Senators: Time to disarm, delegitimize Hamas


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A bipartisan group of senators on July 24 said that for any prospective cease-fire deal with Israel, there are two prerequisites: Hamas must be disarmed, and the group must be severed from the Palestinian government in Gaza.

As Secretary of State John Kerry visited the region in an effort to bring an end to the hostilities between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) held a press conference to express their views on what the goal of a cease-fire should be.

“We hope that a cease-fire would be done upon conditions not to repeat the mistakes of the past,” said Graham. “That a cease-fire would be done in such a fashion as Israel could deal with the tunnel threat – which is new and lethal – effectively and permanently; that they could deal with the rocket sites that are being positioned by hospitals, schools and apartment complexes; that when the cease-fire is done, Israel will have had an opportunity, through diplomacy or military action, to deal with the threat that faces the Israeli people.

“[W]e hope the Palestinian people will have a chance to live in peace, and that means Hamas has to go as a governing entity,” Graham continued. “There is no way to get there from here if you leave Hamas in place.”

Later that day, Graham, Schumer and Cardin filed a new resolution reaffirming their position that Israel has the right to defend itself; calling on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and the international community to immediately condemn terrorist attacks by Hamas, and opposing any effort to impose a cease-fire without allowing Israel to remove the threat posed by Hamas rockets and tunnels.

To support their new resolution, the senators noted that numerous times in the past couple of weeks Israel had accepted cease-fire proposals, and Hamas either violated such agreements or rejected them in the first place. Cardin noted that this latest resolution comes on the heels of a similar resolution passed unanimously in the Senate one week earlier and just hours after Israel began its military operation – Protective Edge – in the Gaza Strip.

That resolution, S. Res. 498, blamed Hamas for the conflict and reaffirmed the Senate’s view that Israel had the right to defend itself. It, too, was spearheaded by Graham and Rubio. In the time since the resolution was passed, “the Egyptians have brought forward a cease-fire, Israel was prepared to move forward on it, Hamas said ‘no,’ ” Cardin said. “We had a short time-out for humanitarian aid. Israel complied with it, Hamas did not. It’s very clear. We all want to see peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We want to see that. That has been our dream, that’s been our goal, but it’s also clear to us that a cease-fire cannot occur until Israel is protected against the missiles aimed at innocent civilian populations and these tunnels are brought to an end.”

Despite the senators’ efforts and following more temporary cease-fires, Secretary Kerry’s proposal just days after the press conference did not include any of the Senate’s suggestions and was widely viewed by Israeli media as a capitulation to Hamas.

“The only way to have a cease-fire that’s going to make a difference is to make sure that Hamas no longer has the capability of launching rockets into Israel or sending killers through tunnels into Israel,” said Schumer. “[Y]ou need a cease-fire that’s going to work and be permanent and long-term; and that cease-fire should occur only after Hamas is denuded of the missiles and only after the tunnels are no longer useful.”

On the Senate floor later that day, Rubio spoke of a recent “heated” letter he and his colleagues received from the Palestinian ambassador to the United States complaining that the Senate has not expressed equal outrage at the deaths of Palestinians as Israelis. “… [P]lease don’t come to me and say that both sides are to blame here.

That’s not true,” said Rubio. “This crisis would end tomorrow if Hamas would turn over its rockets and stop bombarding people. “So, Mr. Ambassador, what I would ask of you is that you go back to your government and you ask them to separate completely from Hamas, to condemn what Hamas is doing to your own people, to condemn the use of human shields,” said Rubio.

“Stop writing letters to U.S. senators… .” The senators joined a growing number of voices calling for the complete demilitarization of Hamas, including, last week, both The Washington Post’s editorial board and the European Union, which released a statement on July 22 strongly condemning “indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel by Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip.”

The statement called for Hamas to immediately renounce violence and disarm, calling their actions “criminal” and “unjustifiable.”

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@dmitriyshapiro contributed to this article.

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