Israelis mourn an attack that many liken to 9/11. Hundreds are dead, and scores kidnapped. Hamas gunmen directed by Iran and supplied by Turkey hunted down civilians across southern Israel. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who just last week declared, “The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades,” looks both foolish and naïve. Not only did he counsel a resumption of US Agency for International Development funds to Gaza despite his own administration’s acknowledgement that Hamas would siphon off such funds, but he also directed the unfreezing of $6 billion in sanctioned Iranian cash. Money is fungible and while Biden’s team can say Tehran did not divert any of that money to fund terror, the simple fact is such funds freed up other Iranian money for that purpose.
Hamas’ strategy is obvious. The terror group understood that any attack would lead to an Israeli response, but believed the international community would force a ceasefire as civilian casualties mount. That is what the Clinton Administration and European leaders did in 1996 after Israeli shells hit a UN compound at Qana killing 100 civilians. A decade later, pressure mounted again for Israel to cease operations after an Israeli Air Strike on a three-story building killed 28. The same pattern has repeated with regard to Israel’s previous operations in Gaza. Already, Turkey has offered to mediate “de-escalation,” the diplomatic equivalent of an arsonist offering to sell buckets of water.
The scale of Hamas’ attack makes any such premature end to the operation unlikely. This is no more simply “mowing the grass,” but rather the wholesale removal of the lawn. Israel must remove Hamas from the Gaza Strip.
There is precedent. In September 1970, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) turned its guns on its Jordanian hosts in what became known as Black September. Thousands died in the fighting, but ultimately Jordanian forces prevailed. King Hussein expelled the PLO without concern to humanitarian handwringing. Many of the Palestinian fighters migrated to Lebanon where their presence helped precipitate the Lebanese Civil War and, in 1982, the Israeli invasion. That led the following year to the PLO’s expulsion to Tunisia.
What many diplomats and human rights organizations have too longer ignored is that Israelis are not alone among victims of Hamas’ reign of terror; ordinary Palestinians suffer under their rule just as Sunni Muslims suffered every day under Islamic State control.
There could be no better solution than to expel every single Hamas member from Gaza, perhaps to countries like Turkey or Qatar that are both removed from the conflict zone and are among Hamas’ most vocal and generous benefactors. Qatar would be a better option simply because President Recep Tayyip Erdogan might weaponize the terrorist group against Armenians and Kurds, or use them to blackmail Europe. Qatar also has the benefit of space. Ninety-nine percent of its population lives in urban areas, leaving its rural desert areas wide open. That Qatar has championed for decades the Muslim Brotherhood of which Hamas is an offshoot would give the Qatari government an opportunity to show its sincerity and truly enable peace between Israel and ordinary Palestinians who eschew violence and seek better lives. Such a transfer would also be legal under the Oslo Accords that made a Palestinian return to Gaza conditional on eschewing terror.
Neither Israel nor the United States should any longer settle for half measures. It is time to call a conference to determine countries willing to accept every Hamas member from top leaders to lowly rank-and-file. They have lost their right to live in Gaza. The October 7 rampage marks an inflection point. It is time to send Hamas packing.
About the Author
Now a 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).