Will Reconciliation with Fatah Cripple Hamas’s Finances?

For years, the Palestinian Authority (PA) paid for healthcare, electricity, and other basic civilian needs in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas raised funds through heavy taxes (often leveled on top of PA taxes) that it could then devote largely to its military needs. The PA recently brought an end to this arrangement, as part of last month’s reconciliation deal. Evelyn Gordon explains how the new situation will affect the terrorist group’s bottom line:

Hamas for the first time has to spend some of its own money on [public services], causing its military budget to plummet from an estimated $200 million in 2014 to just $50 million this year (not counting the extra money it gets from Iran, which is solely for military spending). . . .

[I]mplementation of the reconciliation deal got off on the right foot on Wednesday when Hamas formally handed over Gaza’s border crossings to the PA. This isn’t because of the handover itself, which was largely meaningless, but because Hamas also agreed to dismantle the tax-collection checkpoints it erected near the crossings with Israel. . . . [These] checkpoints were major revenue sources for Hamas, since almost all imports to Gaza passed through them. . . . Thus the removal of these checkpoints will severely dent Hamas’s revenue stream.

Of course, it will still have the money it gets from Iran, estimated at $60-70 million this year, and that money will continue going straight to its military wing. But that’s far below what it was spending on its military in 2014 when it was getting less money from a cash-strapped Tehran but had a steady stream of Gazan tax revenue. . . .

[However], it’s not clear how anyone could stop [Hamas] from using its guns to resume extorting taxes once it has gotten what it wants out of the deal, which is to cease being responsible for civilian affairs. [And] the more money Hamas has to spend on its military build-up, the sooner it will reach the point where it feels it can afford to start another war. Hence if the PA, Egypt, and the international community want to avoid such a war, they must start thinking now about how to keep Hamas away from Gazan revenues if and when the reconciliation deal is fully implemented.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Egypt, Fatah, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war