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The Israeli right is now openly saying it wants to keep Hamas in power

As the latest round of fighting in Gaza and southern Israel died down, it became clear that keeping Hamas in power has become a central tenet of the Israeli right.

By Meron Rapoport

Hamas supporters attend a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Hamas movement, Nablus, West Bank, December 15, 2017. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Hamas supporters attend a rally marking the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Hamas movement, Nablus, West Bank, December 15, 2017. (Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

The idea that Hamas is an Israeli creation is nearly as old as Hamas itself. Researchers, journalists, high-ranking Israeli military and government officials — even Americans — have found substantial evidence to that effect. And yet the Israeli narrative presents Hamas as a zealous, murderous terrorist group — the sworn enemy of every Israeli and Jew around the world.

Official Israel has never admitted to supporting Hamas and every Israeli who dares talk about the need to speak with Hamas is immediately portrayed as a traitor. This is the same treatment IDF and Shin Bet officials received during and after the last war on Gaza, when they repeated the mantra that Israel must reach an agreement with Hamas. The same goes for the brief “Eurovision War” last week. Naftali Bennett, along with many on the right, have built a career on taking on the security establishment, which they view as weak and cowardly.

That’s why the cadre of right-wingers who joined hands last week to praise Netanyahu’s decision “to keep Hamas on its feet,” as journalist Galit Distal Atbaryan put it, is no less than amazing. The fact that this group runs the gamut from Netanyahu confidants — including Distal Atbaryan herself — to the prime minister’s critics, including far-right MK Betzalel Smotrich, is a sign that keeping Hamas in power has become a central policy of the entire Israeli right.

In the eyes of the right today, every Israeli patriot must wholeheartedly support the Hamas regime in Gaza. Leftist traitors, they say, support the possibility that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who rules over the West Bank, take control of the Gaza Strip, bringing Israel closer to the “pit of the two-state solution,” as right-wing pundit and former IDF Major-General Gershon Hacohen put it.

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The policy of “separating” the West Bank from Gaza isn’t new. It began in the late 1980s, with various prime ministers — from Yitzhak Rabin to Netanyahu — finding ways to make it more sophisticated it over the years. Now comes the reasoning behind the separation. No longer are we dealing solely with the question of ostensible security benefits that result in severing Gaza from the West Bank. Today, Hamas’ rule has added value, and maintaining its regime justifies Israeli civilian casualties (Palestinian lives, of course, don’t matter). In order to keep Hamas on its feet, writes Distal Abtaryan, Netanyahu is willing to pay “an almost inconceivable price — half the country paralyzed, children and parents in post-trauma, bombed houses, people killed.”

Why is Netanyahu willing to pay this price? The answer is simple: “Every home needs a balcony, and Israel is a home,” writes Distal Abtaryan, “the balcony of this home is Samaria… if Hamas crumbles, Mahmoud Abbas may rule the strip. If he rules it, voices on the left will encourage negotiations, a political settlement, and a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria as well… this is the real reason Netanyahu doesn’t annihilate Hamas, everything else is bullshit.”

Galit Distel Atabaryan. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Galit Distel Atabaryan. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Erez Tadmor, one of the founders of the far-right Im Tirzu movement and who headed Likud’s information campaign in the last elections, struck a similar tone on Twitter. “The split between Abbas’ Judea and Samaria and Hamas’ Gaza is optimal for Israel,” he tweeted after the ceasefire was announced. “When necessary, we can strike Hamas in Gaza and not be forced to withdraw to the Auschwitz borders in Judea and Samaria,” Tadmore wrote.

Yonatana Orich, who managed Likud’s campaign alongside Tadmor and is one of Netanyahu’s closest advisors, made similar remarks. “He (Netanyahu – M.R.) succeeded in disconnecting between Gaza and Judea and Samaria, and effectively shattered the vision of a Palestinian state in these two areas. Part of the achievement is linked to the Qatari money that comes to Hamas every month,” he explained in an interview to Makor Rishon before the latest round of fighting erupted.

Netanyahu’s supporters on the right aren’t alone. Although MK Betzalel Smotrich, who may soon become a minister, expressed disappointment over the fact that Israel did not kill 700 Palestinians — in retaliation for every rocket fired from Gaza — back in 2015 he called Hamas an “asset” and Abbas a “burden.”

In an interview with right-wing news website Mida, Gershon Hacohen, known for his criticism of Netanyahu from the right, explained that by refraining from taking down Hamas, Netanyahu “prevented Abbas’ plot to establish a united Palestinian state. We need to take advantage of the situation of separation between Gaza and Ramallah. This is a top Israeli interest, and it is impossible to understand the campaign in Gaza without understanding this context.”

Palestinian walk through the wreckage of a building damaged by Israeli air strikes, Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, May 5, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

Palestinian walk through the wreckage of a building damaged by Israeli air strikes, Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, May 5, 2019. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

As opposed to Netanyahu’s admirers, Hacohen is aware that support for Hamas is a trap for Israel. “Hamas created, with the threat of rockets, a difficult equation that cannot be denied,” he admitted. “Each day of rockets paralyzing the country carries heavy financial costs. That is why Hamas can cause us to prefer considerations of containment, because the price we pay is high.” Hacohen supports a severe response to Hamas but worries that such a response would be too successful. “To avoid a situation in which we have defeated Hamas but have fallen into the pit of a two-state solution,” he said, “we must, first of all, regulate control over Area C and stop the attempts of the PA to take over other areas under the auspices of the European Union.” First we annex, then we topple Hamas.

In the eyes of the Israeli right, the real threat to Israel is not Hamas’ violence and terrorism — the danger is a peace agreement with the PLO, Abbas, and the establishment of a Palestinian state. In the struggle against this danger, Hamas is viewed as an almost ideological partner. It, too, opposes Abbas, and has no interest in the PA ruling Gaza. That is why whatever strengthens Hamas is good for Israel, and whatever weakens it is bad for Israel. An Israel that wants to continue its occupation of the West Bank will want to continue to stand on the balcony and gaze at the Palestinians from above.

Meron Rapoport is an editor at Local Call, where this article first appeared in Hebrew. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Lewis from Afula

      Where have we all heard this nonsense before ?
      Hezbolla is an Israeli creation.
      Hamas is an Israeli creation.
      ISIS is an Israeli creation.
      9/11 was an Israeli creation.
      Al-Qaida was an Israeli creation.
      The Taliban are an Israeli creation.
      Expelling “innocent poor fakestinyans from their homes” is an Israeli creation.

      This is where the Far Left amalgamates with the KKK-style Alt-Right.
      Pure garbage.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        @Lewis: No, actually no one says that Al-Qaida, the Taliban, 9-11 or ISIS are Israeli creations. On the other hand, various Israeli sources (including military people who were directly involved) openly say that Israel gave Hamas crucial support in its early days ( https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/hamas-israels-own-creation/ ). As for Hezbollah, no, Israel didn’t create it, but if you read the history of Israel’s war in Lebanon you will see that it was a natural, almost necessary response.

        Reply to Comment
      • john

        so, presented with quotes from your own politicians about how they benefit from hamas rule in gaza, you blame the ‘far left’ for their alliance to kkkahanists and the alt-right?

        Reply to Comment
      • Some-one.

        Hezbollah are definitely not a Zionist creation, the Taliban were definitely not a Zionist creation and neither is Al-Qaida however ISIL very possibly was. The problem with this article is that Hamas is a pretty complex organization which is far from being homogeneous,witness how all over the place they seemed during war against the NATO contras in Syria. Hamas certainly received help at the beginning from the Zionists however organizations evolve over time and things can start out as one thing and change into something else- look at the PLO now which is helping de facto to enforce the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and the regime of colonial terror the indigenous population are forced to live under there.

        +972 should interview if not Hamas than people “close” to them, preferably not the types living it up in places like Qatar but maybe in Lebanon or the West, even better an organization I find more interesting Islamic Jihad in Palestine.

        Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Amazing, isn’t it how a mainstream extremist like ‘Lewis’ can brazenly deny obvious reality that is plainly backed up by the public words of the very extremist people he adores?

        You also gotta love how the shameless advocate for genocide by cyanide of Palestinians thinks he can distance himself from “the KKK-style Alt-Right.” Hello? If ‘Lewis’ cannot see that he himself and his heroes such as Bezalel Smotrich are KKK-style Alt-Right, Israeli style, at least, if not even more extreme than KKK-style Alt Right, then that just shows how far to the far extremist right Israel has shifted.
        ‘Lewis’ is trying to normalize Israeli right wing extremism. Nothing doing.

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          Ben, you are, as usual, delirious about KKK, apartheid, etc., etc. Israel is a democratic Jewish state that we defend and cherish. We are proud of our historic, national and religious heritage that we protect with all our strength. Minorities who respect our laws can live in peace, enjoy our high wages, our social insurance system. They can vote, do politics and even engage in the military. But they will never have any form of sovereignty. If this does not suit you, you can do your aliya and vote for a party that defends your ideas (I do not know if there are too crazy ..). If you do not want to make your aliyah shut your mouth instead of preaching in the desert.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            For those unfamiliar with the Orwellian Halevyese dialect, allow me to translate:

            ‘Israel is nicely judeo-fascist, what’s the problem? What’s *your* problem? We are nicely progressing in the neo-fascist direction we are aiming for, behind the window dressing for the goyim, and we are proud of this. We call it our “heritage.” It trumps all. Human rights, shmuman rights. The “minorities” “who respect our laws” can “live in peace” and we all know what that means—submission to their lower class status, devoid of rights and privileges Jews enjoy in regards to the things that really matter when it comes down to it. They know who’s boss. There must be something wrong with someone who worries about the human rights of non-Jews. Who cares? Non-Jews? What’s up with that? Is it a delirium of some kind? If you think the “foreigners” (i.e., anyone who is Arab) in the occupied West Bank are ever going to have “sovereignty,” i.e., the ability to freely own and farm their own land and houses and vote like I can and have freedom of movement and not be pushed off their land by Jews, you must be delirious. I, Itshak Gordine Ha-Levy, hereditary overlord, successor to the high priests of the second temple, proclaim this.’

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            You are again in full delirium Ben. The Torah obliges us to love and respect the foreigner who lives with us. And that’s what we do by giving him social security, high salaries and so on. In exchange, he must respect our sovereignty and our laws. This is the case in all countries of the world.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Oh I see, Halevy, is that right? You mean like the way you love and respect these foreigners? ==>

            By +972 Magazine |Published January 11, 2015
            Provide asylum seekers with heaters, rights groups demand in court
            Following media reports and the intervention of two members of Knesset, the Israel Prison Service provided African asylum seekers with heating pads, which one asylum seeker says are inadequate. As temperatures drop below zero, Tel Aviv residents protest conditions at the Holot detention facility.
            https://972mag.com/provide-asylum-seekers-with-heaters-rights-groups-demand-in-court/101217/

            And you mean the way Lehava loves and respects non-Jews? You mean the way you love and respect “the foreigners” of the West Bank by calling them “foreigners” in the first place and then stealing their land and brutalizing them when they resist?

            Halevy, no one who is not a child can be fed such nonsense. Really, if it’s the only thing you do, please stop insulting our intelligence.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            You accuse Israel of all evil. Asylum seekers have illegally entered Israel. They caused delinquency and even rape. This is the reason why many of them were put in prison. A stranger must behave irreproachably in the country that receives him. As for Lehava, it is a private association that fights against mixed marriages that are forbidden by the Torah. You accuse us of stealing land in Judea and Samaria. This region is part of our historic heritage. Most Israeli cities are built on state-owned land. If, for security or other reasons, land belonging to Jewish or Arab property is needed, the State proceeds with expropriations against compensation. Should we remind you that there has never been in the History Arab State of Palestine and that Judea and Samaria were annexed by the Hashemite Kingdom until it lost them in 1967.This will make it very difficult for our enemies to engage in machinations to rob us of our heritage. We have excellent lawyers and a very high birth rate ….

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Halevy we flush out the truth:

            Your repellent smears about “illegal…rape” combined with your defense of Lehava are racist hatred and vilification with sexual anxiety and “purity” fears as a tool, tools straight out of the US Southerner’s playbook and the Trump-Netanyahu demagogic playbook. These repellent, primitive, profoundly racist smears against the refugees are utterly exposed for what they are and refuted by this article alone, on the face of it:
            https://972mag.com/we-want-to-build-a-new-country-sudanese-refugees-celebrate-the-fall-of-a-dictator/140977/

            The article shows why these people are true refugees and asylum seekers, and good people, and not “economic migrants” aka “infiltrators,” and “rapists” it shows how appallingly nasty has been Israel’s treatment of them.

            Your Orwellian euphemistic assemblage of code words—“state-owned land…security…expropriations…compensation…heritage…history”—fools no one who does not want to be fooled. It is all a refusal to own up to theft, pure and simple, to organized crime.

            We flush out the truth.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            We note, however, a newly surly tone (“shut your mouth”) that now peeps out from the usual blandly Orwellian Halevyese style. We knew this aggressiveness was always there, behind the mask, but now Halevy is letting the mask drop. Now that his ally Bezalel Smotrich is setting the tone for the new government, Halevy it seems is getting cocky and so I am a self-hating “foreigner” who has not made aliyah, and I deserve the same contempt due “minorities” (aka “foreigners”) in Greater Israel and I should just shut up. This from Mr. “Love and Respect.”

            “you can do your aliya and vote for a party that defends your ideas”

            This of course is Halevy’s perennial confusion about democracy: thinking he can pass democracy off as mere electoral mechanics in a Supreme Court-neutered tyranny-of-the-majority where it is always engineered in that the minority vote won’t really count. He can’t pass that off. Nothing doing.

            (Someone, Ray, made a good point: true democracies do not treat human rights defending NGOs the way Israel does. Only the phony ones do. It’s a good litmus test.)

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            As well, it is Halevy’s perennial confusion that the issue of the entity that is Israel and the non-Israeli territories it occupies is an “internal” issue that only Israelis accorded the right to vote get to decide. But it is NOT an internal issue. It is an external issue and it is a kind of internal-external issue (where’s the border, where’s the agreements, where’s the compliance with international law and the consensus of the international community? It’s an occupation.). So it is everybody’s business to address this issue that is NOT internal to Israel.

            Reply to Comment
      • Mark

        But it is also said that Israel is a European creation. LOL

        Reply to Comment
    2. itshak Gordine

      We do not want to risk the life of one of our boys to annihilate Hamas and turn the Gaza Strip over to the negationist and corrupt Mahmoud Abbas. We prefer that these two entities (Hamas and Fatah) engage in their favorite occupation, that is to say to dispute.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Itshak Gordine Ha-Levy extends his unbroken world record streak in the Duathalon of Missing the Point and Making the Author’s Point For Him. Let’s give him a hand! Congrats Halevy!

        Reply to Comment
        • itshak Gordine

          But absolutely not. You push open doors. Everything I wrote is known to everyone. Hamas and Fatah are two sides of the same coin and their opposition is to our advantage. When Hamas goes too far, we give it a little cudgel and we are quiet for a few weeks. Hamas is our useful idiot. Ditto for the Israeli leftists.

          Reply to Comment
          • john

            likewise, zionism and antisemitism are two sides of the same coin. both reduce judaism to the state of israel, and neither offer jews any substantial sense of security.

            Reply to Comment
          • itshak Gordine

            Nowadays there is no place where Jews are safer than in Israel. Yesterday, for example, a 60-year-old woman from a Jewish community in Sweden was stabbed by a Muslim. Jews all over the world have an interest in doing their aliyah because anti-Semitism on the left, right and Muslim is exploding. Do not wait for the state of Israel to risk its security and its future in order to satisfy the political fantasies (which have failed elsewhere …) of a handful of American leftist Jews who are totally assimilated.

            Reply to Comment
          • john

            you may feel safe in your walled-off rogue nuclear garrison state, sure, but my contention is that treating jews differently because they are jews is a feature of antisemitism – in this you agree with the antisemites: that jews only belong in israel.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            @Halevy: This reply of yours is like the guy who loses the game 0-2 and then makes it 0-3 with an extra own goal for good measure, then prances around the field in a confused victory lap.
            (And John is correct. You should ponder what he is saying.)

            Reply to Comment
    3. Evan

      Putin’s voice.

      Reply to Comment
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