Levy Cash Fines on Hamas for Incendiary Balloons

Since 2012, in an effort to reduce tensions with the Gaza Strip, Israel has permitted Qatar to donate over $1.4 billion in cash to Hamas.  In principle, this money was used to pay salaries for Hamas workers, assist needy Gazans, and purchase fuel for the Strip’s power plants. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of the Shurat HaDin Law Center in Israel, argues that aid to Palestinians in Gaza should be in the form of food, medicine, and other physical products instead of cash which Hamas can divert to rebuild its military infrastructure. Following the May 2021 conflict with Gaza, Israel has not allowed Qatar to transfer any money to Hamas. Unless these transfers are resumed, Hamas threatens to retaliate by reviving violent demonstrations at the border with Israel.

Some angry Gazans have observed the current cease fire with Israel by launching incendiary balloons over the border fence. They were thrilled to learn that their balloons ignited large fires which destroyed valuable farmland and property in Israel. They were outraged when Israel retaliated with airstrikes against Hamas training camps. The previous Israeli government had ignored incendiary balloons.

We have two suggestions for how Israel can respond to incendiary balloons launched from Gaza. The first suggestion, given in “Reciprocal Incendiary Balloons” (Aug. 25, 2020), is for Israel to retaliate by launching its own incendiary balloons over Gaza from ships stationed off the Mediterranean coast.  Giving Gazans a taste of their own medicine may dampen their enthusiasm for starting fires in Israel.

The second suggestion is for Israel to levy a monetary fine on Hamas for each incendiary balloon launched into Israel. The fine will increase each time a balloon is launched. We suggest that starting on July 1, 2021, Israel will allow Qatar to make cash payments to Hamas. The fines will be collected by Israel by deducting the total fine from the cash transferred from Qatar to Hamas. Beginning on July 1, 2021, Israel will count the number of incendiary balloons launched from Gaza into Israel.

Suppose that n incendiary balloons are launched before Qatar makes its next transfer of cash. Suppose the first balloon will be fined $x. The second will be fined $2x, the third will be fined $3x, and the nth will be fined $nx. The sum of the fines for n balloons, to be deducted from the cash to be donated to Hamas, will equal (1 +2 +3 + … + n) $x. For example, suppose that n = 5 balloons are launched, and Israel levies a fine of $x = $1 million for the first balloon.
The total fine will equal (1 +2 +3 + 4 + 5) $x = (15) $1 million = $15 million.
After Israel deducts the $15 million fine from Qatar’s cash donation, Israel will reset the balloon counter to zero. The process will be repeated for all subsequent cash transfers. Of course, Israel can always choose a new value for $x following each cash transfer. Israel can also impose entirely different fines on a sequence of incendiary balloons. In addition, Israel can levy much larger monetary fines on rockets fired into the Jewish state by Hamas.


About the Author
Ted Sheskin is a professor emeritus of industrial engineering at Cleveland State University, and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, the Forward, and Jewish Voice.
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