Israel, Gaza, and Operation Swords of Iron: Interview with Sharren Haskel, Member of the Israeli Knesset

Israel, Gaza, and Operation Swords of Iron: Interview with Sharren Haskel, Member of the Israeli Knesset

. 6 min read

Sharren Haskel is a member of the Knesset serving on the Finance and National Security committees. She is chairperson of "The Day After: UNRWA" Caucus and co-chair of the Israel Allies Caucus. Haskel promotes classic liberal values of free market and limited government, while stalwart on security issues. She has also led the fight to legalize marijuana and facilitate its access for medical purposes. For her military service, Haskel served as a border police commander during the Second Intifada. She now lives in Kfar Saba with her husband and three daughters.

Many young Americans sympathize with the Palestinian cause. How do you explain these views?

This generation is a peculiar one. They do not understand the Middle East or radical Islam. If you think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a territorial conflict, you do not understand the Middle East. The Israel-Palestinian conflict is a religious and cultural conflict. It has a territorial aspect, in that infidels are not allowed to hold Muslim land. They view Israel as Muslim land. You cannot solve a cultural and religious conflict with territorial exchange. Gaza was evacuated. Every single living Jew was withdrawn in 2005. We even had to take the dead and re-bury them in Israel. It was given autonomy, and look what happened.

Having served in the Israeli border police during the Second Intifada, you bring a personal perspective to Palestinian uprisings. Given recent reports of students at Harvard calling for an intifada, what significance does that term hold for you?

“Intifada” means war. It means to go out violently and fight, in the streets, murder the infidels, and create an Islamic revolution. That’s what it means. And those demonstrators, who march through the streets in New York, yelling for an intifada, cry for war. At the same time, they are holding signs that call for a ceasefire. You can’t have it both ways. You need to decide if you want war or you want peace, because they don’t go together.

Proportionality in this conflict is a subject of debate with many claims of Israel using excessive force. How do you understand and justify the concept of proportionality in the context of Israel's operation? Why have so many Palestinian civilians been killed?

“Proportionality” is a word used by the international community only towards Israel. The reason they’re using it is to make sure that, basically, Israel will not be able to defend itself. There isn’t proportionality in any conflict. What is proportionality? Do I need now to go and find, in Gaza, 40 babies, and burn them in their cribs to death? Do I need to find exactly 200 women and gang-rape them? There is no such thing as proportionality in a conflict. We will never commit those kinds of atrocities. We will never commit crimes against humanity, even though they have been committed against the Jewish people time after time again. What we are doing is trying to fight a terrorist organization that is using a civilian population to hide and mask their activities. It is difficult.

The death counts from Gaza are sometimes questioned due to potential biases from the Hamas-run health administration. Can the general public trust these numbers, and is there a distinction made between militants and civilians in the published figures?

We know you can’t trust these numbers. Obviously, they are inflating the number. I’m not going into it because the death toll is high, and it’s heartbreaking. Do you think that I, as a mother, am enjoying these pictures as much as Hamas celebrated murdering, butchering, and beheading people? Not at all. When Israelis look at these pictures, it’s heartbreaking. We hope that maybe one day we will be able to coexist and live side-by-side. And Hamas has completely killed that dream.

Hamas' violence against Israeli women has not received widespread recognition in the media. Why has the world been slow to acknowledge this, and what role do organizations like the Red Cross, the UN, and women's groups play when they remain silent on this issue?

When I joined the army, it was a legacy of my grandparents that we will never be at the mercy of a ruler, dictator, or another country. We will always teach our children that they can defend themselves and they need to defend themselves. My step-grandfather survived Auschwitz. Since I was a young girl, he told me what happened there. And when he said “never again,” it meant he gave his grandchildren the capability to defend themselves by themselves. And the world doesn’t like that.

Do you believe the Palestinian public in Gaza and the West Bank supports the events of October 7?

There are different polls in Gaza and the West Bank. It’s roughly about 60 percent of the population in Gaza that supports the events of October 7. That says a lot about the population. In the West Bank, there is far more support for Hamas than in Gaza. If there were elections today, Hamas would most probably win [in the West Bank]. The Palestinian people would elect a terrorist organization that has sworn to annihilate the State of Israel and [has] committed crimes against humanity.

Qatar has played a role in mediating between Israel and Hamas and securing the release of hostages. How do you view Qatar's involvement—is it aimed at fostering lasting peace, or do you see it as an opportunistic attempt to play both sides?

Qatar is a country that supports terrorism. It is involved in a conflict as to who will dominate the Arab world. Qatar’s new channel, Al Jazeera, is pushing the government’s agenda. It is anti-Western and anti-Israeli. Qatar is housing Hamas leaders in luxurious hotels sponsored by the government, while the Palestinian people are suffering. Qatar has invested billions of dollars in American universities and building mosques in Europe to become relevant in the Muslim world.

Do you currently support a ceasefire, and how do you respond to growing calls in the international community for humanitarian pauses as the situation worsens for civilians?

I support a ceasefire on one condition: bring back all of our hostages. Our sisters and brothers are being held in tunnels with no food, [and are being] drugged, abused, and raped. We will do everything in our capability to bring them back. They want a ceasefire? Great, bring us back our family members!

Following the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, who is expected to govern the territory? Is there a likelihood of a Gulf-led coalition, possibly led by Saudi Arabia, restoring order?

We are starting to explore ideas about the day after. It has to be something different that is consistent with Middle Eastern culture and reality. There have been a few ideas, for example, like giving tribal leaders control. There could be co-management with other Arab countries. But the PA [Palestinian Authority] cannot be involved because it is a corrupt organization with a program called Pay for Slay, where they pay and promote terrorism. They did not condemn the acts of October 7. When they say Hamas will always be part of the political atmosphere of the Palestinians, they don’t want to live side by side with us.

You have been a vocal critic of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East). Could you elaborate on your concerns and why you believe the organization may be falling short of its intended purpose?

UNRWA has become a cover-up for Hamas in Gaza. This is an organization whose only purpose is to perpetuate and eternalize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even if you were born in Gaza and lived there all your life, you are considered a refugee by the UN. They are perpetuating the idea that one day, the entire state of Israel will be theirs for the taking. They will be in Haifa, Tel Aviv, Acre, and Nahariya. Palestinians have been educated in UNRWA schools since birth, in a system that’s built on the values of hatred, war, racism, and violence. You have math questions that involve calculations of missiles and how many people they can kill. Their heroes are not sportspeople or scientists or poets; they are martyrs. That is the kind of education and values the UN is supplying to the Palestinian people. Seventy percent of Palestinians in Gaza are considered refugees by the United Nations, forever. Most of them have never lived anywhere else besides Gaza. There isn’t a single UNRWA school that the IDF entered where we didn’t find ammunition, entrances to tunnels, bunkers, and things like that.

With Iran's proxies causing instability in the Middle East, including disruptions to global shipping, there is concern about Israel taking action against Iran. How likely is Israel to launch a direct attack in the near future, and do you have a message for the Iranian regime?

Iran has battalions around the world. There’s one in Lebanon called Hezbollah, one in Gaza called Hamas, and so forth. Hezbollah planned an attack recently on Brazil. Iran is not just a threat to Israel; Israel’s a front. And you just need to listen to them—they’re saying it out loud. The little devil is Israel, and the big devil is the United States. If we don’t defeat Iran and radical Islam, they’re coming for America next. If we need to strike, everything is on the table. This war will come to the doorstep of the Western world. This is not about the Iranian people but the ayatollahs [religious leaders among Shiite Muslims]. We support our Iranian brothers and sisters who have been fighting for years for their freedom. Just last year, I cut my hair in solidarity with Iranian women who were leading the fight against the Ayatollah. We love the Iranian people and know they suffer. Maybe the time has come for the international community to liberate the Iranian people.

Ohrenstein spoke with Haskel on January 1, 2024. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.