TABLE OF CONTENTS:
Israel’s New Diplomatic Moment: Jonathan Spyer, WSJ, Mar. 3, 2020
The Palestinians at a Crossroads – Following the Presentation of the “Deal of the Century”: Yohanan Tzoreff, INSS Insight No. 1261, Feb. 23, 2020
Postponing the Inevitable in Gaza: Yoav Limor, Israel Hayom, Mar. 1, 2020
The UN Against the Palestinian People: Dr. Edy Cohen, BESA, Feb. 28, 2020
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared victory in Monday’s Israeli election, the third since April, following two inconclusive results. Although Mr. Netanyahu may be frustrated in his attempt to form a government, his Likud Party won 36 seats, a strong showing. During the campaign, Likud candidates stressed their support for President Trump’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan, unveiled in January. The plan won’t bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but it may expose deeper processes of change under way in the Middle East. It could even advance those changes—and Israel stands to benefit.
Both the Palestinian cause and the broader Arab political bloc that long championed it are in disarray. The Palestinians are divided geographically, each group locked in with divergent interests and strategies.
Gaza has been ruled as an Islamist enclave by Hamas for 13 years. The movement’s first generation of leaders is now retiring; Khaled Mashal stepped down in 2017 and is set to spend his golden years in his villa in Doha, Qatar. The upshot is that Hamas-controlled Gaza is no longer a provisional entity. Hamas maintains its rule as an example of uncompromising Islamist resistance to Israel, trimmed where necessary according to the needs of Egypt and Qatar, who respectively control access to and financing of the Hamas enclave.
Palestinians in the West Bank live mainly under the administrative control of the Palestinian Authority, which is run by an unpopular but immovable elite. President Mahmoud Abbas hasn’t held an election since 2005, and security is handled between his Jordan-trained police force and the Israel Defense Forces. Mr. Abbas pursues a strategy of denouncing Israeli policy in all available forums while quietly cooperating with the security structures that keep Hamas and other Islamists at bay.
Jerusalem’s Palestinians remain in a kind of limbo. Israel places barriers before their acquisition of full citizenship, and they can complain justly of large discrepancies in municipal funding. Still, something is stirring from below. The number of Palestinian Jerusalemites electing to educate their children in schools offering an Israeli matriculation exam is tripling each year, according to David Koren, an Education Ministry official. Hebrew courses for Arabs are flourishing. Given the choice, Jerusalem’s Palestinians are choosing attachment to stable, First World Israel over absorption into the corrupt, dysfunctional Palestinian Authority.
This trend is even clearer among Israel’s Arab citizens, especially its rising middle class. The furious reaction among Israeli Arabs in the “Triangle”—an area the Trump peace plan suggests a future Palestinian state might include—says it all. Sha’a Mansour Massarwa, mayor of the Arab city of Tayibe, described the proposal as a “nightmare.”
What can unify Arabs in Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the rest of Israel? Religious beliefs and perceptions of a threat to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque cross boundaries. But the pattern of Palestinians compartmentalizing themselves is as unmistakable as it is disastrous for revanchist Palestinian nationalism.
The internal weakening has been made worse by external developments. The Palestinian cause used to be the great standard of Arab nationalism, uniting Arab police states in their rejection of Israel. But Saddam Hussein’s Iraq is by now a distant memory. Bashar Assad presides over rubble in Syria. Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya is broken up. Egypt is Israel’s strategic partner, enforcing its own partial blockade of Gaza.… [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
The plan for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement presented by the Trump administration has confronted the Palestinians at one of the most difficult periods in their history. Both leaderships—Abu Mazen in Ramallah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip—have been the target of harsh public criticism in recent years and have suffered from a loss of popularity, as they have failed to achieve their objectives and have not proposed alternatives. While Abu Mazen’s negotiations strategy, which rejects violent struggle and was the basis for his election as president in 2005, strengthened the Palestinians’ international standing and advanced their membership in various international forums, it did not manage to maintain the diplomatic momentum and the infrastructural development nor did it advance a permanent settlement with Israel and progress toward political independence. Hamas, for its part, also failed in its efforts to further the liberation of “the land of Palestine” via armed resistance, and currently, given the infrastructural and humanitarian crisis in Gaza, it has been compelled to redefine the nature of the conflict with Israel to its activists and to the Palestinian public.
In the middle is the public, which is apathetic and not in a hurry to answer the calls of the two leaderships and to take part in mass protest activities that they have organized. Hamas recently had to stop the marches along Gaza’s border fence due to the many people injured and killed, as well as public exhaustion, and it is even quick to disperse demonstrations that are not coordinated with it. Until the publication of the Trump plan, the Palestinian Authority also made it difficult to carry out protests that were not coordinated with it, and now it is having trouble recruiting the masses to protest the plan. The rise in the number of expressions of violence and attempted terrorist attacks that occurred in the first few days after the publication of the plan resulted mainly from friction with IDF forces and does not necessarily reflect answering Abu Mazen’s call to go out and protest. The PA has not succeeded in instilling in the general public the sense of a real threat to the future of the national project. Meanwhile, the public’s consistent demand of both leaderships, which is expressed in public opinion polls and in social media, is for unity and reconciliation. The general sense is that the split weakens and paralyzes, leaves the Palestinian nation without a path, and imposes on it a haphazard way of life under continued siege and occupation.
After the publication of the Trump plan, this call to go out and protest was also heard from all the organizations that oppose the leadership in Ramallah, including Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, the Popular and Democratic Fronts, and others. The different factions are calling to urgently convene a meeting in which a “national rescue” plan will be outlined. Fatah and Abu Mazen have related positively to this call, albeit without a sense of urgency. Immediately after the Trump plan was issued, Abu Mazen said that he spoke with Ismail Haniyeh, chairman of Hamas, emphasized the severity and the gravity of the situation, and called on all of the organizations to take cover under the umbrella of the PLO in order to effectively cope with the challenges that the plan poses. Two senior Fatah officials, Ruhi Fattuh, originally from Rafah, and Ismail Jaber, former commander of the security forces in the West Bank, were sent to Gaza instead of a delegation that was supposed to represent all the PLO’s factions, but they did not achieve closer relations between the organizations. In a speech at the Security Council on February 11, Abu Mazen repeated his adherence to international decisions regarding the conflict, to negotiations, and to fighting terrorism and all forms of violence. However, he proudly noted the protest (mass protest, according to him), that took place in Ramallah at the time of the speech. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
Behind closed doors, senior defense officials said this week that even though the Gaza Strip-terrorist groups are provoking hostilities before the March 2 elections, it doesn’t mean they are trying to ignite a full-blown war. But it does, unfortunately, mean that we keep faltering from one rocket salvo to the next, and that without a major military operation in the coastal enclave nothing will effectively change.
Neither Israel nor Hamas want war and both parties are going to great lengths to avoid it. But the gaps between Israel and Gaza’s rulers are so wide that it is difficult to see how they could be bridged. UN Special Envoy to the Middle Nickolay Mladenov and Egyptian intelligence officials may have been able to hammer together an effective mediation mechanism to rapidly extinguished periodic flare-ups, but this does little to resolve the deeper issues.
Israel and Gaza are openly discussing a long-term agreement that will allow prolonged peace on both sides of the border. But that’s about the only thing both agree on. From there, each side sees things differently.
Hamas sees Gaza as open to the world, importing goods but also weapons and thus exploiting any lull to build a significant military force that will challenge Israel in the future. Israel sees Gaza as cordoned off and receiving exactly what it need for its civilian and economic rehabilitation, but sans any military buildup.
The chances of bridging these two contradictory desires ranges from slim to none – even before we mention the issue of the captive Israeli civilians and the remains of the IDF soldiers Hamas hold.
This is one of the major bones of contention between the parties: Hamas envisions a version of the 2011 prisoner exchange deal, which saw Israel release 1,027 security prisoners for one Israeli soldier; while Israel prefers a deal of a far smaller scope.
And still, both sides keep trying. Less in the belief that they will succeed and more in the understanding that the alternative is worse. Another military campaign in Gaza will leave it in ruins and with no solution to its myriad of problems. Moreover, barring a solution for the post-campaign era – preferably one that retains a significantly crippled Hamas in power or an equally weak replacement – we will all simply found ourselves right back where we started, but with less favorable conditions.
As with all recent flare-ups, it was Islamic Jihad that triggered hostilities, not Hamas.
The rare targeted killing of Islamic Jihad leader Baha Abu al-Ata in the Gaza Strip in November may have neutralized the proverbial ticking time bomb, but it didn’t really solve anything. The Iranian-backed organization continues to ignite fires and fuel them at its leisure. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
In a blatant capitulation to the BDS movement, The UN Human Rights Council has published a list of 112 Israeli businesses linked to Jewish West Bank neighborhoods in an effort to stigmatize those businesses and encourage their boycott. This highly politicized decision will not hurt Israel, as it was intended to do, but will instead undermine the livelihood of the many Palestinians who—due to the lack of sufficient employment opportunities in Palestinian-governed areas—earn their living by working for those very Israeli businesses.
The UN has thus inflicted yet another economic blow in a series of such blows suffered by the Palestinian people. The Palestinian Authority (PA) declined an invitation to participate in the US-led economic conference in Bahrain in June 2019 and rejected the economic incentives offered in President Trump’s “Deal of a Century” without even hearing them. Trump’s proposal, dismissed by the PA out of hand, included, among many other benefits, plans to naturalize Palestinian refugees currently living in subsistence conditions in surrounding Arab states. The UN only adds to the Palestinians’ suffering by causing harm to one of their sources of income.
The PA’s wholesale violation of the Oslo Accords of the 1990s only worsened the economic position of the Palestinians living in today’s areas A and B. Many of them still reminisce about the more prosperous days when Israelis would come to their villages as well to Gaza to buy Palestinian products. All that changed with the stroke of a pen when the Accords birthed the PA and granted it authority over economic and social policy in areas A and B.
The establishment of Palestinian economic autonomy was intended to improve the prospects for prosperity and significantly improve the Palestinians’ quality of life. Despite good intentions, exactly the opposite came to pass. The PA’s incompetent and corrupt governance led to the deterioration of Palestinian quality of life and increased poverty while allowing cronies to steal public resources and exchange political favors for personal benefit. It’s no wonder that many Palestinians long for the days before Oslo.
The Israeli economy is the driving force behind Palestinian economic growth. The average salary of Palestinians working in Israel is several times the wage of Palestinians working in areas controlled by the PA, and the industrial area in the West Bank serves as a source of income for thousands of Palestinians. Palestinians work side by side with Israelis in Mishor Adumim, Shahak, Hinanit, Shaked, Ariel, Kiryat Arba, and elsewhere. Regrettably, all of this is likely to change if the UN decision has its intended impact on the Israeli companies being boycotted.
About 200,000 Palestinians earned their living last year by working in Israel and Israeli companies in the West Bank. Most are employed by the companies the UN seeks to boycott. These Palestinians look beyond ideology: they simply want to earn a decent living to support their families. Moreover, they strengthen and contribute much to Israel’s economy. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
WATCH: Netanyahu Highlights the Double War Crimes in Gaza that the West Ignores: Avi Abelow, Israel Unwired, Nov. 24, 2019 — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a senior delegation of AIPAC members at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.
Naftali Bennett Signs Order to Seize Funds Transferred from Iran to Hamas: Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 28, 2020 — Defense Minister Naftali Bennett signed an order Thursday to seize some $4 million in funds transferred from Iran to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Gaza-Based Militant Group Mujahideen Brigades Publishes Series “The Beating Heart of a Nation.”: Joe Truzman, FDD’s Long War Journal, Feb. 21, 2020 — Over the past two weeks, the Mujahideen Brigades have published two videos in a series entitled “The Beating Heart of a Nation.” The videos were published to demonstrate the capabilities the militant group possess in what it sees as its resistance against Israel.
Egypt Builds a Wall on Border with Gaza: Rasha Abou Jalal, Al-Monitor, Feb. 14, 2020 — Maj. Gen. Ahmed Abdel Khalek, the Egyptian intelligence officer in charge of Cairo’s Palestinian portfolio, arrived in the Gaza Strip Feb. 10 as head of an Egyptian security delegation that made a field trip along the Egyptian-Gazan border as part of the new Egyptian preparations to boost border security and prevent extremists from entering the Sinai Peninsula from the Gaza Strip.