“Hamas for Israel is like ISIS for the Western world,” the former head of Israel’s Southern Command said on Monday, 10 years since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip.
Yoav Galant, the commander of Israel’s Southern Command from 2005 to 2010, is currently a member of Knesset with the Kulanu party and the minister of housing and construction. He offered his assessment at a press briefing hosted by The Israel Project, which publishes The Tower.
Galant described the “brutal” manner in which Hamas ejected Fatah, the party led by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in 2007. “They slaughtered the people in the streets. They threw them from the roofs, five or ten stories high. They closed and circled areas, headquarters, and the positions held by Fatah and others. And then either burned them or activated tunnels full of explosives underneath them.” What Galant sees from ISIS now is “very similar on the way that it was done.”
Using these tactics, Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza, even though Fatah had five to six times as many personnel there as Hamas.
Ten years since this violent upheaval, Galant said, Israel continues to seek quiet, disarmament, and a way to extricate itself from Gaza’s internal turmoil. The problem with these goals or interests is that they are at odds with one another. If there’s quiet, then Hamas will stockpile weapons and threaten Israel. If Israel is forced to act against Hamas, there will be no quiet and it will be once again responsible for Gaza.
Galant pointed out that since winning “so-called democratic elections” in 2006, Hamas — a force of some 30,000 to 40,000 people — has taken the 2 million residents of Gaza hostage. “Most of the population do not want to be involved in terror action,” Galant said, “but they are risking their lives if they will obey this monster that is called Hamas that seeks only its political benefit and personal benefit and not the future of the people of Gaza.”
(Longtime Palestinian affairs reporter Khaled Abu Toameh made a similar point in February 2016, writing that Hamas has prioritized building up its terror infrastructure over rebuilding Gazan homes.)
Galant said that Israel would like to see a prosperous Gaza, but “you could have read the official Saudi papers and media recently and they said what we said — Hamas leaders and Hamas militias are taking whatever is entering into Gaza and instead of building hospitals and schools, they are using those materials, whether it’s concrete or iron or whatever, in order to create tunnels in order to create rockets. And this is of course a big problem.”
Still, Hamas remains “a small, isolated, extremist organization.”
The main threat that Hamas presents to Israel is its ability to build tunnels to launch terror attacks. Although it will take time, Galant said that Israel is working on a countermeasure “by creating an obstacle under the ground that will eventually prevent the option to use tunnels against.” While Galant expressed his confidence that “the IDF will do its job in the best way,” he cautioned that “we have to be on alert this summer.”
In 2014, as the threat of ISIS was gaining more public attention, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu observed “that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.”
A recording of the briefing with Galant is embedded below.
[Photo: The Israel Project ]