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A new world order for Gaza

If Bibi Netanyahu and his right-fringe Israel regime didn’t exist, Yahya Sinwar and his sinful warmongers of Gaza’s Hamas probably would have had to invent them.

But as things have turned out, Netanyahu and his gang not only exist, they have proven to be painfully gullible and tragically manipulable. Bibi’s government has fallen into every trap Yahya baited for them. All the way back to Yahya’s long run-up-con that led Bibi to urge Qatar to pour money into an allegedly passive New Hamas. That’s what was happening right up to when the Same-Old Hamas caught Bibi’s myopic military and intelligence big-thinkers clueless and flat-footed with their horrific Oct. 7 surprise.

And ever since, Bibi has responded just as it seemed obvious that Yahya (Hamas’ most important leader still in Gaza) wanted Israel to do — with massive bombings of Gaza that turned the residences into rubble that left Gaza’s innocent Palestinian civilians and children looking pathetic, starving, homeless and helpless in videos seen on news screens around the world, 24/7 — for half a year now.

On Monday, The New York Times reported in a front page exclusive: “As an architect of the Oct. 7 attacks, Mr. Sinwar masterminded a strategy that he knew would provoke a ferocious Israeli response. But in Hamas’ calculus, the deaths of many Palestinian civilians — who do not have access to Hamas’ subterranean tunnels — were the necessary cost of upending the status quo with Israel.” The Times reported that “American and Israeli intelligence agencies have spent months assessing Mr. Sinwar’s motivations.”

But, of course, those conclusions probably seemed like old news to those of you who are regular readers of this column. Last year, just weeks after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel’s civilians, I reported what U.S. intelligence, military and diplomatic sources believed was the reason Hamas staged such an unspeakably brutal invasion. Hamas had spent years building tunnels beneath Gaza’s civilian apartment buildings, hospitals and schools — knowing that Israel knew the Hamas troops and officials would return to hide beneath Gaza’s civilians — after having slaughtered, raped and kidnapped Israeli civilians.

“Hamas did all that just to goad Israel into a massive and lengthy retaliation that would kill many more Palestinian civilians in Gaza — and turn world opinion against Israel,” I wrote in a column last November. “Israel did just what Hamas expected. And, just as Hamas also expected: Global news screens first showed one day of horrific news about Hamas’ slaughter and kidnapping of Israeli hostages. But now, for more than a month, they have been pouring videos of the ongoing plight of Gaza’s Palestinians, desperately fleeing Israel’s retaliation.”

Well, it’s been more than six months now that the world has been watching those videos of sad and starving young Palestinians. Just as Hamas hoped and schemed, much of the world seems to have turned Israel into a global pariah. But that’s not all. There has been an explosive overreaction that has extended beyond geopolitics and into antisemitism and even racial slurs on campuses of institutions that consider themselves places of higher learning.

Meanwhile, a world of leaders have failed to recognize and rally behind a concept I wrote about in the last weeks of 2023 that I believe could — and should — become a basis for unifying and healing all who live in that perpetual powder keg part of our planet. So let me try again:

It is way past time that world leaders — including United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, President Joe Biden and the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and all other nations in the Middle East — recognize that Hamas has seized not just one set of civilian hostages but two.

Years ago, Hamas dug massive tunnels beneath the homes of Gaza’s Palestinian population — and transformed more than a million of Gaza’s civilians into human shield hostages. Then, on Oct. 7, Hamas took Israeli soldiers and civilians hostage.

Yet, the United Nations secretary-general has remained silent. But Guterres is uniquely positioned to be able to champion a worldwide movement to free both sets of Hamas hostages. He can start by recruiting the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and others in the Middle East to urge that Hamas free both sets of its hostages.

Free the Palestinians held hostage by those who cower beneath them in tunnels. Free the Israelis who are held in those tunnels.

Let the world, led by Guterres, recruit future-thinking Arab leaders to bring food, medicine and fuel to Gaza. Let Arab leaders forge a new Palestinian Authority that, for starters, can become a non-Hamas Gaza.

And mainly, let’s start today.

Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive.

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