By Quamie Knight
Abba Eban the Foreign Minister of Israel in the 1960’s used to say that the Palestinian people “Never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”.
What can only be described as a total and absolute disaster that is currently happening in Israel and Gaza is, unfortunately, one more example of just that, a missed opportunity.
To understand the missed opportunity, it is critical to understand the facts that led up to this week’s events both in terms of Palestinian history and the region as a whole. Let me explain.
In 1947, the United Nations decided to divide up the land that was called Palestine into two parts, one part would be a Jewish country and one would be a Palestinian country. The land called Palestine had been ruled under a mandate by the British since the end of World War I.
Until that time, those lands were ruled by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) for 402 years. Before that, the country was ruled by various empires from the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, and others, but never by the Palestinians themselves.
Despite it not being exactly what the Jews wanted, they accepted the decision of the United Nations but the Palestinians missed a huge opportunity by refusing to accept independence. Not only that but the day Israel declared its independence seven Arab countries attacked Israel in an attempt to forestall the creation of the Jewish state.
Unfortunately for the Palestinians, Israel won that war and any hope, at that time, for a Palestinian state ended at that moment and what was meant to be Palestine was incorporated into Israel, Jordan and Egypt.
In 1967, the Arab world again attacked Israel in what became known as the six-day war.
Israel swiftly won that war and took control of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. After the war, Israel offered Jordan to take the West Bank back, but for many internal political reasons, Jordan refused to take it back.
Israel then fully occupied the West Bank and began to populate it and that exasperated the conflict.
During the 1977 negotiations that led to the Camp David Accords and peace between Egypt and Israel, Egypt also refused to accept to take Gaza back again making Gaza a problem for Israel.
Israel and the leaders of the Palestinians signed an agreement in 1993 called the Oslo Accords that was meant to be the beginning of the path for the Palestinians to have independence for the first time over the West Bank and Gaza. Unfortunately, these accords were not fully adhered to by Israel or the Palestinians.
The next opportunity that the Palestinians missed was in the year 2000 when Yasser Arafat rejected statehood that was offered in Camp David by the then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and President Bill Clinton. This rejection led to numerous horrible military conflicts over the following decades.
In 2005 Israel which until then continued occupying Gaza left Gaza completely and handed over control to the Palestinian Authority.
Unfortunately, in 2007 the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas got into a very bloody battle with the Palestinian leadership and forcefully kicked the leadership out of Gaza.
Sadly, in the battle between Palestinians for Gaza over 100 Palestinians were killed by Hamas and hundreds injured. Since then Hamas has ruled Gaza. Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization and since they took over the Gaza Strip they immediately started regularly bombing Israel and Israel bombed them back.
They claim they are fighting for autonomy but Gaza has been autonomous for close to twenty years now. Israel in an attempt to block Hamas from receiving materials to build rockets, blockaded Gaza for over a decade now, and clearly that affected the lives of the citizens there in a profoundly negative way.
Obviously, the blockade, though really tough and painful for the civilian population, did not work.
This last week where we see Hamas sending tens of thousands of rockets into Israel, proves that whatever Israel did, Hamas has built up a very strong military arsenal that includes rockets such as the Ayyash 250 that can hit targets throughout Israel.
The next time that the Palestinians missed an opportunity again was when in 2008 Ehud Olmert the then Prime Minister of Israel offered to give independence to the Palestinians in nearly all of the West Bank and Gaza and make East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine.
Again, the Palestinians rejected independence, and since that time the situation has just deteriorated with horrible rounds of violence flaring up numerous times over the years
I say the above because it is important to be clear that Hamas’s calls for independence are not a call for independence, as that keeps being rejected. It calls for the UN partition plan and all agreements made after that to be ignored and for Israel to be wiped off the map.
The terrorist attack of last week was a cruel culmination of years of Hamas led terrorism. Burning children alive in front of their parents, decapitating civilians, raping women, taking 85-year-old women or 12-year-old boys hostage, is not something that can ever be tolerated or forgiven.
Massacring over 250 young people at a music festival cannot be excused. Hamas cannot continue to exist after this. Worst of all is that Hamas knew in advance that this would trigger a drastic Israeli reaction.
Hamas knew that Israel would come after them despite the fact that they are hiding within their own civilian population. Hamas knew that Israel would do everything and sacrifice everything to eliminate
Hamas. Hamas has set up its military installations and command and control locations in civilian locations, literally in apartment buildings where innocent people live and Israel is bombing those installations.
What we are seeing now is a tragedy of epic proportions. Hamas is using their own people as human shields and it is a simply a tragedy.
Having said all of this, the bigger tragedy is that the Palestinian leadership is again missing an opportunity to not only save but to better the lives of their own people. The leadership should have immediately condemned the horrific terrorist attacks against Israel.
They should have, last Saturday, approached Israel and said to Israel, stop, “let us be part of the solution”.
Let us unite the Arab world and choke out the terrorists, cut off their funding and as an international force, surgically go into Gaza and take out Hamas and take over Gaza from them.
I do not know if on Israel’s days worst day, they would have agreed to this, but the offer should have been made. Maybe, just maybe the innocent people of Gaza could have been spared of what will be a horrible horrible fate. But Hamas needs to be dismantled and destroyed, the world cannot afford such a powerful terrorist group to exist.
No matter what, the middle east and the world as a whole is now at a reflection point and if cooler heads do not prevail on the part of world politicians, this conflict can easily grow into a conflict of civilizations, or in plain English, World War 3. Sad so sad….