Iran Takes Charge in Gaza

Feb. 17 2017

On Tuesday, Hamas announced that it had selected Yahya Sinwar as its new “security minister.” This makes Sinwar, a convicted terrorist who had been in an Israeli prison until 2011, the senior figure in Gaza, where he will succeed Ismail Haniyeh, who will in turn replace Khaled Meshal as head of the Hamas Politburo in Qatar. The selection of Sinwar suggests that Hamas will seek both more cooperation with Islamic State’s Sinai branch and a thaw in relations with Iran, which split with Hamas when the two found themselves backing different sides in the Syrian civil war.

Herewith, two views on the implications of this development:

Yoni Ben Menachem writes:

Sinwar is not satisfied with Hamas’s military achievements during [Israel’s 2014 campaign under the name of] Operation Protective Edge. He advocates a strategy of kidnapping Israeli soldiers and civilians as the shortest path to getting [Hamas’s] security prisoners freed. . . . Sinwar’s desire to . . . do better than his predecessor [Ismail] Haniyeh will likely lead him to terror activity. It will be of a kind to which Israel cannot react with restraint, thus igniting a new round of fighting in Gaza. . . . [H]e wants to inflict a “preemptive strike” on Israel by infiltrating forces into the “enemy interior” by sea or through the attack tunnels. He is also planning to take over Gaza-belt Israeli communities, hit Ben-Gurion Airport, and assail population concentrations in Israel’s soft underbelly with thousands of rockets.

For his part, Pinḥas Inbari, while agreeing that Sinwar is likely to lead Hamas into Iran’s arms, believes war to be less imminent:

Iran chose to take back the reins in Gaza because of the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. Iran fears that at [recent] talks in Washington, President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu [agreed upon] an aggressive option vis-à-vis Iran. . . . [T]he announcement’s timing [was] Iran’s way of conveying a message before the Trump-Netanyahu talks.

If that’s the case, don’t expect that Sinwar’s “election” foretells a new escalation from Gaza against Israel. Just the opposite, Iran will restrain Hamas in order to keep the Gaza front available for Iran’s own needs, and Iran’s alone.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Ismail Haniyeh, Israeli Security, Khaled Meshal, Politics & Current Affairs

 

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy