Tag Archives: Palestinian Authority

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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SURPRISE! SURPRISE! TALKS GOING NOWHERE

From the beginning, this blog has predicted that the Israeli – Palestinian peace talks would go down the drain. That’s where the negotiations now appear to be.

While the story has not appeared to make much media news in the last month, the events have certainly been worthy of attention. On March 26, the Arab League announced full backing of the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This position reflects the Palestinian maneuvering to give them a back door to leave the conference table. Of course, recognition of their right to exist as been the fundamental number one requirement of Israel even before the talks began.

As the former Jewish diplomat Abba Eban once said, “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Stated in the blog for March 10, American Secretary of State John Kerry returned with a trade-off deal in which Israel would offer the Palestinians East Jerusalem as their capital in return for their recognition of Israel as a valid state. While painful for both sides, Kerry’s plan would have provided a breakthrough for final negotiations. Kerry met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas only hours before he addressed the Arab League, but his position was rejected out of hand by Abbas.

You have to give Secretary Kerry and A for effort, but and F for insight into where there negotiations would go before they even started. This blog regretfully perceived failure from the start. Following the Arab League statement Kerry told reporters that he intends to continue pushing forward and that it is too early to draw any conclusions or make any judgments on what has happened. What else can he say?

The Palestinian Authority announced it will begin attempts to join 15 international organizations because Israel has refused to release the fourth and final group of Palestinian prisoners that the PA calls heroes and Israel calls terrorists. This was a tit-for-tat response on the PA’s part. Because they can’t get started at the negotiating table, the PA has tried these end-around plays before. However, from the beginning, Israel made it clear that prisoner release depended on progress in the negotiations. When it came down to the final crunch, the Palestinians remained where they have always been.

The problem that much of the world refuses to recognize is that the Palestinians have one major objective. Israel must be pushed into the Sea. People may accuse Israel of this-or-that, but how can any nation ignore the refusal of an adversary to give up their hostile intentions? Peace in the Middle East remains at an impasse between the two bodies over this fundamental problem. The rest of the negotiations are window dressing compared to this singular issue.

Both sides will jockey for the best PR possible for why the talks drift toward the sunset. Finger-pointing will become pronounced and we will be back to where we were during the days of Hillary Clinton. The bottom line is that Israel continues to prosper; the PA doesn’t.  The population of Jerusalem has grown over Tel Aviv and both cities are prosperous. The PA struggles to pay their bills.  This problem can only increase.

Sorry. That’s where the situation appears to be.

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ISRAEL: CLOUDS ON THE HORIZON

On February 16, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told a group of 300 left-wing Israeli students that he would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state and he ruled out any Jews remaining in a Palestinian state. Of course, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has made recognize a number one condition for a settlement. Obviously, Abbas was telling them an impasse had been reached. What does this mean?

A new dimension has appeared that could apply significant pressure on Israel to settle. The Dutch pension giant PGGM divested their business ties with Israel’s five largest banks. Other major European investment funds announced they were considering following suit. Norway’s largest pension fund KLP indicated it had reservations linked to the West Bank settlement. These are only some of the dark clouds beginning to settled over the agreement process. Israel’s major hi-tech industry could become a target of such aggressive financial actions.

Do sanctions work? Ask South Africa that ignored the threat until it sank their boat. Ask Iran that stumbled to the negotiating table after the USA and its allies tightened their economic boycott and froze their assets. Yes, sanctions can become monstrous.

Israel’s continual expansion of settlements across the green line (the debated border with the Palestinians) has been bad PR with much of the rest of the world. Moreover, many question whether Netanyahu is serious about negotiating a settlement and see him as intentionally dragging his feet. The weight of public opinion in those holding these view has shifted behind the Palestinians.

On the other hand, American Secretary of State John Kerry has been working on a trade-off deal in which the Palestinians would recognize Israel and Israel would offer East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. The ultimate goal would be to reach a final agreement by the end of 2014. Of course, such an agreement would be painful and difficult for both sides, but that is how these matters usually end.

Kerry’s position is that such a settlement would be a win-win for both sides, bringing great economic rewards for both countries. I have been in Jordan both before agreement was reached with Israel and many times afterward. The dramatic difference is obvious. Jordan has greatly prospered. No question that this would be true for the Palestinnians.

Christian evangelical groups have resolutely stood behind Israel in these conflicts and their influence has been significant. However, in the world of politics and economics, the big bucks swing the pendulum. If an economic boycott is pressed against Israel, the game will be changed. The next few months will prove crucial.

Probably, the ball is in Bibi’s court. Caught in his own political squeeze between the right wing and his current government coalition, Netanyahu is faced with fierce career shaping pressures. The consequences for Israel are huge.

Can Abbas change his mind about recognizing Israel? If not, then the weight of economic pressure could well swing in the other direction. The problem is that the Palestinian’s economy is zero compared to Israel.

Stay tuned.

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SORTING OUT ISRAEL — AT THE MOMENT

            Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the Shabbat Torah portion of scripture to explain why it would be foolish to leap into a peace agreement with the Palestinians that would include far reaching concessions. The scripture lesson from Exodus said, “a new king arose from Egypt who did not know Joseph.” Referring to the dramatic changes in Egypt, the Prime Minister noted that the same result could come with the Palestinian Authority. He recognized that Hamas could take control over the PA just as it did in gaining control of Gaza. Unless the diplomatic processes are handled responsibility and wisely, a third Iranian terror base could result as it now does in Gaza and southern Lebanon. He concluded, “peace can only be achieved when security is guaranteed.”

During the Bible study, Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, asked about archeological evidence of the Israelites’ sojourn in Egypt. Benjamin Netanyahu responded that the Shiloah inscription still resides in Turkey. This stone tablet dates back to the 8th century B.C. E. when the construction of Hezekiah’s Tunnel brought water from the Gihon Spring to the Shiloah pool. The Turks still have not responded to the Prime Minister’s request to return this tablet to Israel.

I have walked through that water tunnel and seen the place on the wall where the stone plate once hung. At that point, the tunnel takes an abrupt perpendicular turn to avoid digging under King David’s grave. That trek through knee high water proved to be one of those unforgettable moments that stays with one forever.

However, Netanyahu’s comments are worth noting. Back in early December, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal  addressed a crowd in Gaza City crowd and vowed that his movement would not give up one inch of the land or any part of it. He declared that Palestine extended from the sea to the Jordan, from the north to the south. He said, “Palestine was, still is, and will always be Arab and Islamic. Palestine belongs to us and to no one else.” He made Netanyahu’s point for him.

Obviously, Hamas also has designs on the Palestinian Authority’s position of leadership. The Fatah organization that Yasser Arafat once controlled remains in Mahaal’s gun sights.

At this time, the PA is on the verge of bankruptcy. In retaliation for breaking  away from the peace negotiation process and going to the United Nations, Israel has withheld moneys formerly paid to the PA. Donor countries who told the PA they would stand behind them have not kept their promises. It appears this situation could be a fatal blow to the Palestinian economy. An appeal from the PA cabinet to Arab countries has been made, but nothing has happened to date.

The Prime Minister’s reluctance to leap into a quick agreement has been certified by the actions of Israel’s enemies. The entire Middle East remains in serious turmoil. Egypt that was once in a positive relationship with Israel is in transition as well. Israel must insist that its enemies accept its right to exist and promise to cease hostilities. If not, the likes of Hamas chief Khaled Mahaal will take the day and serious confrontations and military action will follow.

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