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.

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


Jerusalem’s Economic Crisis, Its Arabs, and Its Future

Oct. 18 2018

The population of Israel’s capital city is 38-percent Arab, making Arab eastern Jerusalem the largest Arab community in the country. Connected to this fact is Jerusalem’s 46-percent poverty rate—the highest of any Israeli municipality. The city’s economic condition stems in part from its large ultra-Orthodox population, but there is also rampant poverty among its Arab residents, whose legal status is different from that of both Arab Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Haviv Rettig Gur explains:

Jerusalem’s Arab inhabitants are not Israeli citizens—in part because Palestinian society views acceptance of Israeli citizenship, [available to any Arab Jerusalemite who desires it], as acceptance of Israeli claims of sovereignty over the city, and in part because Israel is not eager to accept them, even as it formally views itself as having annexed the area. Nevertheless, they have a form of permanent residency that, unlike West Bank Palestinians, allows them unimpeded access to the rest of Israel. . . .

There are good reasons for this poverty among eastern Jerusalem’s Arabs, rooted in the political trap that has ensnared the Arab half of the city and with it the rest of the city as well. Right-wing Israeli political leaders have avoided investing in Arab eastern Jerusalem, fearing that such investments would increase the flow of Palestinians into the city. Left-wing leaders have done the same on the grounds that the Arab half would be given away in a future peace deal.

Meanwhile, eastern Jerusalem’s complicated situation, suspended between the Israeli and Palestinian worlds, means residents cannot take full advantage of their access to the Israeli economy. For example, while most Arab women elsewhere in Israel learn usable Hebrew in school, most Arab schools in eastern Jerusalem teach from the Palestinian curriculum, which does not offer students the Hebrew they will need to find work in the western half of the city. . . .

It is not unreasonable to argue that Jerusalem cannot really be divided, not for political reasons but for economic ones. If Jerusalem remains a solely Israeli capital, it will have to integrate better its disparate parts and massively develop its weaker communities if it hopes ever to become solvent and prosperous. Arabs must be able to find more and better work in Jewish Jerusalem—and in Arab Jerusalem, too. Conversely, if the city is divided into two capitals, that of a Jewish state and that of a Palestinian one, that won’t change the underlying economic reality that its prosperity, its capacity to accommodate tourism and develop efficient infrastructure, and its ability to ensure access for all religions to their many holy sites, will still require a unified urban space.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli economy, Jerusalem