This month, we mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords between Israel and the PLO. In numerous articles and discussions, analysts and pundits have been focusing on the question: Why is there still no peace between Israel and the Palestinians?
One key factor that has been missing from the discussion is the destructive role of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the conflict. Take for example the crucial period after the signing of the Oslo accords. Between 1993 and 2008, no less than 168 Palestinian suicide bombers blew themselves up on Israeli buses, in restaurants and shopping malls. These suicide bombings, and other terror attacks, killed over 1,000 Israeli civilians and wounded many more.
Although Palestinian terror groups provided the hateful ideology and the suicide bombers, it was Iran that provided the financial means and technical support to commit mass murder.
The book, “The Bus on Jaffa Road”, by journalist Mike Kelly, is a powerful reminder that since the 1990s, Iranian support for Palestinian terror has been a major obstacle to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Kelly’s account of a Hamas suicide bombing on a Jerusalem bus on Feb. 25, 1996, that killed 26 people details Iran’s extensive support for Palestinian terror. In the book, Kelly provides a moving tribute to the victims of the bombing and the courageous efforts made by their families to identify those responsible for the bus bombing and hold them accountable through a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court.
In the trial, we learn that the Hamas bomb-maker, Hassan Salameh, received training in Iran. Moreover, we learned that as early as 1996 the Iranian regime was already providing extensive financial support for Palestinian terror groups — especially Hamas and Islamic Jihad — amounting to some $75 million per year.
Since then, Iranian support for Palestinian terrorism has significantly increased.
In January 2018, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gadi Eizenkot revealed that Iran is now providing over $100 million per year in financial support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Yet, financial support for the terror organizations is only one aspect of Iran’s role as an obstacle to peace.
This summer, on May 22nd, Hamas military chief Yahya Sinwar said, “Our resistance in the Gaza Strip has greatly developed its capabilities first and foremost thanks to Allah, but also with the help of the righteous free men of our nation – first and foremost the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has provided the Al-Qassam Brigades and the other factions of the resistance a lot of money, equipment, and expertise…”.
Indeed, since Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Iran has been relentless in its efforts to help Hamas and Islamic Jihad turn Gaza into a launching pad for rockets and terror attacks against Israel. Unfortunately, the international community has turned a blind eye to Iran’s efforts in Gaza.
Since 2005, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has invested tremendous effort into creating a complex smuggling route for the shipment of rockets into Gaza. That route went from Iran to Sudan, across the Sinai Peninsula and then through tunnels into Gaza. On more than one occasion, Israel has intercepted these shipments.
As a result, since 2005, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have launched more than 12,000 rockets at Israeli civilians sparking four major rounds of fighting, including Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
Moreover, it’s important to view Iran’s support for Palestinian terrorism in the wider context of its destructive role in the wider Middle East. This is described in detail on the website of the non-partisan advocacy group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). Iran’s malign activities include the supply of more than 130,000 rockets and missiles to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
If the international community is truly serious about promoting peace between Israelis and Palestinians, then it must demand that Iran end its support for terrorism. Until that happens, Iran will continue to remain a major obstacle to peace.