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 the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen