By Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn
The Obama Administration announced on August 19 that it has finished destroying all of Syria’s known chemical weapons. Those who are concerned about the conflict between Israel and Hamas should be paying close attention, because the Syrian model could be the key to bringing peace to Gaza.
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad did not surrender his chemical weapons out of the goodness of his heart. He agreed to do so only after he was cornered and completely isolated by the international community. The Obama administration and its allies were (belatedly) threatening military action. Russia was no longer willing to stand with Syria against the world on this issue. Assad realized he had no choice.
Over the past year, the Syrian government handed over 1,300 tons of chemicals that it was going to use to manufacture sarin and other poison gases. Some of the chemicals were shipped to facilities in England, Germany, and Finland to be destroyed. About 600 tons were loaded onto a Danish vessel, which brought them to an American ship, the USS Cape Ray, where they were destroyed in the titanium reactor on board.
Obviously when one is dealing with dictators or terrorists, one cannot assume that they can be trusted. The U.S. and its allies will have to be extremely vigilant to make sure that Assad did not stash away any more chemicals. But in the meantime, it is clear that a very significant step has been taken so far.
All of which can teach us a great deal about Gaza.
Since the beginning of the current conflict, Israel has insisted that the only way to achieve a meaningful and enduring peace in Gaza is to disarm Hamas and demilitarize the territory. If weapons are left in Hamas’s hands, it’s only a matter of time before they will use them against Israel again.
Those tens of thousands of rockets, rifles, land mines, bombs, and other weapons – including all Hamas factories to manufacture them – must be surrendered, no ifs, ands, or buts.
In recent weeks, numerous important voices around the world have joined the call for demilitarization of Gaza.
On July 15, Tony Blair –Middle East envoy of the Quartet and former prime minister of England– said that action must be taken to remove Hamas’s “military infrastructure.” On July 22, the European Union declared: “All terrorist groups in Gaza must disarm.”
On July 24, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators introduced a resolution calling on the Obama administration to make the disarming of Hamas a central part of any cease-fire proposal.
On July 24 and again on July 30, the Washington Post, published lead (unsigned) editorials calling for “the disarmament of Hamas.” The Post specifically challenged the Obama administration’s preference for putting off demilitarization until some far-off day. The Post proposed that any economic aid to Gaza be linked to Hamas surrendering its missiles.
Some pundits have tried to pour cold water on the demilitarization proposal. They say it’s an “unrealistic” demand. But it’s unrealistic only if the international community refuses to show a little backbone. When the Free World unites and stands strong, killers back down.
The nay-sayers probably thought it was unrealistic to demand that the Irish Republican Army lay down its weapons. But the British government insisted. It did not withdraw its last soldiers from Northern Ireland until nearly two years after the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning confirmed that the IRA had been disarmed.
And who would have thought, as recently as two years ago, that Syria would voluntarily surrender its chemical weapons? But international resolve forced it to. And a similarly strong stand can bring about the demilitarization of Gaza as well.
The 25th lesson of the Gaza war: Disarming Hamas is the only realistic path to peace.
Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn are members of the board of the Religious Zionists of America. This article is part of a series.