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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

Palestinian Unification Brings No Benefits to Israel Unless It Involves Disarmament

Oct. 17 2017

On Thursday, Hamas—which governs the Gaza Strip—and Fatah—which governs parts of the West Bank through the auspices of the Palestinian Authority (PA)—signed an agreement ending over a decade of conflict. The agreement will allow Hamas to share the governance of Gaza with the Fatah-controlled PA; crucially, the PA will again supply Gaza with fuel, electricity, and medical supplies. But Hamas will maintain control over its military and terrorist operations, and thus, writes Alan Baker, the agreement brings peace no closer:

The Hamas-Fatah unity agreement could, in principle, be seen to be a positive development in the general framework of the Middle East peace process . . . [were it] to enable a responsible and unified Palestinian leadership, speaking with one voice and duly empowered to further peace negotiations. . . .

[But in order for such an agreement to have this effect, its] basic tenet . . . must be the open reaffirmation of the already existing and valid Palestinian commitments vis-à-vis Israel and the international community, signatories as witnesses to the Oslo Accords. Such commitments, set out in detail in the accords, include ending terror, incitement, boycott, and international attempts to bypass the negotiating process. Above all, they require dismantling all terror groups and infrastructures. They necessitate a return to economic and security cooperation and a positive negotiating mode. . . .

The Palestinian Authority also has its own obligation to cease supporting terrorists and their families with salaries and welfare payments. Since the present unification does not fulfill [this requirement], it cannot be acceptable either to the international community or to Israel.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Fatah, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians