Alex Constantine - February 4, 2024
By Alex Constantine
Since Hamas invaded Israel, I've been biting my tongue and resisting the urge to point out that the mindless slaughter had all of the elements of a provocateur action. This is a deadly serious matter and I do not want to upset anyone with familial or personal ties to the victims. I also wanted to be absolutely certain that I wasn't engaging in a misbegotten conspiracy theory.
But wth, it has been obvious from the outset that the Hamas killers were agents provocateur. It may that one thin voice is all that is necessary to call attention to it. I suspect that many others share my skepticism, but haven't said so publicly for the same reasons I've been biting down on my otherwise sharp, fast tongue for several months.
Provocateurs are a historical constant. Every nation since the Roman Empire has deployed them. But the average American doesn't understand this essential point. The lesson of the Gulf of Tonkin hasn't sunk in.
More recently, far-right Trump supporters infiltrated the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd, and were responsible for much of the ensuing window smashing, arson of black businesses, even murder. Fox News and its allied propaganda fronts did not find the fascist provocateur infiltration newsworthy, of course, and deliberately blamed liberal, black and anti-fascist protesters for right-wing violence. A few examples specifying who was responsible for much of the carnage widely but erroneously attributed to BLM and Antifa:
"An officer was gunned down. The killer was a ‘boogaloo boy’ using nearby peaceful protests as cover, feds say." -- Washington Post.
"Police: Richmond riots instigated by white supremacists disguised as Black Lives Matter" -- WSLS (Virginia).
"Far-Right Boogaloo Boys are Trying to Incite Violence at Protests" -- Rolling Stone.
"Editorial: Right-wing extremist group ‘Boogaloo boys’ poses real threat during protests" -- Charleston Post and Courier.
"Alleged Followers of Boogaloo Movement Face Charges Linked to Protests" -- Wall Street Journal.
"Man who helped ignite George Floyd riots identified as white supremacist: Police" -- ABC News.
"LEAKED DOCUMENTS SHOW POLICE KNEW FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISTS WERE THE REAL THREAT AT PROTESTS, NOT 'ANTIFA'" -- Intercept.
Agents provocateur taint the reputations of political opponents, justify police violence directed at target groups, and beef up the budgets of law enforcement and the military.
Netanyahu's deployment of provocateurs is a matter of simple addition. Israeli leaders have incited wars against Palestinians in the past when immersed in legal hot water. Israel's Prime Minister faced pending trial on multiple corruption charges - breach of trust, bribery, fraud - when the "unprovoked" and "unanticipated" rampage interceded. One minute justice threatened his political career, and the next it held off indefinitely. This has happened so often under previous administrations that apparent war or conjuration has become routine.
Add to this the fact that guards at the border were sent off to the West Bank before Hamas slipped through and over the wall. A tragic coincidence? Could be, but if so, there were entire squadrons of police and military personnel trained to respond to an incursion rapidly. Some local authorities did. They were disorganized, far outnumbered, reacted haphazardly and were cut down with ease. They didn't get the memo.
Explanations have been given for the sluggish response of the military and law enforcement, but like the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King verdict, another provocateur action (see my own book, Blood, Carnage ant the Agent Provocateur), the cavalry arrived far too late to stanch the flow of blood. Israeli officials should have sounded the alarm. They didn't.
Then there was the widely reported fact that, after they'd been briefed that Hamas planned to invade, IDF officials dismissed detailed, highly credible warnings with impossible skepticism.
If a well-informed friend's hair is on fire because a serial killer is planning to invade my home and kill my family, I do not leave my door unlocked and turn off the alarm, even if there is some doubt the information has merit. I buy a pit bull or two, stock ammunition, load my shotgun, inform neighbors, switch on the motion detector, bolt the door in the event the warning is valid. My well-informed friend isn't a naive scare monger. I listen, examine the evidence and respond rationally.
Israeli officials knew perfectly well that Hamas was capable of carrying out a bloody assault because Netanyahu gave the terrorists the financial means to provoke and sustain a war.
Where did the weapons come from? The New York Times reported on January 28th: "Hamas is repurposing weapons that once belonged to Israel’s arsenal." Reportedly, unexploded Israeli bombs lobbed at Gaza, ordinance stolen from the Israelis and purchased from America and stolen from Israel has armed Hamas.
Yes, America, the Times acknowledges without explanation. A Google search turns up no prior reports of American arms transfers to Hamas. Who was in the Oval Office? Trump? The Times doesn't reveal its source, but casually drops this little bombshell as if it is common knowledge. A recent CNN report on the arming of Hamas includes a long section on Iran, but makes on mention of the US.
The Times: "The Israeli military said in a statement that it was committed to dismantling Hamas but did not answer specific questions about the group’s weapons." Touchy subject? Reluctance to reveal sources and methods? Doubtful. If the source of supply as a Muslim regime, Israeli spokesmen would gladly say so.
Israeli authorities "knew that their armories were vulnerable to theft. A military report from early last year noted that thousands of bullets and hundreds of guns and grenades had been stolen from poorly guarded bases." Another tragic coincidence? Any Las Vegas casino or Walmart outlet has tighter security.
Israel has sustained an air and naval blockade around the Gaza Strip for years, also an array of surveillance stations. Yet radicalized Palestinians gained entry to Israeli military bases, broke into munitions stores, loaded trucks, sailed through the front gate and checkpoints to the Gaza Strip undetected? Jack Reacher has met his match.
Hamas trained openly for two full years before the invasion. The exercises coincided with plans in the IDF's possession. The Mossad witnessed the exercises before an army of goons stormed in. "Not possible" could only have been a deliberate obfuscation. There is no other feasible way to explain the "irresponsible" complacency of Israel's military leadership.
As I say, a very serious matter, with innocents on both sides treated as disposable fodder, human sacrifices serving an unspoken geopolitical purpose. I'm convinced that some in the Israel press pool know that Bibi the Machiavellian thug was in cahoots with the sponsors and leaders of Hamas to incite bloodshed, justifying a blitz. (Palestinians are considered to be pariahs in Israel, Egypt, throughout the Middle East.) Some journalists come within a hair of levelling the accusation, drop provocative hints, but hold their tongues exactly as I've been doing. They don't want to be wrong, inflict emotional wounds, or perceived as conspiracy head cases.
A Brief History of the Netanyahu-Hamas Alliance
For 14 years, Netanyahu's policy was to keep Hamas in power; the pogrom of October 7, 2023
helps the Israeli prime minister preserve his own rule
Haaretz, Oct 20, 2023
Much ink has been spilled describing the longtime relationship – rather, alliance – between Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas. And still, the very fact that there has been close cooperation between the Israeli prime minister (with the support of many on the right) and the fundamentalist organization seemingly evaporated from most of the current analyses – everyone’s talking about “failures,” “mistakes” and “contzeptziot” (fixed conceptions). Given this, there is a need not only to review the history of cooperation but also to conclude unequivocally: The pogrom of October 7, 2023, helps Netanyahu, and not for the first time, to preserve his rule, certainly in the short term.
The MO of Netanyahu’s policy since his return to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2009 has and continues to be, on the one hand, bolstering the rule of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and, on the other, weakening the Palestinian Authority.
His return to power was accompanied by a complete turnaround from the policy of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, who sought to end the conflict through a peace treaty with the most moderate Palestinian leader – PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
For the last 14 years, while implementing a divide-and-conquer policy vis-a-vis the West Bank and Gaza, “Abu Yair” (“Yair’s father,” in Arabic, as Netanyahu called himself while campaigning in the Arab community before one recent election) has resisted any attempt, military or diplomatic, that might bring an end to the Hamas regime.
In practice, since the Cast Lead operation in late 2008 and early 2009, during the Olmert era, Hamas’ rule has not faced any genuine military threat. On the contrary: The group has been supported by the Israeli prime minister, and funded with his assistance.
When Netanyahu declared in April 2019, as he has after every other round of fighting, that “we have restored deterrence with Hamas” and that “we have blocked the main supply routes,” he was lying through his teeth.
For over a decade, Netanyahu has lent a hand, in various ways, to the growing military and political power of Hamas. Netanyahu is the one who turned Hamas from a terror organization with few resources into a semi-state body.
Releasing Palestinian prisoners, allowing cash transfers, as the Qatari envoy comes and goes to Gaza as he pleases, agreeing to the import of a broad array of goods, construction materials in particular, with the knowledge that much of the material will be designated for terrorism and not for building civilian infrastructure, increasing the number of work permits in Israel for Palestinian workers from Gaza, and more. All these developments created symbiosis between the flowering of fundamentalist terrorism and preservation of Netanyahu’s rule.
Take note: It would be a mistake to assume that Netanyahu thought about the well-being of the poor and oppressed Gazans – who are also victims of Hamas – when allowing the transfer of funds (some of which, as noted, didn’t go to building infrastructure but rather military armament). His goal was to hurt Abbas and prevent division of the Land of Israel into two states.
The shame that will follow Netanyahu will be far greater than one he attempted to escape.
It’s important to remember that without those funds from Qatar (and Iran), Hamas would not have had the money to maintain its reign of terror, and its regime would have been dependent on restraint.
In practice, the injection of cash (as opposed to bank deposits, which are far more accountable) from Qatar, a practice that Netanyahu supported and approved, has served to strengthen the military arm of Hamas since 2012.
Thus, Netanyahu indirectly funded Hamas after Abbas decided to stop providing it with funds that he knew would end up being used for terrorism against him, his policies and his people. It’s important not to ignore that Hamas used this money to buy the means through which Israelis have been murdered for years.
In parallel, from a security standpoint, since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Netanyahu has been guided by a policy that almost completely ignored the terrorism of the rockets and the incendiary kites and balloons. Occasionally, the media has been exposed to a dog-and-pony show, when such weapons were captured, but not more than that.
It’s worth reminding that last year, the "government of change" (the short-lived coalition led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid) exercised a different policy, one of whose expressions was the halting of funding for Hamas arriving via suitcases full of cash. When Netanyahu tweeted, on May 30, 2022, that “Hamas is interested in the existence of the weak Bennett government,” he was lying to the public. The government of change was a disaster for Hamas.
Netanyahu’s nightmare was the collapse of the Hamas regime – something that Israel could have expedited, albeit for a difficult price. One of the proofs for this claim was given during Operation Protective Edge.
At the time, Netanyahu leaked to the media the contents of a presentation that the military had made to the security cabinet laying out the potential repercussions of conquering Gaza. The premier knew that the secret document, which noted that occupying Gaza would cost the lives of hundreds of soldiers, would create an atmosphere of opposition to a widespread ground invasion.
In March 2019, Naftali Bennett told the Channel 13 program Hamakor: “Someone took care to leak that to the media to create an excuse for not taking action… it’s one of the gravest leaks in Israeli history.” Of course, the leak was not investigated, despite many demands from members of the Knesset. In closed-door conversations, Benny Gantz said then, when he was the IDF’s chief of staff, “Bibi leaked this.”
Let this sink in. Netanyahu leaked a “top secret” document in order to thwart the military and diplomatic position of the cabinet, which sought to defeat Hamas with various means. We should heed what Avigdor Lieberman told Yedioth Ahronoth, in an interview published just before the October 7 assault, that Netanyahu “continuously thwarted all the targeted assassinations.”
It should be stressed that Netanyahu’s policy of keeping Hamas in charge in Gaza didn’t find expression only through opposition to physical occupation of Gaza and to assassinations of key Hamas players, but also in his determination to thwart any political reconciliation between the PA – Fatah in particular – and Hamas. A prominent example is Netanyahu’s behavior in late 2017, when talks between Fatah and Hamas were actually taking place.
A fundamental disagreement between Abbas and Hamas concerned the question of the Islamist group’s military being subordinate to to the PA. Hamas agreed that the PA would return to running all civilian matters in Gaza but refused to yield its arms.
Egypt and the United States supported reconciliation and worked to achieve it. Netanyahu totally opposed the idea, asserting repeatedly that “reconciliation between Hamas and the PLO makes achieving peace harder.” Of course, Netanyahu didn’t pursue peace, which wasn’t on the agenda in any way back then. His position only served Hamas.
Over the years, from time to time, various figures on both sides of the political spectrum repeatedly pointed to the axis of cooperation between Netanyahu and Hamas. On the one hand, for example, Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet security service from 2005 to 2011, told Yedioth Ahronoth in January 2013, “If we look at it over the years, one of the main people contributing to Hamas’s strengthening has been Bibi Netanyahu, since his first term as prime minister.”
In August 2019, former prime minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio that people who believed that Netanyahu had no strategy were mistaken. “His strategy is to keep Hamas alive and kicking… even at the price of abandoning the citizens [of the south] … in order to weaken the PA in Ramallah.”
And former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot told Maariv in January 2022 that Netanyahu acted “in total opposition to the national assessment of the National Security Council, which determined that there was a need to disconnect from the Palestinians and establish two states.” Israel moved in the exact opposition direction, weakening the PA and strengthening Hamas.
Shin Bet head Nadav Argaman spoke about this when he finished his term in 2021. He warned explicitly that the lack of dialogue between Israel and the PA had the effect of weakening the latter while bolstering Hamas.
He warned that the relative quiet in the West Bank at the time was deceptive, and that “Israel must find a way to cooperate with the PA and to strengthen it.” Eisenkot commented, in that same 2022 interview, that Argaman was right. “This is what’s happening, and it’s dangerous,” he added.
People on the right said similar things. One of the mantras being repeated was that of newly elected MK Bezalel Smotrich, who in 2015 told the Knesset Channel that “Hamas is an asset and Abu Mazen is a burden,” referring to Abbas by his nom de guerre.
In April 2019, Jonatan Urich, one of Netanyahu’s media advisers and a Likud spokesman, told Makor Rishon that one of Netanyahu’s achievements was separating Gaza (both politically and conceptually) from the West Bank. Netanyahu “basically smashed the vision of the Palestinian state in these two places,” he boasted. “Some of the achievement is related to the Qatari money reaching Hamas each month.”
Around the same time in 2019, Likud MK Galit Distel Atbaryan wrote in an effusively complimentary Facebook post: “We must say this honestly – Netanyahu wants Hamas on its feet, and he is ready to pay almost any incomprehensible price for this. Half the country is paralyzed, children and parents are suffering from post-trauma, homes are blown up, people are killed, a street cat holds a nuclear tiger by the balls.” Read it but don’t believe it? It’s worth believing, because this is exactly the policy by which Netanyahu comported himself.
The prime minister himself spoke briefly at times about his position regarding Hamas. In March 2019, he said during a meeting of Likud MKs, at which the subject of transfer of funds to Hamas was under discussion, that, “Whoever opposes a Palestinian state must support delivery of funds to Gaza because maintaining separation between the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza will prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
In a tweet two months later, Channel 13 quoted former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak as telling a Kuwaiti newspaper: “Netanyahu isn’t interested in a two-state solution. Rather, he wants to separate Gaza from the West Bank, as he told me at the end of 2010.”
Gen. (Res.) Gershon Hacohen, a prominent right winger, made things crystal clear in an interview with the online magazine Mida in May 2019. “When Netanyahu didn’t go to war in Gaza to defeat the Hamas regime, he basically prevented Abu Mazen from establishing a united Palestinian state,” he recalled at the time. “We need to exploit the situation of separation created between Gaza and Ramallah. It’s an Israeli interest of the highest level, and you can’t understand the situation in Gaza without understanding this context.”
Netanyahu’s entire policy since 2009 has sought to destroy any possibility of a diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians. It’s the theme of his rule, which depends on the continuation of the conflict. Destroying democracy is an additional aspect of his continuing rule, something that has brought many of us out to the streets during the past year.
In that same 2019 interview with Army Radio, Barak said that Netanyahu was keeping the south “on a constant low flame.” One should pay particular attention to his assertion that the security establishment laid on the cabinet table several times plans “to drain the swamp” of Hamas in Gaza, but the cabinet never discussed them.
Netanyahu knew, Barak added, “that it’s easier with Hamas to explain to Israelis that there is no one to sit with and no one to talk to. If the PA strengthens… then there will be someone to talk to.”
Back to Distel Atbaryan: “Mark my words – Benjamin Netanyahu keeps Hamas on its feet so that the entire State of Israel won’t become the ‘Gaza envelope.’” She warned of disaster “if Hamas collapses,” in which case, “Abu Mazen is liable to control Gaza. If he will control it, voices from the left will arise advocating negotiations and a diplomatic settlement and a Palestinian state, including in Judea and Samaria.” Netanyahu’s mouthpieces are incessantly pumping out such messages.
Benjamin Netanyahu and Hamas have an unspoken political alliance against their common enemy – the Palestinian Authority. In other words, Netanyahu has cooperation and agreement with a group whose goal is the destruction of the State of Israel and the murder of Jews.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman was on the mark when he wrote in May 2021, at the time of the establishment of the government of change, that Netanyahu and Hamas were scared of the possibility of a diplomatic breakthrough. He wrote that the premier and Hamas both “wanted to destroy the possibility of political change before it could destroy them politically.”
He then explained that they didn’t need to talk or have an agreement between them. “They each understand what the other needs to stay in power and consciously or unconsciously behave in ways to ensure that they deliver it.”
I could go on and on expanding on the subject of this cooperation, but the preceding examples speak for themselves. The 2023 pogrom is a result of Netanyahu’s policy. It is not “a failure of the concept” – rather, this is the concept: Netanyahu and Hamas are political partners, and both sides have fulfilled their side of the bargain.
In the future, more details will emerge that will shed additional light on that mutual understanding. Don’t make the mistake of thinking – even now – that as long as Netanyahu and his present government are responsible for making decisions, the Hamas regime will collapse. There will be a lot of talk and pyrotechnics about the current “war against terror,” but sustaining Hamas is more important to Netanyahu than a few dead kibbutzniks.
Adam Raz is a historian, and author, most recently, of “The Demagogue: The Mechanics of Political Power” (in Hebrew).