Category Archives: Gaza

PALESTINIAN FRUSTRATIONS

BLOG 224 November 3, 2014

The Palestinian struggle for independence has not gone well. The debacle in Gaza with Hamas getting smashed only added to the lingering frustrations. The 50 days of fighting with Israel was the third Gaza war in six years and by far the deadliest, exacting the heaviest toll so far on Gaza strip that was already in economic struggles. Entire neighborhoods were reduced to rabble. While the citizens of Gaza had voted Hamas into power, it was almost as if the Israelis were punishing them for supporting the terrorists. Being in step with Hamas proved to a terrible price to pay for their plebiscite.

The ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt called for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to replace Hamas as the civil authority. Israel wanted to make certain that funds for rebuilding did not go into rearmament and the rebuilding of invasion tunnels into Israel. Of course, attempts to create a lasting truce between Israel and Hamas will prove fruitless. On the other hand, divisions within the Palestinian camp with the PA and Hamas fighting each other may prove to be equally difficult to settle. PA state ministers entered Gaza on October 9, for the first meeting of a unity government. However, the reconciliatory rhetoric did not conceal the fact that Hamas and Fatah are locked in serious disputes.

One of the irresolvable issues has to do with money. Hamas has 40,000 unpaid employees and wants the PA to foot the bill. Unfortunately, the PA has been in an economic crisis for years. Sorry. They can’t resolve that problem.

Then, there is the rebuilding of the destroyed Gaza Strip area. Unless there is a legitimate government to oversee distribution of funds, donor countries will back away. The feud between the PA and Hamas currently makes a functioning government impossible. The result is not only that nothing happens, but the everyday Palestinian citizens are increasingly critical of the schism separating both groups.

Of course, Hamas is in a bad way. An offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, the ouster of Mohammad Morsi and the fall of the Brotherhood in Egypt radically cut off funding. The incessant firing of rockets at Israel did not sit well across the world. In addition, their refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist has isolated them further from international powers. The destruction of their tunnels created another crippling economic blow.

Israel killed the two Hamas operatives that kidnapped and killed three Israeli teenagers. Their deaths set off the assault on the Gaza Strip last spring. Surrounded by Israeli forces in, the two assailants hiding in  a carpentry workshop in Hebron were gunned down trying to emerge from the building. Once again, the Palestinians lost the struggle.

Following the ceasefire, Palestinian citizens came out to walk the streets in Ramallah, but they expressed increasing frustration with failed negotiations, inept UN ventures, and the divided leadership between Hamas and the PA. It would seem that settling their conflicts with Israel or accepting Egypt’s offer of land in the Sinai would be an immediate solution to all of these problems.

Unfortunately, such available solutions seem to be too easy.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Judism, middle east, Muslims, Palestinians

WHERE DOES ISRAEL GO NEXT?

BLOG 220 September 26, 2014

For the 12th time in 50 days a cease-fire was brokered by Egypt and the fighting in Gaza stopped. The attack tunnels were now a pile of dust. Starting with 10,000 rockets, Hama ended up with around 2,000. The other 8,000 had done virtually no damage in Israel. The Iron Dome worked. Hamas had lost hundreds of fighters, including commanders. Of course, standing in a pile of rubble and destroyed building, Hama will claim victory. Who are they kidding?

Israel is capable of eliminating the Hamas leadership and destroying any military possibilities. They could recapture Gaza, but then they would be responsible for 1.8 million residents, having to provide them with health services, food, and education. Israel would have to continue to work with aspirations and hopes to defeat Israel –an impossible task!

Israel has a problem.

The Gazans who elected Hamas still want to replace the Palestinian Authority. Egypt, Saudi Arabis, and Jordan will link arms with Israel to oppose Hamas, but they will not work against the wishes of the people of Gaza.

Yes, Israel has a problem.

The Israelis are at a crossroads. To solve the Gaza problem, they need a settlement in the peace talks with the Palestinian Authority (PA). A sweeping peace would certain be profitable for Israel’s standing in Europe. If Israel does not move forward, it stands the danger of becoming a fortress that closes in upon itself. Should such happen, there is a danger of becoming less democratic along with the issue of possible economic sanctions. Important decisions need to be made soon.

On the other side, what is not widely known is that Hamas is a huge business dealing with billions of dollars obtained through corrupt practices, money laundering, and an infusion of wealth from Arab states. One Jordanian source claimed that Khaled Mashaal , the head of Hamas, is worth over $3 billion dollars.

The problem is that Hamas’s income had gone through a crunch even before the Gaza war. When Egypt overthrew Morsi and the Moslem Brotherhood, Hamas experienced a severe shock with financial repercussions. Hamas in turn had supported Syrian Islamists rebels that resulted in being cut off from funding from Iran which continues to support Syrian President Bashar Assad. These losses impacted Hamas’s payroll in Gaza. PA President Abbas paid only the PA workers and left Hamas out in the cold. The employment rate among Gaza youth is above 40%.

Hamas is both naive and irresponsible. The recent war exposed Hamas’s total disregard for the lives of its own people. As that story continues to unfold and disseminate, Hamas’s hold on the citizens of Gaza may well  diminish.  Regardless of how much propaganda they distribute, Hamas is in a hard place.

This is a good moment to close the deal. Israel needs to act on the opportunity at hand and move toward a permanent settlement with the PA that will forever isolate Hamas. But will they?

That remains the jackpot question.

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Filed under Arabs, Gaza, Israel, middle east, Palestinians

THE NEW STATUS QUO IN ISRAEL AND GAZA

Everyone is sickened by the death of women and children in Gaza’s death toll of over 1,830 Palestinians in the military skirmish. The 64 Israeli casualties were all soldiers. Hamas fired 3,200 rockets at Israel during the battle and the rockets were destroyed or hit virtually nothing. The Iron Dome defense held. Gaza had no such defense.

Because Hamas used civilians as human shields, blame will be placed on Israel by those who already are negative. In America, 53% of citizens 65 or older blame Hamas. On the other hand, only 29% of citizens aged 18 to 29 support Israel. Growing numbers of Europeans believe that not to be angry at Israel is tantamount to not having a conscience. Of course, part of the growth of European anti-Semitism is in the expanding large Muslim communities.

So, where are we today? Probably the depressing reality is that the Gaza conflict is heading toward a familiar conclusion. People get killed; nothing changes. Some groups will probably attempt to create a U.N. condemnation of alleged war crimes committed by Israel. The Palestinian Authority (PA) may make another attempt to gain recognition as a state. Probably neither of those approaches will produce any significant result. Mahmoud Abbas will go hobbling along affecting little, but making extreme accusations. Benjamin Netanyahu will continue building settlements to put the squeeze on the PA. A weak PA and a defeated Hamas will create a void that well may attempt to be filled by jihadists like ISIS or al-Qaida. The struggle continues.

A new shift may follow as Israel demands not only recognition of their right to exist, but may demand a long-term military presence in the West Bank. Increasing numbers of Israelis already question whether a two-state solution is possible. Many Arabs have already become Israeli citizens because they believe this is the only possible alternative for a productive life. Unless some significant action is taken, Hamas will again be trying to smuggle weapons into Gaza while manufacturing there own rockets in people’s homes. Israel wants to see the international community halt arms shipments from Iran and Sudan. But will they?

Many Arabs are already opposed to Hamas. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates view Hamas as frightening extremists that pose a threat to peace and tranquility in the entire region. By its own actions, Hamas has isolated itself. Now is the time for Israel to stop their warring capacities if Isrealis are to be secure.

Thoughtful citizens in Gaza must recognize that Hamas has only made their lives worse. Will they? At the least, they won’t say so out loud, but they will be thinking. The Hamas strategy of using humans as shields with schools, hospitals, mosques as rocket launching sites has cost the average citizen dearly. At the same time, the hatred of Israel only deepens. The problem is that with over 1,800 deaths, a new generation of young people will rise up bent on revenge even at the cost of their own lives. And the war starts over again.

Sorry. That’s all I can see.

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THE NEXT STEP IN GAZA-ISRAELI NEGOIATIONS

            Now that hostilities have ceased, the next step between Israel and Palestinian militants is some form of negotiated settlement. Hamas will push for the lifting of the blockade that has stifled goods being shipped into the country. Five years after Hamas seized control from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the blockade was imposed by Israel to halt the flow of military weapons into Gaza. The closing of all ports has been highly successful, leaving Gaza in an impoverished condition. In turn, Israel will demand an end to arms smuggling. Weapons have continued to come in through a system of tunnels built along the Egyptian border. These tunnels were one of the main targets during the eight days of air strikes by Israel. Significant damage was done to this system.

            Obviously, negotiations will be long and tough. Both sides have a great deal at stake. Egypt’s continuing role is to work with Gaza and Israel to start talks. However, the ongoing turmoil in Egypt has made President Morsi’s position tenuous. Undoubtedly, his time is consumed with trying to survive the current upheaval since he claimed dictatorial powers. It is not clear when negotiations can begin in earnest with President Morsi at the table..

But what can be expected?

This past week the world got a few clues from the first visit to Gaza City in history of the political leader of Hamas. Khaled Meshai delivered a defiant speech, vowing to built an Islamic Palestinians state on all the land of Israel. Tens of thousands of supporters gathered to hear Meshai promise the Jewish state would be wiped out by resistance and military action. Meshai said, “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concessions on any inch of the land.”

The Hamas leader promised no recognition of the legitimacy of Israel, vowing that they would free Jerusalem no matter how long it takes. Hamas appears to have developed a new confidence believing they have stood up to Israel. However, they know that the fall of President Morsi would have dire consequences for them.

So, what can the world make of the current situation. Palestinian defenders are not likely to write Meshal’s speech off as political rhetoric. They believe in what he said. Certainly his ideas represent the Hamas constitution. He must be taken seriously. Unfortunately, terrorist are not deterred by such things as having all their buildings smashed and their leaders killed. They’ll be back tomorrow with a another truck load of weapons.

Until Hamas reaches a reconciliation with the PLO, the Palestinians remain divided and Israel has stated it will not negotiate with any terrorist group seeking their downfall. Therefore, we have come again to an impasse going nowhere. This amounts to a continuation of the status quo of past years. We cannot expect much to come out of the proposed negotiations.

With Syria poised for a downfall of the Assad regime with radical changes on the horizon, and Iran enriching uranium for a bomb, both sides have a great deal to think about. Nothing is ever easy in the Middle East. And it hasn’t gotten any smoother.

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Filed under Gaza, Israel, Palestinians, Peace

HAMAS & EGYPT: CHANGE? MORE OF THE SAME?

With the roar of rockets quieted, what’s going on in the Middle East? The Gaza crowds celebrating an artificial truce have gone home and the noise of guns has been displaced by the usual market place clatter. But what’s the story behind the story?

Moussa Abu Marzouk, Hamas’ second in command, said that Hamas would not stop arming itself because only force can bring Israel to the negotiating table. Of course, Israel refuses to recognize Hamas because they are a terrorist group. The complication is that Hamas totally controls Gaza while the Palestinian Authority is left with the West Bank. In other words, a divided front claims Palestine but no one can say with certainty who speaks for this group. However, Abu Marzouk’s statements indicate that Hamas has learned nothing from the three day shoot out that left Gaza City in a serious condition.

Israel insists that any easing of the blockade will depend on Hamas’ willingness to stop smuggling and producing weapons. Because Hamas’ founding charter calls for the destruction of Israel, any threat must be taken seriously. They have also claimed to be manufacturing rockets inside Gaza. Because the Iranian made Fajr-5-rockets came close to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, this problem will be given serious study. Possibly three days of war has changed nothing except to force the Palestinians to stop firing rockets for the moment. No one believes this concession will last.

Where are we now? Back to the status quo?

Matters in Egypt seem to be getting worse by the day. On Saturday, Egyptian judges and prosecutors struck back against President Morsi’s degree to supersede all legal restraints. The stock market went to the bottom and protestors again filled Tahrir Square. Rioting broke out and demonstrators were on the march.

At stake is an expected December 2 ruling by judicial review to disband the constitutional assembly. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are attempting to sidestep that possibility by declaring the president above all constitutional powers. The procedure has backfired. A council overseeing the judiciary called Morsi’s decree “an unprecedented attack” on its authority. If Morsi thought his quick maneuver would succeed, he obviously misread the Egyptian public.

Mohamed Morsi’s election was only by the thinnest margin. At least half of Egyptian did not want the Brotherhood in the driver’s seat. This conflict will only bring his opponents back in force. Unless Morsi makes a serious retreat, Egypt could well explode again.

The end result? The status quo would only be re-enforced.

What happens next? Former  chief of Mossad Efraim Halevy sees only three alternatives in Gaza: destroy Hamas and possibly  invite even more radical groups to take over; occupy Gaza; attempt to reduce the hostile environment by preventing the influx of new weapons while allowing Hamas to increase its civilian political role. The last idea would be a victory for Hamas because Israel doesn’t now recognize them.

With the American elections concluded, Israel has a number of important issues to ponder. Palestinian leader Abbas will go back to the United Nations seeking formal recognition, but how can he seriously do so when he doesn’t control any of Gaza?

The status quo remains. Israel may have to determine which way the future unfolds.

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Filed under Egypt, Gaza, Israel, middle east