There will never be peace in the Holy Land until Hamas is totally disarmed.
- By Avigdor LibermanAvigdor Liberman is Israel's minister of foreign affairs.
There is an almost obsessive general focus on how to achieve a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But somehow, in all the talk, the means to achieve a solution are most often confused with the end result. The end result is surely peace and security, for Israel, the Palestinians, and the people of the region. But amid attempts to move forward toward peace and security, Hamas remains the biggest obstacle to any solution — despite the fact that nearly every agreement reached between Israel and her neighbors has required the terrorist group to disarm.
For more than 50 days this summer, Israeli population centers were terrorized by rockets, mortars, cross-border infiltration into Israel by sea, and repeated attempts by Hamas and the other terrorist factions to murder and kidnap Israelis through the use of tunnels. These tunnels were also used for smuggling rockets, other arms, and material used to build weapons and rocket-launching pads. They were a crucial component of Hamas’s military capabilities.
This latest conflict proves once again that Hamas is not a legitimate political actor or interlocutor. The group has attained its power and control only through the barrel of a gun or from behind a rocket’s launching pad. Hamas seeks to achieve its long-stated goals of destroying the State of Israel and the genocide of the Jewish people through violent jihad and by disseminating fear, not just among Israelis, but also among Palestinians, whom it sees as mere tools in its bloody strategy.
During this summer’s conflict, Hamas used Gaza’s civilian population as human shields. The group also executed dozens of people it described as "collaborators," none of whom had any relationship with Israel, as a scare tactic against potential dissenters. Hamas’s tactics are reminiscent of the radical groups in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State and the Nusra Front.
It should thus be entirely obvious that unless Hamas is disarmed and its only tools of control removed, there can be no peace and security. Any discussion on opening up entry points into Gaza, increasing access to the sea for Gazans, or any steps necessary for the revitalization of the Strip and its inhabitants cannot take place while it is occupied and terrorized by Hamas.
Disarming Hamas is not a new idea launched during Operation Protective Edge. The group is officially considered a terrorist organization by many nations around the world, including the United States, the European Union, Canada, Japan, and Egypt. Historically, demilitarizing Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations has been a key part of various agreements and understandings between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which formed a central part of the so-called Oslo Process signed in 1995, specifically stated that "Except for the Palestinian Police and the Israeli military forces, no other armed forces shall be established or operate in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip" and "no organization, group or individual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the West Bank or the Gaza Strip any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives."
The Wye River Memorandum, negotiated in 1998, laid the onus on the Palestinian Authority to effectively create a legal framework to demilitarize Hamas and other terrorist groups and "implement a systematic program for the collection and appropriate handling of all such illegal items" like firearms, ammunition, or weapons in areas under Palestinian jurisdiction.
The demand for demilitarization of terrorist groups is laid out in the strongest terms in the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, known as the Road Map, released and accepted by all parties in 2003.
The very first active component of the Road Map specifically demands that "Palestinians declare an unequivocal end to violence and terrorism and undertake visible efforts on the ground to arrest, disrupt, and restrain individuals and groups conducting and planning violent attacks on Israelis anywhere." Most importantly, the Road Map requires that the "Palestinian Authority security apparatus begins sustained, targeted, and effective operations aimed at confronting all those engaged in terror and dismantlement of terrorist capabilities and infrastructure."
Furthermore, in 2001, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted, under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, Resolution 1373, a series of counterterrorism measures legally binding on all U.N. member states. The resolution dictates that all states shall refrain from providing "any form of support, active or passive," to terrorists. In this regard, the continued acceptance of Hamas’s infrastructure of terror also contravenes international law.
For the end of the decades-long conflict between Israel and the Palestinians to be achieved, those who strenuously, violently fight against any form of peace must not be allowed the means to do so. In our conflict, Hamas, which has neither interest in nor intent toward peace, has to be diminished. The terrorist group is a malevolent force. It continually hijacks any possibility of a better future for the peoples of the region. It must not be allowed to maintain its stockpiles of weapons.
The circumstances in Gaza must be changed radically. Israel fully supports a broad international effort to provide all the necessary means to rebuild the civilian infrastructure and economy in Gaza, provided there is a concerted parallel effort to prevent Hamas from rearming itself with weapons systems and rebuilding its terrorist infrastructure. Hamas cannot be allowed to rebuild its military force and prevent the essential international aid being directed to the Palestinian residents. Ultimately, the best guarantee for rebuilding Gaza and developing its economy will be demilitarization.
As long as Hamas remains armed, its weapons represent the strongest and most violent veto of peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.