Photo Credit: Andrew Ratto Wikimedia

On the 18th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the Iran-backed Palestinian terror groups are still talking about the need to step up attacks against Israel until the “liberation of all of Palestine,” from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

These groups still see Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip not as a humanitarian gift to allow the Gazans to build the “Singapore of the Middle East,” as former Israeli President Shimon Peres put it, but instead as the beginning of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s 1974 “Ten Point Plan” (also known as the “phased plan”) for the “comprehensive liberation” of all the land stretching “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea” — a euphemism for the elimination of Israel. The Plan essentially states that the Palestinians should take whatever land they are given and use it as a launching pad for getting the rest.

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The Plan in brief:

  • Through the “armed struggle” (i.e. terrorism), to establish an “independent combatant national authority” over any territory that is “liberated” from Israeli rule. (Point 2)
  • To continue the struggle against Israel, using the territory of the national authority as a base of operations. (Point 4)
  • To provoke an all-out war in which Israel’s Arab neighbors destroy it entirely (“the liberation of all Palestinian territory”). (Point 8)

Israel’s unconditional “disengagement” from the entire Gaza Strip in 2005 resulted in the unilateral dismantling of 21 Jewish settlements, the evacuation of more than 9,000 settlers and the removal of the Israeli army. The purpose of the disengagement was to improve Israel’s security and to receive international recognition of Israel’s concessions for peace in the absence of negotiations with the Palestinians, to allow them self-government and enable them independence to prosper. Several Western millionaires had even bought greenhouses for $14 million from the Jews leaving the Gaza Strip, to give to the Gazans to give them a running start. Within days of the handover, the greenhouses were torn down and looted clean.

Israel had good intentions when it announced its plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians, however, did not share Israel’s vision for prosperity in the Gaza Strip. Instead, they chose to turn the coastal enclave into a regional base for terror groups seeking to murder Jews and destroy Israel.

Two years after the Israeli handover, the Palestinian terror group Hamas took over the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority by force. Since then, tens of thousands of rockets and mortar shells have been fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, terrorizing and destabilizing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens.

Hamas and other Palestinians never saw the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as a sign that Israel seeks to live in peace and coexistence with its Arab neighbors. On the contrary, they saw the withdrawal as an Israeli retreat — a defeat in the face of a massive wave of terrorism.

The message the Palestinians came away with was not that the Israelis had given them land in the hope of peace, but rather: “We were shooting and they ran away, so let’s keep on shooting and they will keep on running away!”

The Palestinian terror groups are trying to drive Jews out of the West Bank through drive-by shootings, stabbings, rockets and car-rammings. They want to turn the West Bank into another launching pad for attacking Israel the same way they did with the Gaza Strip.

To this day, many Palestinians, not only in Hamas, continue to view the Israeli disengagement as a direct result of terrorism. They use the Arabic term indihar — defeat — to describe the Israeli withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip. In their view, the withdrawal was a sign of Israel’s weakness and fatigue. Many Palestinians still are convinced that Israel fled the Gaza Strip in response to their waves of terror attacks.

That is why, to this day, Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups, at the behest of mullahs of Iran, continue to fire rockets into Israel. The thinking among many Palestinians still goes: If suicide bombings and rockets drove Israel out of the Gaza Strip, then the attacks will continue to expel Jews from the rest of Israel.

Felesteen News, a Hamas-affiliated website, marking the 18th anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, wrote on September 12, 2023:

“Following the Israeli defeat at that time, joy filled the hearts of the Palestinian people, and victory celebrations began to grow louder. Some of the Palestinians described the defeat as a ‘miniature model of the liberation of Palestine’ or ‘one of the images of victory by the Palestinian resistance.'”

Ahmed Bahr, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said in a statement marking the anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal that the “Israelis suffered a humiliating defeat” because of the attacks of the Palestinian terror groups, including attacks from terrorists tunnels built to enable attacks against Israeli soldiers and civilians. The Israeli city of Tel Aviv, the Hamas official said, will meet the same fate as the former Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip. “Tel Aviv will fall together with all the [Israeli] leaders,” Bahr vowed.

Here is how, just last year, Safa, another Hamas-affiliated news website, described the Israeli pullout:

“Seventeen years after its defeat in the Gaza Strip, Israel’s attempt to escape death in the face of resistance strikes did not succeed. Today, Israel is living in a more complex reality. After the resistance rockets began to strike Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, their range now covers the entirety of Palestine.”

Some Palestinian terror groups, buoyed by their perceived victory, are now talking about the need to copy the “Gaza Strip model” in the West Bank. If terrorism drove Israelis out of the Gaza Strip, they are saying, then it will also drive them out of the West Bank, then Jerusalem and then every inch of Israel.

Referring to the nearly 500,000 Jews currently living in the West Bank, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on September 12, 2023:

“The settlements in the West Bank are about to disappear. The dismantling of these settlements is only a matter of time, and Jerusalem remains the compass of resistance and the title of the battle [with Israel].”

Hamas arch-terrorist Mohammed Def recently reminded everyone that as far as his group is concerned, the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip marks the beginning of the first “phase” toward destroying Israel:

“The defeat of [Israel] in the Gaza Strip sets the stage for its defeat in the West Bank and heralds the liberation of [the Israeli cities of] Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem and the rest of the country [Israel], God willing. Resistance was and will remain the only option and path to victory and liberation.”

These statements by the Palestinians show that they are remain as determined as ever to murder Jews and wipe Israel off the map. For the Palestinians, acquiring the Gaza Strip, was, it seems, merely a taste. In their words, they want the West Bank, Jerusalem and the whole of Israel. They want all “settlers” removed not only from the Gaza Strip, but also from the West Bank, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and all of Israel. In their view, “all of Israel” is just one big settlement.

With the backing of Iran, the Palestinian terror groups are now working to increase terror attacks against Israelis in the West Bank.

The Biden administration and other international parties that continue to promote the idea of a “two-state solution” are simply empowering Iran’s Palestinian proxies and encouraging them to pursue their “phased plan” to increase terrorism, destroy Israel and replace it with yet another Islamist state.

The Iranian government recently set up a new airport “for terror purposes ” in southern Lebanon, only 12 miles from the Israeli border — presumably to make it easier for Iran’s terrorist proxies there, such as Hizballah, to launch aerial attacks against Israel.

The Palestinians’ rhetoric and actions since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip have clearly proven again and again that the conflict with Israel is not about borders and settlements, but about the refusal to allow Israel to exist.

If Israel withdraws from the West Bank, the area will, without doubt, fall into the hands of the Iranian regime and its Palestinian proxies. Were it not for Israel’s presence there, the West Bank, a long time ago, would have turned into another base for Palestinian terrorism.

Those who are promoting the idea of a Palestinian state seek to expel Jews from the West Bank through false promises of peace and coexistence. It is time for decision-makers in Washington and other countries to trust what the Palestinians are saying: that they perceive Israeli concessions not as gestures of peace, but as gestures of surrender.

The ability of the Iranian regime soon to have unlimited nuclear weapons, funded largely by the Biden administration — despite the mullahs’ denial that such ambitions even exist — will doubtless make their hegemonic vision easier to achieve. Not even a shot will need to be fired to persuade its victims to agree to whatever the mullahs wish; the threat will be enough.

No one is stopping them.

The Biden administration has reportedly concluded a secret deal with Iran, most likely to lower its nuclear threats before the November 2024 presidential election in exchange for billions of dollars and the lifting of sanctions — which will enable the mullahs to acquire even more billions. Presumably this windfall will not be used for girls’ education or women’s human rights but for its nuclear weapons program, stepped-up terrorism and crushing its own people even further.

Creating an Iran-backed Palestinian terror state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip poses a destabilizing and existential threat by Iran not just to Israel but to the entire region and beyond: to Saudi Arabia despite a thaw that may well be temporary; to the Gulf States, Egypt, North Africa, Europe (here and here), Latin America and the United States (here, here and here ).

{Reposted from Gatestone Institute}

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Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East. This article originally appeared on the Gatestone Institute website (gatestoneinstitute.org).