The recent violence in the Palestinian Gaza Strip — firmly ruled by Hamas terrorists — should surprise no one.
Gaza is a hotbed of terrorist activity and the Hamas dictators there are irreconcilably opposed to Israel’s existence. Home to an impoverished population, Gaza’s dysfunctional government is essentially a criminal cartel. If not for the surreptitious provision of military supplies and financial support from governments that seek Israel’s demise and oppose its existence as a state, Hamas would collapse.
For years, weapons have been smuggled into Gaza primarily from Iran through Sudan, across the Sinai Peninsula, and then through a labyrinth of underground tunnels into the hands of an awaiting Hamas paramilitary. Despite efforts by Israel to interdict and destroy the tunnel systems, many still exist. Moreover, Hamas has been resourceful in importing weapons, sometimes using trained underwater frogmen to transport them ashore from offshore smugglers who use smaller surface craft to avoid detection.
Sometimes the smuggling involves only the smaller components of weapons that are eventually assembled inside Gaza. So too has Hamas been creative in sustaining its tunnel-building operations to support both weapons smuggled into Gaza and terrorist infiltration into Israel. When concrete and steel imports were intercepted by the Israelis, Hamas resorted to importing large numbers of wooden pallets until Israel realized the pallets were replacing concrete walls in tunnel construction.
To be sure, Hamas’ ability to smuggle and assemble weapons targeting Israelis or construct tunnels to infiltrate Israel would not be possible without financial support from outside of Gaza. Until recently, Hamas’ weapons supply and financial support came from Iran. But that relationship soured with Hamas’ refusal to support the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a close ally of Iran and its terror affiliate Hezbollah. Hamas was eventually forced out of Syria at gunpoint.
Today Hamas relies on Qatar and Turkey to sustain its operations. While Qatar is financially generous to Hamas, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is boldly supportive, declaring in 2012, “I don’t see Hamas as a terror organization. Hamas is a political party.” In 2018 he reiterated that in a tweet to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserting that Hamas wasn’t a terrorist organization, but rather a resistance movement defending Palestinians against an occupying power.
With that as a backdrop, what will the Biden administration do in this latest Middle East crisis? Recently, Mr. Biden has won praise from no less than Bibi Netanyahu for supporting Israel in the face of Hamas’ deadly rocket attacks. However, radicals in Mr. Biden’s very far-left party are condemning his provision of $735 million to fund weapons for Israel. So it remains to be seen if the president’s rhetorical support continues for Israel as they pound Hamas and consider the possibility of a ground invasion.
One could be suspicious of Mr. Biden’s support for Israel. At his core, he — like President Barack Obama — a “blame America first” apologist and a “blame Israel second” cynic. And like Mr. Obama, Joe Biden sees America — and Israel — as “the problem” in the Middle East. That should give Israel pause, particularly as they inch closer to an invasion of Gaza in their effort to conclusively eliminate Hamas.
That ground operation could possibly have two fronts if Israel decides counter Hezbollah in southern Lebanon for its recent rocket attacks against Israelis. At that point Biden will show his true nature, irresolution in the face of terror.
After all, he has a record of opposing resolute U.S. actions against terrorism. He opposed the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011 and the killing of Iran’s top terror-meister, Qasem Soleimani, in 2020. He agreed to prematurely withdraw U.S forces from Iraq in 2011 that foreshadowed and enabled the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and then opposed their destruction by former President Donald Trump.
So in addition to having been irresolute, Mr. Biden will be predictably weak-kneed. America’s enemies in the Middle East know that he is — as criminals say — an “easy mark.” When the going gets really tough, Mr. Biden will undermine Israel’s efforts just as Hamas is tunnelling under the Israeli border. Mr. Biden should see things as they are, not as he wishes them to be. Hamas is a bloodthirsty terrorist organization. It will never agree to peace with Israel. Thinking otherwise is folly. If Hamas remains in Gaza, there will be more attacks on Israel.
So what should Mr. Biden do? He should stand resolutely with Israel in declaring that Hamas must go, indeed, again forced out at gunpoint. Hamas would surely take note. So too would Turkey, Qatar, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, who are all waiting to see if President Biden will support or abandon Israel. And you can be sure that China is waiting also. After all, Taiwan is next door.
• L. Scott Lingamfelter is a retired U.S. Army colonel, former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, and author of “Desert Redleg: Artillery Warfare in the First Gulf War” (University Press of Kentucky).