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Bitcoin Could Be a Boon to Terrorists

Over the past year, the use of bitcoin—an Internet-based “currency” that operates without the control of a central bank—has increased significantly, generating some debate about whether it is the wave of the future or simply a new market for financial speculation. Shmuel Even asks a different question, of particular import to Israel: can it be prevented from serving as a tool for terrorists?

Internet currencies do not claim to replace state currencies, but even if [they become mainstream without doing so], it is hard to dismiss the idea that they could deprive states and the financial establishments that control the global financial system of their exclusive hold over means of payment, just as the Internet deprives states and the media of their exclusive control of information. With the existing systems, it is hard for the state to track “new money” and its usage, so the main risk posed to states by these currencies is of financial activity moving beyond the state’s knowledge or reach.

This includes the financial activity of terrorist and criminal organizations, which can use virtual currencies to pay their activists, acquire weapons on the black market, buy forbidden substances, launder money, and move money from country to country with no supervision. In the future, this currency system could also be used to bypass sanctions imposed on countries and [other entities], including the purchase of banned substances and technologies, since it is a separate global financial system that is not controlled by states or banks. . . .

Israel is still formulating its position [with regard to cybercurrency]. . . . In an open letter of February 2014, the Bank of Israel warned the public about the dangers of using decentralized virtual currencies, and stressed that they were not legal tender. . . . The bank said that [the use of these currencies constitutes] “a high-risk factor with regard to money laundering and funding of terror,” since it facilitates anonymous financial transactions that bypass regulated systems. . . .

Israel would do well to accelerate the process of deciding on its approach, with an integrated examination of the subject by all the regulatory bodies involved. . . and in collaboration with other elements worldwide.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Finance, Internet, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Terrorism

The Palestinian National Movement Has Reached a Point of Crisis

With Hamas having failed to achieve anything through several weeks of demonstrations and violence, and Mahmoud Abbas reduced to giving rambling anti-Semitic speeches, Palestinian aspirations seem to have hit a brick wall. Elliott Abrams explains:

[Neither] Fatah [nor] Hamas offers Palestinians a practical program for national independence. . . . [The current situation] leaves Palestinians high and dry, with no way forward at all. Whatever the criticism of the “occupation,” Israelis will certainly not abandon the West Bank to chaos or to a possible Hamas takeover. Today the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is simply too dangerous to Israel and to Jordan to be contemplated. . . . There are only two other options. The first is the “one-state solution,” meaning union with Israel; but that is a nonstarter that Israel will reject no matter who is its prime minister. The other option is some kind of eventual link to Jordan.

In polite diplomatic society, and in Palestinian public discourse, such a link cannot be mentioned. But younger people who visit there, Palestinians have explained to me, can see a society that is half-Palestinian and functions as an independent nation with a working system of law and order. Jordanians travel freely, rarely suffer from terrorism, and [can vote in regular] elections, even if power is ultimately concentrated in the royal palace. The kingdom has close relations with all the Sunni states and the West, and is at peace with Israel.

The fundamental question all this raises is what, in 2018, is the nature and objective of Palestinian nationalism. Is the goal sovereignty at all costs, no matter how long it takes and even if it is increasingly divorced from peace, prosperity, and personal freedom? Is “steadfastness” [in refusing to compromise with Israel] the greatest Palestinian virtue now and forever? These questions cannot be debated in either Gaza or the West Bank. But as Israel celebrates 70 years and the “occupation” is now more than a half-century old, how much longer can they be delayed? . . .

The catastrophic mishandling of Palestinian affairs by generations of leaders from Haj Amin al-Husseini (the pro-Nazi mufti of the British Mandate period) to Yasir Arafat and now to Mahmoud Abbas has been the true Palestinian Nakba.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians