The U.S. Adopts a Tougher Stance toward the Muslim Brotherhood

Nathan Sales, the American ambassador for counterterrorism, recently announced that the State Department is designating several groups and individuals affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists. First among them is Ismail Haniyeh, the chairman of the Hamas politburo—a decision that suggests a move away from the long-held distinction between the group’s political and military “wings.” To Eli Lake, these designations show the beginnings of a new approach to the Brotherhood as a whole:

[T]he Trump administration [seeks] to designate violent chapters of the Muslim Brotherhood as terrorists, but [is] not going after the entire organization. . . . In some ways this approach is not new. The Obama administration managed to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after the Arab Spring in 2011 but nonetheless treat its Palestinian wing, Hamas, as terrorists. There are no plans, [however], for the Trump administration to attempt to find common ground with the Muslim Brotherhood. . . .

Another reason the Haniyeh designation is important is because it signals the U.S. will not support efforts at a reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the party of the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas. Trump has already threatened to cut off aid to the statelet Abbas runs, and Abbas responded in January with a deranged speech declaring the peace process a dead letter. Now Sales is making clear the U.S. will not encourage a Palestinian unity government, either.

Sales also announced the designations of two relatively new organizations, Liwa al-Thawra and Harakat Sawa’d Misr. The groups, formed in 2016 and 2015, are led by former members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Both groups have taken responsibility for acts of terror. . . .

America must draw a distinction between nonviolent Islamists and those who turn to terror. The designations announced Wednesday are important in this respect. But it’s no substitute for a coherent policy on the Muslim Brotherhood. For that, the Trump administration must devise a strategy for countering, engaging, or ignoring groups that seek to impose Islamic rule through the ballot and not the bullet.

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Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics & Current Affairs, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy

Hamas’s Deadly Escalation at the Gaza Border

Oct. 16 2018

Hamas’s weekly demonstration at the fence separating Gaza from Israel turned bloody last Friday, as operatives used explosives to blow a hole in the barrier and attempted to pass through. The IDF opened fire, killing three and scaring away the rest. Yoni Ben Menachem notes that the demonstrators’ tactics have been growing more aggressive and violent in recent weeks, and the violence is no longer limited to Fridays but is occurring around the clock:

The number of participants in the demonstrations has risen to 20,000. Extensive use has been made of lethal tactics such as throwing explosive charges and grenades at IDF soldiers, and there has been an increase in the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. At the same time, Hamas supplemented its burning tires with smoke generators at the border to create heavy smoke screens to shield Gazan rioters and allow them to get closer to the border fence and infiltrate into Israel. . . .

[S]ix months of ineffective demonstrations have not achieved anything connected with easing [Israel’s blockade of the Strip]. Therefore, Hamas has decided to increase military pressure on Israel. [Its] ultimate goal has not changed: the complete removal of the embargo; until this is achieved, the violent demonstrations at the border fence will continue.

Hamas’s overall objective is to take the IDF by surprise by blowing up the fence at several points and infiltrating into Israeli territory to harm IDF soldiers or abduct them and take them into the Gaza Strip. . . . The precedent of the 2011 deal in which one Israeli soldier was traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners has strengthened the feeling within Hamas that Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for bringing back captured soldiers alive. . . . Hamas also believes that the campaign is strengthening its position in Palestinian society and is getting the international community to understand that the Palestinian problem is still alive. . . .

The Hamas leadership is not interested in an all-out military confrontation with Israel. The Gaza street is strongly opposed to this, and the Hamas leadership understands that a new war with Israel will result in substantial damage to the organization. Therefore, the idea is to continue with the “Return March” campaign, which will not cost the organization too much and will maintain its rule without paying too high a price for terror.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security