Wachsman, a 19-year-old soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, in March 1996 (Wachsman was killed on Oct. 14, 1994), and personally promised his family that the government would go after Deif—the Hamas mastermind behind the murders of hundreds of Israelis and Americans, including Wachsman. On March 26, 1997, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk had written the Wachsman family that the “arrest of Mohammed Deif … remains a high priority for the U.S. government.”

In February 1998, I was able to once again ask a question of Albright and again inquired about Deif. This time, she responded that she had raised the issue in a recent meeting with Arafat, as did President Clinton, declaring Deif a fugitive, and that the U.S. was actively pursuing the matter.

Arafat put Deif under protective detention in the spring of 2000, when the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations called for his extradition to the United States. In August of that year, Haaretz reported that President Bill Clinton had promised Jewish leaders that the United States would arrest Deif. He failed to keep his promise. Despite meeting with Arafat more than any world leader during his presidency, Clinton never used the $500 million that he was providing Arafat as leverage to obtain Deif’s extradition.

The fact is that except for during the time of former President Donald Trump, U.S. Middle East policy has turned a blind eye to the fact that Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and other local terror groups advocate for Israel’s destruction. The evil of Hamas has been on full video display. The fact is that P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas continues a “pay-for-slay” policy that rewards terrorists who murder Jews; the more Jews killed, the more money that Palestinian families of terrorists get. It is morally reprehensible to give even $1 to such an entity. The Biden administration needs to end such aid immediately, as well as to schools run by the U.N Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) that have indoctrinated the Palestinian Arabs in Gaza to hate Jews and that helped lead to this situation.

Failed administration policy officials from past and present administrations have still not changed their views. Richard Haas, the president emeritus of the Council of Foreign Relations, wrote about his advocacy for Israel to not destroy Hamas’s military and political leadership, and for Israel to establish a Palestinian Arab state even now. Former officials like Aaron David Miller, Dennis Ross, Daniel Kurtzer and Martin Indyk have constantly called on Israel to make concessions and advocated the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state. And make no mistake: The evidence is overwhelming that any Palestinian Arab state would be an anti-American terror state focused on destroying Israel. U.S. Secretary of State Blinken was planning on using the potential of an Israel-Saudi peace agreement to pressure Israel to make concessions to help lead to a Palestinian Arab state. Hopefully, such an absurd policy is now off the table.

The evil nature of Hamas is not a surprise from anyone reading its antisemitic covenant. The comments of its leaders make clear their desire to murder Jews and annihilate Israel. It is hoped that for now, at least, the world sees such evil and will continue to give Israel the full support the Jewish nation deserves, as well as finally end Hamas’s military and political capabilities so that Israel can live in peace without fear of an invasion or rocket fire.

In the long term, the failed policies of the past need to be changed to understand that peace or accommodations cannot be made with those who want you dead.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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