Truce or War: Hamas’s Bipolar Rule in Gaza: Avi Issacharoff, Times of Israel, July 14, 2018— Several hundred Palestinians participated in clashes at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip last Friday…

Scorched Earth and International Law: Michael Cotler-Wunsh, Jerusalem Post, July 14, 2018— The last few months have given rise to the return of a historical military strategy known as “scorched earth,”…

‘Pay to Slay’ and Why the ‘Occupation’ Continues: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, July 9, 2018 — To Israel’s critics, there really is only one issue to discuss with respect to the conflict with the Palestinians: the “occupation.”

Palestinian Sovereignty after Abbas: Dr. Alex Joffe, BESA, July 13, 2018— “Après moi, le deluge” – a form of blackmail – has a long and ignoble history in international affairs.

On Topic Links

Netanyahu Visits Arson-Ravaged Gaza Border, Warns of a ‘Protracted Stuggle’: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, July 16, 2018

How to Report on the Next War in Gaza: Liel Leibovitz, Tablet, July 11, 2018

Economics Won’t Help. The Palestinians Will Continue with Terror Attacks: Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, JCPA, July 10, 2018

Oslo is Obsolete: Time for a Victory Mindset: Gideon Saar, Jerusalem Post, July 06, 2018


TRUCE OR WAR: HAMAS’S BIPOLAR RULE IN GAZA                                             

Avi Issacharoff

Times of Israel, July 14, 2018

Several hundred Palestinians participated in clashes at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip last Friday, the remnants of the so-called “March of Return” demonstrations, which at times advocated for Palestinian refugees’ return to their homes — in Israel, of course — and at other times pressed for breaking Israel’s “blockade” of Gaza. Hamas is putting considerable time, energy, and money into keeping up a presence at these demonstrations, even though the number of participants has been steadily decreasing.

As the clashes went ahead, thousands of Gaza residents went to the Gaza beach, simply to enjoy themselves on family outings, just like old times. Gaza’s coast is unsafe for bathing due to pollution, but many people went into the water anyway to cool off from the oppressive July heat — an attempt at normalcy in one of the least normal places in the region, or on Earth.

Gaza is a place where poverty, with its accompanying economic and humanitarian hardships, is only growing more severe — a place that gets only four hours of electricity per day followed by a 16-hour blackout. Ice cream and even cold water are in short supply because there is insufficient power to keep them cold. The generator-powered elevators in high-rise buildings only operate on the hour and are idle the rest of the time. Of the water that flows through the pipes only once every five days, approximately 97 percent is undrinkable. Almost every home in Gaza has a device for filtering and improving the water that comes from the faucets.

These are only small examples of the mad state of things in the Gaza Strip. Gaza’s bipolar nature is also evident in bigger issues: Hamas, the terror organization that controls Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction, has been intermittently working in recent weeks to keep things relatively calm with the Jewish state, even amid periodic escalations of rocket fire and endless fire kites and incendiary balloons flown into and burning the fields of southern Israel. It has also been intermittently trying to reach a long-term cease-fire agreement with Israel, even as it continues to dig terror tunnels and produce long-range rockets.

While ever howling of “hardship” and “the blockade,” Hamas consistently chooses to spend its funds on its terror infrastructure rather than investing in the population. Examples of this abound, from the enormous budget of its military wing to its collection of money from Gaza’s residents to fund its ongoing military activity. A classic example is recent events at the Rafah border crossing.

For some time, the Egyptians have been bringing through the Rafah crossing merchandise and products that they previously barred from entering Gaza, such as construction materials, fuels and other products. Approximately 30 million liters of diesel fuel, supposedly intended for Gaza’s power station, have been brought in since the beginning of the year. Hamas buys the diesel fuel from Egypt, but instead of using it all to fuel the station and produce more hours of electricity per day, it has been using some of the diesel fuel to make a profit. Of the 30 million liters, 17.8 million were taken to Gaza’s power station. Another 12.2 million liters were either sold on the black market to those willing to pay the maximum price for it, or diverted for Hamas’s military purposes. Hamas makes a profit of NIS 2.5 on every liter of diesel fuel sold in Gaza.

The Rafah border crossing has become Hamas’s most significant economic lifeline. It has been open for 70 days since the beginning of the year, compared to only 36 days throughout the whole of last year (This is partly the result of the dramatically improved security situation in Sinai). Hamas collects a tax on all merchandise that enters through the Rafah border crossing, unlike at the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel, where the taxes go to the Palestinian Authority.

Two large companies are in charge of the transport of merchandise. On the Egyptian side, the company in charge is Ibna’a Sina’a (The Sons of Sinai), and has ties with the Egyptian security forces. On the Palestinian side, the company in charge is Multitrade, a company that has ties with Hamas. If a Palestinian merchant wants to bring merchandise into Gaza, he must pay close to $5,000 per truck. He must also pay both companies for unloading and loading the stock. In this way, each kilogram of merchandise brings more and more revenue to Hamas’s dwindling coffers. Here it must be added that Hamas is dealing with a severe budgetary problem, even if taking into account Iran’s willingness to provide it with financial aid — a willingness that is once more uncertain due to the economic sanctions that have been imposed upon Iran.

Anyone in Israel who hopes that these measures by Hamas, which every Gazan is aware of, will lead to unrest or demonstrations against the terror group, is bound to be disappointed. According to polls in Gaza, most of the residents believe the Palestinian Authority and its President Mahmoud Abbas are primarily responsible for the situation in Gaza, followed by the “occupation” — meaning Israel, which has no presence in Gaza — and only then Hamas, which controls Gaza.

The question, even before Friday night’s escalation, is where all this is leading, and whether another major conflict is around the corner. Hamas has been exerting quite a bit of effort to let Israel know it has no interest in open conflict. On the other hand, it is doubtful that Hamas will maintain this trend if the humanitarian situation directs public anger in its direction…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




Michael Cotler-Wunsh

Jerusalem Post, July 14, 2018

The last few months have given rise to the return of a historical military strategy known as “scorched earth,” in which approximately 100 fires have ravaged and devastated hundreds of acres of the State of Israel, in particular in agricultural communities along the Gaza border. An hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, devastating fires have been set ablaze by balloons and kites flown over the border that have destroyed thousands of acres of fields, forests and wildlife.

Judging from recent events, it seems that the war of attrition launched against the nascent State of Israel in 1948 has not ended, only morphed. The commitment to its destruction has not vanished, only mutated. Enacting the age-old adage “Plus ca change, plus c’est la même chose,” it seems that those that did not accept the legitimacy of a Jewish homeland in the ancestral home of the Jewish people still do not, and are committed to its destruction utilizing any and all means to achieve their goal.

Ironically, the hope for finding a solution and of realizing the centuries-old dream of peace, persuaded many to adopt a paradigm that would enable a “way out.” According to this well-meaning, responsibility-taking paradigm, it was the results of the Six Day War (launched in a surprise, well-planned campaign by five neighboring Arab countries in 1967) that rendered Israel responsible for the terms and conditions of a much-coveted peace. If only Israel would withdraw from areas that it “conquered” in the aftermath of that war, there would be peace. If only there was a “two-state solution,” Palestinians would no longer carry out murderous attacks against Jews. Living under “occupation” resulted in “understandable” violent reactions according to this narrative, and “settlers” were vilified as the barrier to peace, the root of all evil. Herein lies the paradox. The adoption of this narrative actually fueled Israel’s hope, in keeping with millennia of Jewish tradition, that there is a chance to realize the dream of peace with its neighbors.

With all the incredible progress our world has made in the last century, including Israel’s contributions, despite the advances in health research, desalination of water, production of food, global online resources in education, that harbor the potential of improving the human condition, it seems that the machinery of hate and war has remained the same. Rearing its ugly head, recreating itself and holding the world back from genuine progress, it is a sad reminder of human inability to comprehend the repetition of history and recognize real threats as they arise.

Despite seeming progress, tactics of destruction and strategies of devastation reappear with ever so slight modifications or variations. Close and long-range missiles threaten and are launched into Israel, forcing it to develop self-defense systems such as Iron Dome to protect its civilian population; underground terror tunnels are dug into the country below external borders threatening individuals and communities, forcing Israel to develop technologies that address tunnel warfare; and now, in a cynical abuse of kids’ toys and joy, terror balloons and kites are utilized in an old-new version of scorched-earth practice, destroying decades of hard work, amazing achievement and dreams of a better future.

Once again, thousands of Israeli civilians, men, women and children, are living under daily threat and trauma. Doing the only thing that can be done against the terrorism that seeks to instill fear and paralyze them, they work, shop, write exams, drop kids off at camp or school, doing their utmost to lead a semblance of normal life. In these heroic daily acts that should be understood and acknowledged as such, they are fighting terrorists by denying them the victory of instilling anxiety and dread. Hundreds of volunteers show their support by doing the only thing they can, showing up in solidarity and working with brave firefighters day and night, to minimize the damage and save what can be saved.

In defiant breach of international law, fires are ravaging Israel daily. It is noteworthy that this strategy of destroying the food and water supply of the civilian population in an area of conflict is banned under Article 54 of Protocol I of the 1977 Geneva Conventions. The relevant passage states: “It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove, or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies, and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.”

The past few months have brought many civilians to the very area that is burning, along the Gaza border, for a gathering that highlights the unacceptable breach of international law and offers much the same clarity as to the enemy that Israel faces. Week after week, we gather to demand the return of the remains of Hadar Goldin, abducted and murdered by Hamas, the very same terrorist organization responsible for the implementation of the scorched-earth strategy. In a cynical abuse of the humanitarian ceasefire, under the auspices of the UN and brokered by the US in the “last blast from the warfare past” in the form of underground tunnels. In a cynical abuse of the understanding of the sanctity of life, and in violation of international law, they have been holding Goldin’s remains for four years. Week after week, en route to the gathering, the heartbreaking changeover from green to black can be seen, the demoralizing smoke in the air can be smelled. Week after week, we continue to go, recognizing the importance of standing together in solidarity, and of understanding and sensing reality…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Jonathan S. Tobin

JNS, July 9, 2018

To Israel’s critics, there really is only one issue to discuss with respect to the conflict with the Palestinians: the “occupation.” For them, Israel’s presence in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem—the territories it gained as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War—is an outrage. The fact that Israel has not retreated from these lands, irrespective of any discussion of its rights, history or the potential consequences, remains the sole salient fact about the conflict.

So it’s not terribly surprising that the attempts by both the United States and Israel to pass laws forcing the Palestinian Authority to stop paying subsidies to terrorists and pensions to their families hasn’t persuaded foes of the Jewish state to reverse their thinking. They don’t even seem to consider what Abbas’s Fatah and its Hamas rivals are doing to ensure that peace hasn’t broken out, let alone to stop complaining about the “occupation.”

Yet those who put the lion’s share for the continuation of the conflict on Israel, the Netanyahu government and American supporters really should pay more attention to the facts on the ground. The Knesset passed legislation last week that forced the government to withhold transfer of tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority in proportion to the amounts that Ramallah pays to terrorists imprisoned in Israel, as well as in pensions to the families of those who have committed acts of terror. This so-called “pay to slay” act is a potentially devastating blow to the P.A. since it receives nearly half of the $5.2 billion it spends every year from taxes collected for it by Israeli authorities. This comes after the U.S. Congress passed the Taylor Force Act back in March, which would similarly withhold U.S. aid to the P.A. if it continues subsidizing terrorism.

But the potential loss of so much money hasn’t moved the P.A. to even discuss halting the flow of funds to terrorists and their families. In 2018, it will spend about $360 million, approximately 7 percent of all of its revenues, on the various “heroes and martyrs” funds that go to those who kill or wound Israelis, or seek to do so. On Sunday, P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas reiterated this stand, saying that nothing would interfere with this practice.

To the Palestinians, this is not merely social-welfare spending for an estimated 35,000 families; it is also a matter of patriotism. The PLO—the parent group of the authority that Abbas rules despotically—has been doing this since it came into existence in 1965. The fact that this predates the “occupation” of the West Bank by two years should serve as a hint to observers as to the true cause of the conflict. But the point here is that the P.A. is not shy about saying why “pay to slay” is integral to what it means to be a Palestinian. Abbas and his Fatah Party, as well as Hamas, sees those who get the money as carrying out the national will of the Palestinian people. They believe these “heroes and martyrs” have every right to “resist” the presence of Jews on any part of the land on which the two peoples live.

That is why we need to ask Israel’s critics what it is they are actually protesting when they talk about the “occupation.” To those who see the existence of a Jewish state on any part of the territory between the Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea as a wrong that should be righted, it doesn’t really matter what the Palestinians do. If you think Israel shouldn’t exist and that Zionism is a racist crime, then all Palestinian acts of “resistance”—up to and including the most bestial acts of terrorism and mass murder—is both understandable and justified. If “occupation” means all of Israel, which is how the most Palestinians consider any land over which Jews have sovereignty, then there’s nothing really to talk about.

Along with Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, that’s also the perspective of groups that oppose Zionism elsewhere, including the United States. Their concern about the “occupation” isn’t a protest about West Bank settlements. Supporters of BDS and opponents of Zionism, like the Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow groups, are similarly either indifferent to or opposed to Israel’s continued existence, and therefore just as uninterested in Palestinian terror…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    





Dr. Alex Joffe

BESA, July 13, 2018

Après moi, le deluge” – a form of blackmail – has a long and ignoble history in international affairs. Fomenting chaos and touting one’s own regime as the only possible safeguard is a basic policy tool of Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas. Internationalization of the conflict is another traditional tool. But what happens to the idea of Palestinian sovereignty when those two conflict?

Abbas is 82 years old and, as we are frequently reminded by Abbas himself, in poor health. His increasingly frequent hospitalizations are a reminder that his era of pseudo-stability will soon end. That pseudo-stability takes this form: the Israeli security apparatus keeps Hamas at bay in the West Bank, allowing Abbas to crack down on his rivals; and in exchange, the PA does not support a full-fledged uprising, only terrorism by individuals. The probability of chaos, in the form of Hamas efforts to take over the West Bank or factional warfare between “security services,” is very real.

What will not end is the century-old Palestinian tradition of demanding that the international community take responsibility for the conflict, provide material support, and guarantee a political outcome that is favorable to them. This is done continually in international fora like the UN and through the mechanisms of UNRWA, lawfare, and the international BDS movement. The Palestinians demand that they set the agenda and that the international community provide the muscle and the cash. Reciprocal demands are trivial and lip service only, such as an “end to incitement.” Even so, without fanfare, Palestinian sovereignty, or the promise thereof, is compromised.

The myth of indispensability is an old trick pioneered by the rais himself, Yasser Arafat. Abbas’s brinksmanship trades on the promise of his own mortality to extract material support from Europe and the US, much of which is then stolen, with full knowledge of the donors, by the PA. Abbas’s repeated threats to dissolve the PA are also in line with this strategy. Apparently only he can simultaneously blackmail donors with the threat of uncontrolled violence and ensure that violence is limited through payoffs.

Similarly, threats of violent leadership contests between old-time Fatah members such as Muhammad Dahlan and Marwan Barghouthi, or between nascent strongmen such as Jibril Rajoub, former head of preventive security in the West Bank, and Majid Faraj, chief of general intelligence, have been long discussed. The implicit promise to the West is, to paraphrase an apocryphal statement by US President Lyndon Johnson, they are bastards but at least they’ll be our bastards. Of course, selecting among future blackmailers is no easy task, for Palestinians or the West.

But these internal Palestinian battles have another context – an international one. For one thing, they are funded by the international community and by Arab states through support to the PA. For another, the PA is always demanding that the international community uncritically support it and its political positions. Internationalization of the conflict, by generating antipathy towards Zionists, Israel, and Jews, has been a Palestinian strategy for a century. Third, no Palestinian leader is truly independent. All have become tools of larger movements, from Hajj Amin Husseini onward.

Through the very act of demanding international support, Palestinians long ago lost international leadership of their own issue as Arab and Muslim regimes have used it to rally their own societies and, along with the Soviet bloc (and now the global red-green alliance), to create a wedge against the West. But where does all of this leave the idea of Palestinian sovereignty? By choice and by default, there has never actually been any, nor do Palestinian political elites promise any. The future shape of their own society has been out of their hands for decades. The pattern continues today. By internationalizing the conflict, Palestinian elites demand solutions imposed from outside on their own impossible terms, but settle for payoffs from donors unwilling to exercise their leverage…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links

Netanyahu Visits Arson-Ravaged Gaza Border, Warns of a ‘Protracted Stuggle’: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, July 16, 2018—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday paid a visit near the Gaza border — an area whose residents saw hundreds of rockets and mortar shells fired at them over the weekend and endured months of fires set by Palestinian incendiary kites and balloons — warning Israel was in a “protracted struggle.”

How to Report on the Next War in Gaza: Liel Leibovitz, Tablet, July 11, 2018—After Hamas spent months repeatedly attacking Israel’s border with Gaza, including dispatching fiery kites that consumed 2,260 acres of land—that’s just about three Central Parks laid to waste—Israel responded this week by shutting the Kerem Shalom crossing, banning anything save for food and medicine.

Economics Won’t Help. The Palestinians Will Continue with Terror Attacks: Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, JCPA, July 10, 2018—The ostensible connection between the Palestinian economy and terrorism is now taking center stage in discussions about the Palestinians.

Oslo is Obsolete: Time for a Victory Mindset: Gideon Saar, Jerusalem Post, July 06, 2018—Finding a solution to any conflict or disagreement between two sides demands the will and mutual understanding. It cannot be accomplished unilaterally.