Hamas Is Trying to Spark an Explosion in the West Bank

Despite some scattered rocket fire from Gaza in the past two weeks, argues Yoav Limor, Hamas does not want to escalate from within that territory. Instead, writes Limor, its current strategy is to use its cells in Judea and Samaria to plan attacks on Israelis. A recent report from the Shin Bet, Israel’s internal-security service, detailing hundreds of foiled attacks—mostly originating from the West Bank—makes this clear:

The most dramatic data in [the Shin Bet report] centered on the 148 Hamas terrorist cells apprehended in Judea and Samaria this year. This number means that, . . . in Judea and Samaria, [Hamas] has its foot firmly on the gas pedal, doing its utmost to carry out attacks. These efforts include a substantial financial investment and intensive recruitment in search of new human resources—the kind who would have a better shot at succeeding, like east Jerusalem Arabs and even Israeli Arabs.

The Hamas efforts are aimed at achieving three key objectives: keeping the conflict away from Gaza, perpetuating the conflict [overall], and destabilizing the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the rival Fatah faction. These objectives are intertwined. . . . Hamas is willing to make short-term sacrifices in order to achieve its long-term endgame: taking over the Palestinian Authority (PA) and gaining enough power to fight Israel and win. . . .

Hamas is playing a double game with Abbas on a number of different playing fields: engaging in reconciliation talks designed to give Gaza a much-needed lifeline, and waging battle—an overt diplomatic battle and a covert military battle—against him in the West Bank. Over the last year, the terrorist plots thwarted by the Shin Bet were mainly directed at Israelis, but also at the Palestinian Authority. . . .

A large-scale terrorist attack [from Judea and Samaria] will obligate Israel to retaliate. The Israeli response will make sure that Hamas suffers in the West Bank, but the Palestinian Authority will suffer, too. The attack will reinforce the [Palestinian] public’s view of their leadership as weak, an empty vessel. While Hamas takes action against the occupation, . . . the Palestinian Authority will look like it collaborates with the Israelis, [which it has been doing to curb Hamas’s infiltration of its territory]—depriving it of even more support and halting whatever momentum it has managed to gain. In practice, it will only make Hamas stronger.

Indeed, Limor concludes, a single terrorist attack that slips by the Shin Bet could be enough to topple the PA and start a war.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, Shin Bet, West Bank

How Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy