Every Israeli-Palestinian peace deal since the 1993 Oslo process began required Palestinian authorities to dismantle terrorists’ infrastructure in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and the Gaza Strip, and prohibited a large-scale arms buildup, David Weinberg reminded participants in the Jewish Policy Center’s January 11 webinar. Palestinian demilitarization, a myth from early in the “peace process,” has been exposed completely in Israel’s war against Hamas (Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement) following the terrorist organization’s massacres of more than 1,200 Israelis and others last October 7, according to Weinberg.
Israel “discovered in Gaza … a gargantuan” stockpile of military weapons, said Weinberg, a senior fellow at Misgav: The Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy and at Habithonistim: Israel’s Defense and Security Forum. These were stored in every kindergarten, school and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) , center, he charged.
“The scope of weaponry … was greater than anything the United States found in Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria,” Weinberg said. The more than 500 Hamas tunnels discovered so far in Gaza likewise have been “greater than the Israeli military expected.”
Much of the weaponry for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad had been “smuggled into Gaza from Egypt,” he said. In addition, were “millions of tons of dual use” material including concrete and other construction items, much of it appropriated by Hamas.
Though Washington talks of an international, perhaps pan-Arab force to police Gaza after fighting stops, Weinberg said “demilitarization is not possible to enforce from afar. … Only the Israeli military can permanently demilitarize Gaza, Judea and Samaria.”
It is not only the Strip that conclusively discredits the idea of Palestinian demilitarization as part of a long-term peace with Israel but also danger from Judea and Samaria, he stressed. “Look at Jenin … Jenin has become Gaza,” in part due to Iranian weapons smuggled through Iraq, Syria and/or Jordan.
“The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] has to go into Jenin like it goes into Gaza … with bulldozers, tanks, APCs [armored personnel carriers],” Weinberg said. It must do so on an almost nightly basis. He said “the only reason Katyusha [rockets] have not rained down from Qalqilya or Jenin” onto Israel is because the Jewish state “has full military control” of those West Bank cities.
Weinberg pointed out that the Oslo accords envisioned a small, lightly-armed Palestinian Authority police force for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “But [Yasser] Arafat started on Day 1” to build much larger armed units. “It didn’t take long until they turned their guns on the IDF and civilians too.”
Weinberg said Arafat’s successor as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization and PA, Mahmoud Abbas has never criticized Hamas and continues the authority’s “pay-for-slay” stipends for the families of “martyrs”—terrorists killed in attacks against Israelis—perpetrators wounded in such assaults or captured and jailed. Abbas and his Fatah movement, the largest PLO/PA faction, “never have been and never will be a real partner for peace” with Israel. Meanwhile, Weinberg estimates there are now 45,000 to 60,000 armed men divided in 12 different groups under uncertain command in the West Bank.
Regardless of Biden administration desires that a “renewed” PA take over administration of the Gaza Strip after the war, perhaps with a pan-Arab force policing the territory, no one besides Israel can impose demilitarization on the area, Weinberg said.
Although “everyone in this country knows someone injured or killed in this campaign” and ending Hamas’ grip on Gaza will take a long time, “Israel is up for it,” Weinberg said. There is no public desire to halt the campaign to crush the Islamic terrorist group, he added.
Despite Hezbollah-Israeli firing across the Lebanese border, Weinberg said open war with the Iranian-backed Party of God was “not a conflict Israel wants now.” He noted Hezbollah is many times larger than Hamas and even more heavily armed. Nevertheless, Israel might challenge Hezbollah in the future.
Weinberg said Hamas’ October 7 rampage “was a rude awakening.” The terrorists made clear they weren’t guided by concern for Palestinian well-being but “a cosmic ideology … not by despair but by hope” hope they could destroy Israel and Zionism. He added that “the average age in Gaza is 18 years old.” That means 50 percent of Gazans have been educated in the past 20 years by Hamas. … There is not a moderate alternative to come forward. … Therefore, Israel has to prove to them that the gates of jihad, the gates of heaven haven’t been opened for them.”
This was “a somewhat stark and dark concept for Israelis to recognize. … We are in an endless struggle” against an Arab nationalist-religious belief. But harkening back to Revisionist Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s concept of “the iron wall,” adopted by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, Israeli military, economic and societal strength can overcome the Jewish state’s enemies and draw other Arabs to it, Weinberg said. However, a “new, tough Israeli national security doctrine and a new Israeli national identity” will be required.