21 July '15..
With the world’s attention focused squarely on the Iran nuclear talks, the Hamas military buildup in the Gaza has largely gone unnoticed in the international press. However, the steady pace of tunnel building and arms imports into the strip has not escaped the notion of Israel’s defense establishment. Hamas has bragged of its ability to maintain the pace of construction at the Israeli border on tunnels aimed at facilitating terror attacks. While Israelis hope that Hamas is serious about maintaining the cease-fire that has held since last summer’s war, they rightly worry about whether dissatisfaction with its rule will lead the leadership of the group to conclude that another round of violence is the best to stay in power as well as to undermine its Fatah rivals in the West Bank. But one aspect of the deal that Congress needs to thoroughly explore before it votes on the agreement is the degree to that the money that will flood into the Islamist regime once sanctions are lifted may serve to provide another major incentive that could provide the spark for another war.
The situation in Gaza is generally depicted in the international press as one of squalor and deprivation. But economic problems have not prevented Hamas from diverting a significant portion of the aid the strip receives away from reconstruction of homes destroyed in last year’s war towards the rebuilding of their military infrastructure. Rather than hiding its plans, Hamas has repeatedly boasted in public about efforts to build more tunnels under the border that would be used for murder and kidnapping raids inside Israel. The partial blockade Israel tries to enforce with help from Egypt is geared toward preventing Hamas from bringing in materials that could be used for either tunnel building or the construction of strongholds that would shield terrorists and their armaments from counter-attack. But to their chagrin, the Israelis have discovered that some of the material used for this purpose is actually being brought into Gaza via the daily convoys from Israel that are supposed to deliver humanitarian aid and other non-military items.
That’s a troubling breakdown for the Israelis that, as the Times of Israel reports, helps to explain how Hamas has maintained the steady work on the tunnels despite heat and lack of pay for the hundreds slaving away underground on the project reportedly with heavy engineering equipment. If, as Israeli authorities now assume, Hamas has at least one tunnel already completed that has not yet been detected, the stage is already set for a terrorist outrage that could set off another rocket barrage on Israeli cities in the coming months. Hamas may fear that a new war might lead the Israeli government to decide to act decisively against them this time. Yet they also know that pressure from an Obama administration that wants nothing to undermine its pact with Iran will continue to serve as a decisive restraint on Israeli policy.
Israel and the U.S. may hope that Hamas will see the maintenance of the cease-fire as in their interests as well as that of the residents of the independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza But Iran may have other ideas. Its rapprochement with Hamas in the last year was made possible in no small measure by the Obama administration’s soft approach to Syria. Hamas broke with Iran over Assad but has backtracked now that it’s clear that efforts to install an Islamist regime in its place have failed due to Tehran’s military intervention and the West’s decision to do nothing but talk about the need for Assad to go. Hamas-Iran reconciliation gives Tehran a southern ally to go with its Hezbollah auxiliaries that threaten Israel from the north.
This is important because of Iran’s predilection for making mischief in pursuit of its goal of regional hegemony. But the flood of cash into Iran’s coffers that will follow the completion of the nuclear deal will significantly enhance its ability to shower aid on its allies. Not even the Obama administration denies that Iran remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. With Israel being the leading voice against the Western push for détente with Tehran, the ayatollahs have every reason to try to ratchet up the pressure on the Jewish state via new attacks from Hamas that might, unlike the case with last summer’s fighting, be coordinated with rocket launches from Hezbollah in the north.
The administration has been trying to deny that their diplomacy will have an impact on Hamas and Hezbollah. But, as Israeli blogger Jeffrey Grossman noted yesterday, they’re having trouble keeping their stories straight. Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that Iran would not be allowed to use their new riches to help their terrorist allies. But National Security Advisor Susan Rice has conceded that there would be nothing to stop them from sending funds (but not arms as they already do) to Hamas. Meanwhile the Iranians are making it clear that nothing in the deal will stop them from doing whatever they like with regard to helping their terrorist friends. They’re right about that. Nothing in the agreement will prevent Iran-sponsored terrorism.
The pact deserves to be rejected on the nuclear issue alone since it gives Iran a clear path to a bomb even if it observes its terms with a short 10 to 15 year period. The lack of transparency and the failure to set up a meaningful inspections procedure that would provide the anytime, anywhere access that the administration once promised was a given means it is a blatant act of nuclear appeasement. But even as we rightly focus on the nuclear threat, the short-term impact of its terms on Iran’s ability to aid terrorism is equally important. An Iranian bomb may have to wait until it reaps all the benefits of President Obama’s foolish desire for détente with Tehran. But a new war from a Hamas aided by its powerful Iranian friend may be the first calamity that will result from this fiasco.