Why Some in Israel Are Wary of Hamas’ New Gaza Boss: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Feb. 16, 2017— It seems there has never been a leader of Hamas better known to Israel than Yahya Sinwar, who was chosen this week in an internal process to succeed Ismail Haniyeh as the head of the political wing of the organization in the Gaza Strip.
What Kind of State Would Palestine Be? A Jordan, or an ISIL-Dominated Syria?: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Feb. 22, 2017— What might a Palestinian state look like?
Palestinian Assault on Freedoms: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, Feb. 16, 2017— A novelist, a journalist and a university professor walk into a bar.
PA Pensions for Terrorists Must be Stopped: Sander Gerber, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 13, 2017— On March 8, 2016, Taylor Force, a 28-year-old West Point graduate and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, was visiting Israel with members of his graduate class…
On Topic Links
New Leader, Same Old Terror: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Feb. 16, 2017
Holocaust Denial and Distortion: Palestinian Media Watch, 2017
Terrorist Appointed as Mahmoud Abbas’ Deputy, But the World Stays Silent: Sean Durns, Algemeiner, Feb. 24, 2017
The End of Palestine: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage, Feb. 23, 2017
Al-Monitor, Feb. 16, 2017
It seems there has never been a leader of Hamas better known to Israel than Yahya Sinwar, who was chosen this week in an internal process to succeed Ismail Haniyeh as the head of the political wing of the organization in the Gaza Strip. And vice versa: Sinwar spent 22 years in an Israeli prison and was released in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal in the fall of 2011. He speaks Hebrew, is familiar with the ways of Israeli society and knows everything about the Israeli mentality, abilities and sensitivities.
Since Sinwar was chosen, an interview he gave in 2006 to journalist Yoram Binor, in fluent Hebrew, has circulated online: In the interview he said, among other things, “We understand that Israel is sitting on 200 nuclear missiles. … We don’t have the ability to disarm Israel.” A decade ago, Sinwar suffered severe pain in his head, which made him panic. It was Israel that saved his life. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and recovered after emergency surgery at an Israeli hospital. On Feb. 14, an Israeli prison service officer said that at that time Sinwar was panicked, feared for his life and was grateful for the quick and professional medical care he received.
This appreciation has dissipated over the years. Israel views Sinwar as one of the most extreme leaders in the history of Hamas, and many senior Israeli officials fear that his election to head the political arm in Gaza will make Hamas more extreme and contribute to a hastening of the next cycle of violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Others believe that Sinwar will surprise everyone. “In fact, because he is aware of the limits of force and knows the Israeli side so well, Sinwar will not rush to involve the organization and residents of Gaza in another round of violence,” a senior Israeli security official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “It’s true, his views are very extreme, but his outlook is pragmatic and he is responsible and level-headed. He doesn’t have the spark of madness there is in [Hamas military commander] Mohammed al-Deif.”
Most astonishing, said a senior Israeli security source, is that Sinwar categorically opposed the Shalit deal, even though he was one of the senior Palestinian prisoners who were slated to be released in its framework. “His opposition was so forceful and influential that we had to transfer him to solitary confinement in order to isolate him at the critical moments of the negotiations. We feared his influence would cause head of the military arm Mohammed Jabari not to sign the deal with Israel,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Sinwar thought Israel should release many more prisoners than it did. He was one of the senior Palestinian prisoners and led a rather comfortable life in prison: Thanks to his seniority, Sinwar enjoyed meals cooked for him by other prisoners and sat at the head of the “Usra,” a secret Hamas class that operated in prison, composed of the most senior members, who established and disseminated policy.
Sinwar’s stance regarding Palestinian prisoners is intransigent. According to the Israeli security establishment, Sinwar will rededicate the organization to the capture of Israeli soldiers, knowing that this is the most effective tool Hamas could use against Israel’s military might. “He is a murderer,” a senior Israeli source who knows Sinwar up close told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “The blood of 12 collaborators whom he himself eliminated are on his hands; he planned many terrorist attacks; he is one of the founders of the military arm of Hamas, along with Deif and Salah Shehadeh and others. He led the hawkish and belligerent line against Israel for many years, such that even [Hamas spiritual leader] Sheikh Yassin wanted to calm him down, so that he wouldn’t rise to the top of our wanted list.”
Despite everything outlined above, Israel has a significant estimation of Sinwar’s abilities. “He’s ascetic, very wily; he has a quiet charisma. He doesn’t speak with a loud voice, but when he talks everyone is quiet. He’s an activist, modest, considered very noncorrupt, and is scrupulous about keeping his hands clean [of corruption]. He grew up in the sewers of Khan Yunis [in Gaza], and was one of the architects of the first intifada and one of the founders of the Hamas military arm. Sinwar is a natural leader for Hamas, and I believe that he will draw the military and political arms closer, and even unite them into one body. This is not especially good news,” the Israeli source said.
Until now, the political arm had been considered the moderating side in Hamas in its interactions with Israel. Its leaders have not been eager when it comes to conflicts and wars. Now that Sinwar is taking the reins, these differences could blur significantly, Shin Bet sources told Al-Monitor. The question of whether it is bad or good for Israel remains to be seen. Some in Israel believe it is not necessarily bad. It could be a man like Sinwar who suddenly grasps the bigger picture, not just the next Qassam rocket or attack tunnel. “'You see things differently depending on where you are' is not just an Israeli proverb,” said a high-ranking Israeli source, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It may be that Sinwar will actually be the one to restrain the military arm. He knows how to talk with Deif and his brother [Mohammed Sinwar], who is considered one of the senior brigade commanders in Gaza. They will not scare him as they scared Haniyeh. The new situation has a lot of risks, but many opportunities as well.”
The last stages of the negotiations of the Shalit deal were very dramatic. Israel rejected a large portion of the names of senior Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons and agreed to release the others on condition that they not be released in the West Bank, where they could reignite the intifada. One of those released to the Gaza Strip was Sinwar. His becoming boss of Gaza is not really surprising to Shin Bet chiefs. While they saw this as a likely scenario, they did not necessarily wish for Sinwar to become the head of the political arm…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Father Raymond J. de Souza
National Post, Feb. 22, 2017
What might a Palestinian state look like? Would it look like Jordan or Egypt? Or like Syria, Iraq, Libya or Yemen? Or Lebanon? Or like Gaza? Those questions are prompting a re-examination of whether a Palestinian state is still the consensus goal it has been for more than two decades.
Last week I reported, on the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, about the erosion of the longstanding consensus here in favour of the “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The subsequent comments by President Donald Trump that he would support whatever the parties agreed — one-state or two-state — abandoned America’s 20-year policy of favouring a two-state solution. That solution might have already been abandoned by an accelerating history.
This week Netanyahu is in Australia — the first ever visit of an Israeli prime minister to that longstanding ally — where ahead of his visit the Aussies reiterated their preference for a two-state solution, but also remained open to other options if the parties agreed. Alarmed by this development, two former Labour prime ministers called for Australia to recognize a Palestinian state immediately, hoping to cement the two-state solution as Australian policy. Positions are shifting, because the sands in this region are shifting. More like a sandstorm than a shift. Doubts about establishing a Palestinian state are arising now precisely because it is hard to envisage what an Arab state on the West Bank would look like.
In 2009, Netanyahu himself accepted a two-state solution, primarily by saying what a Palestinian state on the West Bank could not be. It would be entirely demilitarized, with no weaponry, and Israel would maintain control of its airspace and control of the borders. Many Palestinians rejected that vision as lacking the sovereignty, and perhaps even viability, of a real state.
Since then the map of the Arab world has been reconfigured. Indeed, over the last five years the borders of the Middle East, drawn up at the conclusion of the First World War and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, have been effectively erased. Four states — Syria, Libya, Iraq and Yemen — do not effectively govern within the entirety of their territories. They are still officially recognized as states, but they are no longer recognizable. Egypt has been through two revolutions since the Arab Spring — the first pro-Islamist and the second anti-Islamist — and today has lost effective control over the massive Sinai peninsula, given over to bandits and terrorists. Jordan, long stable and at peace with Israel, has been swamped by Syrian refugees — 20 per cent of its population — and sees chaos across the border in both Syria and Iraq.
An irony of the second Obama administration is that it pushed valiantly for a new Arab state in Palestine while all around existing Arab states were failing or being dismembered. The premise of Palestinian statehood is that it would lead to peace; the reality depends entirely upon what kind of state it would be. And the truth is, no one in the Middle East knows what the borders in the region will look like five years from now.
Indeed, as much as Israel might be leery of what a Palestinian state might look like, the Jordanians are terrified. If the West Bank were to become like Gaza, controlled by Hamas, or like Sinai, effectively a stateless territory, or like parts of Syria and Iraq, under the control of ISIL, or like Lebanon, home to Iranian proxies — the Hashemite Kingdom might not survive. There are many who make the persuasive argument that the alternative to two states — to separation from the Palestinian majority in the West Bank — is an Israel that is no longer Jewish and democratic. That argument’s power is now weakened by the prospect that a putative Palestine state might not be a benign Jordan or a peaceful Egypt, but a cauldron of expansionist violence.
That explains both the diminishing confidence that a Palestinian state could work, and the increasing calls for a regional solution. Perhaps in the reconfigured Middle East, the West Bank could achieve some confederation with Jordan, and Gaza with Egypt, hitching the new state to older, stable ones. Or if the disintegration of Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen continues, maybe the entire future of the region lies less in existing nation states, and in broad confederations of city-states and local clans. In that environment, the Palestinians might find themselves without a state but with autonomy in an increasingly stateless region.
The creation of a Palestinian state is implausible while existing neighbours are being destroyed, and even the concept of statehood in the region is eroding. That does make a foreseeable peace agreement less likely. And it requires creative thinking as a new Middle East is being born.
Khaled Abu Toameh
Gatestone Institute, Feb. 16, 2017
A novelist, a journalist and a university professor walk into a bar. Sounds like a joke, but it stops being funny when these three figures are the latest victims of the Palestinian Authority's (PA) crackdown on public freedoms, above all, freedom of expression. The crackdown is yet more proof of the violent intolerance that the Western-funded PA has long shown its critics.
It is also a sad reminder that more than two decades after the foundation of the PA, Palestinians are as far from democracy as ever. In fact, the Palestinians seem to be marching in the opposite direction — towards establishing a regime that is remarkably reminiscent of the despotic and corrupt Arab and Islamic governments.
PA officials like to boast that Palestinians living under their rule in the West Bank enjoy a great deal of freedom of expression, especially compared to the situation under Hamas in the Gaza Strip. However, a good look at the actions of the PA and its various security branches shows that they are not much different than those enforced by Hamas. Sometimes it even seems as if the PA and Hamas are competing to see which one of them can most successfully silence critics and cracks down on journalists. This is the sad reality in which Palestinians living under the rule of these two parties have found themselves. While it is understandable why an extremist Islamic movement like Hamas would seek to muzzle its critics, there is no reason why a PA government funded by Americans and Europeans should not be held accountable for persecuting dissidents and throwing objectors into prison.
By failing — or, more accurately, refusing — to hold the PA accountable for its crackdown on public freedoms, American and European taxpayers actively contribute to the emergence of another Arab dictatorship in the Middle East. Hundreds of Western-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs), operating in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, pay scant attention to the real problems facing Palestinians as a result of the actions of their PA and Hamas governments. The same applies to Western mainstream media and human rights organizations and advocates. This willful neglect by the West encourages the Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to continue repressing their own people. There are times, however, when the international community pays attention to the plight of Palestinians: when the complaints concern Israel.
The PA government bans a Palestinian novel and confiscates copies from bookstores. Where is the outcry? There is none to be heard from the international community – because Israel was not behind the incident. This is what happened last week when the PA Prosecutor-General issued an order banning the novel "Crime in Ramallah" by the author Abbad Yahya under the pretext that it contained "indecent texts and terms that threaten morality and public decency, which could affect the public, in particular minors." Yahya said he was summoned for questioning and his editor, Fuad Al-Aklik, was detained for 24 hours. PA policemen raided several bookshops in a number of Palestinian cities and confiscated all copies. The author, who is on a visit to Qatar, has since received multiple death threats and is afraid to return home.
The decision to ban the novel prompted 99 Palestinian writers, academics and researchers to sign a petition criticizing the PA authorities and calling for rescinding the ban. The petition called on the PA to cancel its punitive measures, which "cause harm to the Palestinians and their struggle for freedom from oppression, dictatorship and censorship." The petition warned that the ban was a "grave breach of freedom of expression and creativity" and creates a situation where authors are forced to practice self-censorship.
The petition signed by the prominent Palestinians does not seem to have left an impression on the PA leadership in Ramallah. Undeterred, PA security forces arrested journalist Sami Al-Sai, from the city of Tulkarem in the northern West Bank, for allegedly posting critical comments on Facebook. The PA has accused Al-Sai, who works as a correspondent for a private television station, of "fomenting sectarian strife." This is an accusation that is often leveled against journalists or authors who dare to criticize the PA leadership. A PA court has ordered Al-Sai remanded into custody for 15 days. Protests by some Palestinian journalists against the arrest of their colleague have thus far fallen on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, Palestinian professor Abdel Sattar Qassem, who teaches political science at An-Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus, is facing trial for "extending his tongue" against PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior PA officials. He is also charged with spreading "fake news" and "fomenting sectarian strife." The decision to prosecute Qassem came following a TV interview where he strongly criticized Abbas and commanders of the PA security forces. Qassem has long been a vocal critic of the PA leadership and as a result he has been arrested on a number of occasions; shots have been fired at his home. These three cases are only the tip of an iceberg of oppression. It is very difficult to distinguish between Mahmoud Abbas's government and the Arab and Islamic dictatorships, where human rights violations and assaults on public freedoms are the established norm. In his despotic behavior, Abbas has also shown himself to be rather akin to his clampdown-prone predecessor, Yasser Arafat…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jerusalem Post, Feb. 13, 2017
On March 8, 2016, Taylor Force, a 28-year-old West Point graduate and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, was visiting Israel with members of his graduate class from Vanderbilt University when a Palestinian terrorist attacked civilians on the promenade in Jaffa with a knife. Force was killed and 10 others, including a pregnant woman, were wounded. US vice president Joe Biden, who happened to be in Israel on a state visit at the time, said: “The kind of violence we saw yesterday, the failure to condemn it, the rhetoric that incites that violence, the retribution that it generates, has to stop.”
But the rhetoric and the payments for terrorism from the PA have not stopped at all. Abbas’ ruling Fatah party the very next day praised the attacker, Bashar Masalha, as a “hero and martyr,” and added that these attacks will continue as “long as Israel does not believe in a two-state solution and ending its occupation.” Masalha, who was shot and killed by police after he stabbed his last victim, was given a hero’s funeral with thousands in attendance. The PA even criticized Israel for not releasing Masalha’s body in a timelier fashion.
But the truly obscene part of this story is not really Masalha’s killing spree, but the PA ’s legislation to incentivize more terrorists to commit acts of violence against civilians in Israel, a motivation that is all spelled out in its code of law – open for all the world to see. According to Law No. 14, Articles 1 and 2, enacted by the PA in 2004, Masalha’s family will receive a pension for life, amounting to three times the average yearly salary in the West Bank.
The Palestinian government makes absolutely no attempt to hide its rewards for terrorism. In the Amended Palestinian Prisoners Law 19 of 2013, the payments are enhanced for a terrorist who commits a violent act and is jailed. Under law, the longer the sentence (aka the greater the violence), the higher the salary a terrorist receives. Article 4 offers free tuition to the children of those jailed. In Article 6, there is even a clothing allowance and monthly stipend linked to the cost-of-living index. Health insurance is included in Article 4, section 12. Article 5 provides the ultimate bonus: a lifetime pension for a prison term of five years (or only two years in the case of a female terrorist).
As Congress has become aware that the PA is in fact sponsoring terrorism, senators will introduce the Taylor Force Act, which, if passed, will cut off funds to the PA until it revokes its laws supporting terrorism. The bill will be introduced next month in Congress. Why the Israeli government fails to highlight that the PA has legislation incentivizing terrorism, and allocates $315 million, nearly 8% of its budget, to pay terrorists in prison and the families of martyrs, is bewildering. Particularly in the face of one-sided condemnation of Israel at the UN Security Council.
While the Israeli government has begun to criticize the PA for paying terrorists, it has never done anything to stop its policies or demand the closure of the PA Prisons Ministry and Institution for the Care of Martyrs Families, which are ostensibly an institutional barrier to peace: there are over 36,000 people receiving monthly payments from the PA , distributed from these state institutions, rewards for attacking Israel. The PA has named 25 schools throughout the West Bank after terrorist murderers and three honoring Dalal Mughrabi, a member of the Fatah faction of the PLO (the precursor to the PA ), who was part of the group that ambushed a bus near Tel Aviv in 1978. In that “operation,” 38 Israeli citizens were killed, including 13 children. The late Ms. Mughrabi also has a public square, a soccer tournament, a summer camp and a computer center named after her.
Perhaps it is time for Israel to admit that no two-state solution and no peace will ever be achieved if the Palestinian leadership continues to incentivize terrorism against Israel and teach its children to hate and kill Jews. With cash dangling before the eyes of so-called lone wolves, emotions are stirred by racist education and delegitimization; this creates a danger not only to Jews today, but to the possibility of ever reaching a peaceful coexistence, within any borders.
New Leader, Same Old Terror: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Feb. 16, 2017—A manager is not a leader. The first is a professional whose field is management and whose job it is to see to it that an organization's activities are run intelligently and rationally, allowing the organization to reach its goals as efficiently as possible and achieve optimum results with minimum use of resources.
Holocaust Denial and Distortion: Palestinian Media Watch, 2017—Holocaust desecration, denial, and abuse, have all been components of Palestinian Authority ideology.
Terrorist Appointed as Mahmoud Abbas’ Deputy, But the World Stays Silent: Sean Durns, Algemeiner, Feb. 24, 2017—On February 15, Fatah appointed Mahmoud Al-Aloul as a deputy and possible successor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas. Unfortunately, just like Abbas, Mr. Al-Aloul is a terrorist who has condoned violence against Israelis. And unsurprisingly, the global media — which seems uninterested in reporting unflattering stories about the Palestinians — has largely ignored the news of his selection.
The End of Palestine: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage, Feb. 23, 2017—Palestine is many things. A Roman name and a Cold War lie. Mostly it’s a justification for killing Jews. Palestine was an old Saudi-Soviet scam which invented a fake nationality for the Arab clans who had invaded and colonized Israel.