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Danon Emerging as Netanyahu’s Main Foil: Aron Heller, Times of Israel, June 29, 2013—Danny Danon says he has no problem with his party leader, Israel’s prime minister — so long as he doesn’t make peace. The ambitious deputy defense minister isn’t a household name internationally yet, but at home he has emerged as an unlikely opponent to Benjamin Netanyahu and his strongest opposition within the hawkish ruling Likud Party.
Political Persuasion, Palestinian Style: Khaled Abu Toameh, Gatestone Institute, July 3, 2013 —Earlier this week, Hussam Khader, a prominent Fatah activist, woke up to the sounds of gunfire outside his home in the Balata refugee camp in the northern West Bank. Khader, a staunch critic of the Palestinian Authority leadership and government corruption, discovered when he walked out that his car and front door had been sprayed with more than 20 bullets. Some of his terrified neighbors reported seeing masked gunmen fleeing the scene.
Morsi Has Fallen, but Hamas May Be as Big a Loser: Mitch Ginsburg, Times of Israel, July 4, 2013—Thursday was a bad day for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist movement’s leaders were rounded up or forced to go into hiding, a day after seeing their man in Egypt’s presidential palace pushed from power by the military.
Why ‘A Little More Work’ Won’t Do it, Mr. Kerry: David Horovitz, Times of Israel, July 1, 2013
Livni's Lapses Legitimize the Delegitimizers: Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2013
Is Hamas Losing Power?: Khaled Abu Toameh, Real Clear World, June 27, 2013
Times of Israel, June 29, 2013
Danny Danon says he has no problem with his party leader, Israel’s prime minister — so long as he doesn’t make peace. The ambitious deputy defense minister isn’t a household name internationally yet, but at home he has emerged as an unlikely opponent to Benjamin Netanyahu and his strongest opposition within the hawkish ruling Likud Party. A soft-spoken lawmaker with a penchant for sharp suits, Danon is suddenly a major stumbling block toward Palestinian statehood as US Secretary of State John Kerry embarks on his latest push to restart long-dormant peace talks.
While Netanyahu attempts to convince the world of his peaceful intentions and sincere commitment to establishing a Palestinian state as part of a final peace settlement, Danon has repeatedly defied the prime minister’s stance while generating the type of political power that could hinder Netanyahu’s ability to make concessions.
His rising influence has raised Palestinian suspicions that Netanyahu is unwilling —and unable — to make peace. From his plush office on the 15th-floor of the gleaming, state-of-the-art Defense Ministry complex in Tel Aviv, Danon does nothing to dispel the suspicions. “I think the prime minister knows that if he is presenting the ideology of the Likud Party we all support him,” Danon said, noting that Likud has only had four leaders in its 65-year history. “It means that we do respect our leaders. But if the leader decides to go to the other direction then … there will be changes within the Likud.”
The Likud has long been the leader of Israel’s nationalist camp, believing the country should control all of the biblical Land of Israel between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. But Netanyahu and other party moderates have gradually come to the conclusion that there is no choice but to divide the land between a Jewish state and a Palestinian one.
Danon, 42, is among a group of young hard-liners who rose to prominence during a Likud primary vote last year. These officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin, Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein, deputy transportation minister Tzipi Hotovely and coalition whip Yariv Levin, oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state and are strong proponents of building settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. The Palestinians claim both areas, captured by Israel in the 1967 war, for their future state.
Danon, a secular father of three, is the most vocal and has become the brightest star and strongest counterforce within the party. He finished fifth in the slate of candidates chosen in last year’s primary, well ahead of many party stalwarts, and this week he was overwhelmingly elected head of the Likud convention with 86 percent of the vote. On Sunday, he is expected to score another landslide victory and become chairman of the Likud Central Committee, a key position that will grant him power to set the agenda of the committee’s 3,500 members and complicate any Netanyahu initiatives.
He has also generated an impressive following in America, particularly among Christian evangelicals. His recent English-language book — “Israel: the will to prevail” — outlines his vision of further Israeli control over the West Bank. It won’t find many fans in the Obama administration, but it did receive high praise from two of Danon’s closest American allies: former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and conservative TV personality Glenn Beck.
The front page of Friday’s mass-daily Yediot Ahronot points to Danon’s surge to prominence at home. Under the headline “Between Kerry and Danon,” a cartoon shows Danon and others pinning Netanyahu to the ground. The paper’s humour column has a mock quote from Kerry saying he is optimistic his visit can help promote a “brave and effective negotiation between Netanyahu and Danny Danon.”
Danon, until recently a rather anonymous backbencher, has garnered so much influence that Netanyahu’s chief peace negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, recently called on the prime minister to reject “Danonism” and forge ahead toward peace. The Palestinian chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, had also cited Danon by name as someone who is killing the prospect of peace. Danon remains undeterred and is convinced Netanyahu does not have the political backing to cede parts of the West Bank. “I think that the majority of people, not only inside the Likud, but also within the Israeli public, will not support such a dangerous initiative,” he said of a Palestinian state. “It is not just my personal opinion. I represent a lot of people … that think like me that the idea of land for peace doesn’t work anymore.”
Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula following its 1979 peace accord with Egypt and made small border adjustments after signing peace with Jordan in 1994. It unilaterally withdrew from the Gaza Strip and evacuated Jewish settlers there in 2005. But the Hamas militant group subsequently seized control of the area, and continued rocket fire out of Gaza has stoked fears that a pullout from the West Bank, located close to major Israeli cities, would bring similar and devastating results. That withdrawal also spawned a revolt within the Likud against then-leader Ariel Sharon, who eventually bolted to establish the centrist Kadima Party. Netanyahu, who led the rebel forces, eventually took over as leader.
His party has since drifted further to the right, with Jewish settlers taking over key positions and introducing legislation that seeks to give Israel’s Jewish nature precedence over its democratic nature. Political commentator Hanan Kristal said Danon is trying to position himself as leader of the group and a potential future alternative to Netanyahu. “Danon is Bibi from 10 years ago,” he said, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname. “He (Danon) is a Likudnik and he is saying what a lot of them believe. He just says it clearly and without mincing words.”
Netanyahu has distanced himself from Danon, insisting his comments do not reflect government policy, but he hasn’t fired him either as some have suggested he should. Danon makes no apologies for his maverick ways. “I don’t do things to try and disturb him,” he said. “We are in the same boat. I don’t want everyone rowing their oars in different directions but I do try to preserve what I believe in.”
With Kerry pressing hard to get Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume peace talks that have been on hold since 2008, and Netanyahu’s centrist coalition partners urging a breakthrough, the prime minister may soon be forced to choose between the unity of his government and the unity of his party. Danon says Netanyahu is free to negotiate as he pleases, but if he ultimately reaches the contours of a deal he will have to bring it to a vote among his party and a general election for the people to decide. “It is not the case today. It is premature to even discuss this because I don’t think the prime minister is going in this direction,” he said.
Others disagree. There are jitters in the party that Netanyahu is nearing the point of following in Sharon’s path toward concessions. He has recently been sending signals that he is ready for compromises and has accepted the narrative of former opponents that ending the West Bank occupation is essential for Israel. The prime minister’s office refused to comment on Danon’s rise in Likud. Associates, though, have been quoted anonymously in the media as saying Danon is pushing Netanyahu out of the party with an extremist hostile takeover. “Being prime minister of Israel is a very difficult job,” Danon said. “There are those who are pushing the ship in one direction and it is legitimate for people like me to pull him in a different direction. He is the captain, steering the ship. At the end of the day, the prime minister navigates.”
Khaled Abu Toameh
Gatestone Institute, July 3, 2013
Earlier this week, Hussam Khader, a prominent Fatah activist, woke up to the sounds of gunfire outside his home in the Balata refugee camp in the northern West Bank. Khader, a staunch critic of the Palestinian Authority leadership and government corruption, discovered when he walked out that his car and front door had been sprayed with more than 20 bullets. Some of his terrified neighbors reported seeing masked gunmen fleeing the scene.
Although no group or individual claimed responsibility for the shooting attack, Khader has held Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas responsible. Khader is convinced that Abbas or someone close to him wanted to send him a "warning message" — namely to keep his mouth shut.
This was the third attack of its kind against prominent Fatah representatives in the past 18 months.
A few weeks ago, unidentified gunmen opened fire at the car of Majed Abu Shamaleh, an elected Fatah legislator, outside his home in Ramallah.
A third Fatah official, Shami al-Shami, who is also an elected member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was less fortunate. Last year, he was shot and wounded near his home in Jenin. All three Fatah representatives have one thing in common; they represent the young guard of their faction and are known to be outspoken critics of the Palestinian Authority leadership.
Palestinians see the shooting attacks in the context of a power struggle between the old guard and young guard of Abbas's ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank. Headed by Abbas, Fatah's old guard has always sought to block the emergence of a young leadership within the faction. So far, the old guard seems to have been successful in its efforts to maintain exclusive control over the Palestinian Authority. This power struggle surfaced after the signing of the Oslo Accords, when Yasser Arafat and the PLO and Fatah leadership moved from Tunisia and other Arab countries to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Most young guard Fatah members still feel marginalized by Abbas and his veteran loyalists.
At the age of 78, Abbas feels no need to pave the way for the rise of new and younger leaders to power. At this stage, he and his inner circle seem determined to maintain their tight grip on the Palestinian Authority, even if that requires dispatching masked gunmen to scare their critics. This is perhaps why there is no "Palestinian Spring" in the West Bank. When a Palestinian sees masked gunmen shooting at the cars, homes and bodies of prominent Fatah figures, he or she will think ten times before uttering a word against Abbas or a senior Palestinian official in Ramallah.
Moreover, this is what is driving an increasing number of Palestinians into the open arms of Hamas and other radical groups. Of course none of those who carried out the three attacks against the Fatah representatives was ever caught. And there is good reason to believe they will never be apprehended or brought to trial. The reason? The attackers, according to Palestinians, are most likely members of the Palestinian security forces or Fatah's armed wing, the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.
It is one thing when Abbas uses Fatah gunmen to intimidate his critics, but it is a completely different story when he or any of his aides resort to the Western-trained and -financed security services to carry out shooting attacks. A sign of how the Palestinian Authority leadership uses its security forces to intimidate critics was provided again this week when another Fatah operative, Sufian Abu Zayda, published an op-ed strongly denouncing Abbas's "autocratic" governance. Abu Zayda is also considered a representative of Fatah's young guard.
His article enraged Abbas and his top aides in Ramallah. But instead of responding to the charges raised by Abu Zayda's article, Abbas's office issued a statement on behalf of the "Palestinian security establishment" threatening and condemning the Fatah representative. "This statement is an assault on public freedoms," remarked Abu Zayda. "It would have been preferable had the [Palestinian] security establishment tried to uncover the identity of those behind the shooting attacks instead of preoccupying itself with a political essay."
Those who fund autocratic regimes apparently do not care about the long-term repercussions, so long as short-term stability can be secured. The consequences in the long-term are disastrous: they embolden the radicals and help raise new generations of Arabs and Muslims on hatred and anti-Western sentiments.
Times of Israel, July 4, 2013
Thursday was a bad day for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist movement’s leaders were rounded up or forced to go into hiding, a day after seeing their man in Egypt’s presidential palace pushed from power by the military. In Gaza, Hamas is likely feeling little better watching events unfold across the border. The Palestinian group, an offshoot of the Brotherhood, may come out to be the big loser in Egypt’s upheaval, right behind ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his cronies, analysts said Thursday.
“If Hamas was already screwed before” – with Morsi’s unbendable need for US financial aid trumping his and Hamas’s shared Islamist agenda in the short term – “now it is double screwed,” said Dr. Jonathan Fine, a lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya who focuses on terror ideology and religious violence.
MK Yisrael Hasson (Kadima), a former deputy commander of the Shin Bet, said in a phone interview that from an Israeli perspective the coup seemed to be a positive development, both regionally and within the internal Palestinian power struggle between Hamas and Fatah.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which had “reaped most of the fruits of the Arab Spring,” he said, “have taken a very serious blow.” Likening the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the flagship of an armada, he said it was taking water but “has not been sunk.”
Hamas, which has designs on a West Bank takeover, had been dealt a blow by the ouster of Morsi and the rise of, at least for now, a more secular leadership in Cairo, Hasson said. The group had seen itself as the vanguard of the Arab Spring — with its own Islamist coup in Gaza in 2007 serving as an example of a triumph over a corrupt and somewhat secular regime. The fall of Morsi may now signal the fragility of Islamist regimes born out of the same spring.
As far as Israeli security is concerned, the Kadima MK said it was impossible to know how matters would develop, positing that Hamas, if neglected, could make itself felt by heating up the border. It could also reasonably say that, with a preoccupied Egypt, “now is not the time to let the Jews run wild.” Israel’s security chiefs, he said, will “have to keep their eyes very open, look at things very suspiciously, and they’ll have to not express themselves publicly at all.”
What does seem certain, however, is that Hamas has been backed into a very tight spot. “This is a bad blow for the international Muslim Brotherhood, but for its Palestinian affiliate, Hamas, it is especially bad,” said Col. (res) Shaul Shay, a lecturer at IDC and a former military intelligence officer. “They gambled and broke away from Syria, banking on the natural alliance between them and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and that hasn’t worked out as planned.”
Hamas leadership left Damascus in January 2012, in the midst of the civil war, and has since been at odds with Tehran and Bashar Assad’s regime, severing most of its ties to the so-called axis of resistance. Egypt, though not riven by the sort of sectarian hatred that has been ripping Syria apart, is sure to be unstable in the coming years and may have to weather a period of internal violence. Dr. Mordechai Kedar of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies said that in light of such violence, Egypt may well “fasten the grip on the terror issue,” doing its utmost to seal the underground border between Gaza and Egypt so as to stop the flow of arms in a westerly direction. “Hamas now becomes suspect of collaboration with Morsi,” he said.
Shay, who said that Hamas would likely be extremely careful in its dealings with Egypt – a country on which it depends, no matter the ruler – also said that the Brotherhood lacks an organized militia and might, therefore, be willing to receive arms from Gaza. “The tunnels accommodate two-way traffic,” he noted.
With Egypt engaged in its own internal strife on the mainland, the Sinai Peninsula, already unruly and rife with global jihad terror operatives, could develop into an even greater problem, or it could be put down even more forcefully by the new regime in Egypt.
“The situation is so so so unique that almost anything could be correct,” said Hasson, who predicted that the Brotherhood would have to think long and hard “how to stay in the game.”
Why ‘A Little More Work’ Won’t Do it, Mr. Kerry: David Horovitz, Times of Israel, July 1, 2013—Insanity — according to a definition variously attributed to Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Confucius, and most credibly to a 30-year-old book called “Narcotics Anonymous” — is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
Livni's Lapses Legitimize the Delegitimizers: Gil Troy, Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2013—Israel’s Justice Minister and chief Palestinian negotiator, Tzipi Livni, just won what I am going to call the “Legitimizing the Delegitimizers Award” with a foolish, self-destructive speech in Eilat on Monday. Livni legitimized Israel’s delegitimizers by echoing their unreasonable prejudices against the Jewish state to try encouraging Israeli peacemaking
Is Hamas Losing Power?: Khaled Abu Toameh, Real Clear World, June 27, 2013—Recent developments on a number of fronts in the Middle East suggest that Hamas is beginning to lose both power and popularity among Arabs and Muslims. Of course this is good new for moderate Arabs and Muslims, as well as for stability in the region.
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