April 2, 2020

Former Israeli National Security Adviser Discusses Islamic Jihad, Gaza Options

Streaks of light are pictured as rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Israel May 5, 2019. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Yaakov Amidror, former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) general and national security adviser for the Israeli government, discussed the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and how the Israeli government should response to the recent rocket attacks in a phone call Tuesday with reporters.

Amidror told Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA) President and CEO Michael Makovsky during the call that Hamas and the PIJ are the main terror organizations in the Gaza Strip; they both teamed up to fire rockets against Israelis over the weekend after a PIJ sniper fired at IDF troops on May 3. Hamas is the “Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood” and is “stronger” than the PIJ. Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has political responsibilities, while the PIJ is a “pure military terrorist organization,” Amidror said.

He described the relationship between Hamas and the PIJ as a “big brother-little brother” relationship. The PIJ is “more extreme” than Hamas, but Hamas has little interest in curbing the PIJ’s extremism because they don’t want to be seen as cooperating with Israel, Amidror argued.

Amidror speculated that the PIJ sniper incident that triggered the most recent violence was either due to an undisciplined PIJ member or a way to advance the Iranian regime’s interests.

“I don’t have proof for that but my assessment is that the Iranians’ interested will be the basis of this,” Amidror said, arguing that the Gaza rockets could result in forcing Israel to reallocate its resources from curbing Iran and Hezbollah in Syria toward Gaza. Iran funds both Hamas and the PIJ.

On the matter of if the Israeli government should work to completely eradicate Hamas from Gaza, Amidror said, “It can be done, but it would be a very costly war.” He pointed out that Gaza is “densely populated” and that Hamas has a vast network of underground tunnels. “We don’t have good information” on the extent of those tunnels, Amidror said.

If Israel removes Hamas from Gaza and then retreats, there’s a risk that Islamic terror groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS or the PIJ could take over Gaza. Therefore, Amidror argued, the Israeli government would have to rebuild Gaza.

“Israeli will have to take care for two million Palestinians in the most dense area in the Middle East,” Amidror said. “We will have to provide them everything.”

He speculated that it could take four years for the Israeli government clean up Gaza after a potential war, at which point Gaza would likely resemble the West Bank today.

The best way for the Israeli government to respond is to target Hamas’ weapons capabilities so Hamas knows it’s in their “best interests” not to attack, Amidror said.