Repeating Old Mistakes Won’t Help the People of Gaza

Last month, two highly regarded Washington think tanks produced a report urging the U.S. to take a “proactive” approach to save the Gaza Strip from economic and humanitarian crisis through “vigorous diplomacy” involving the Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas’s sponsors Qatar and Turkey, the UN, the EU, and other Middle Eastern states. The report’s suggestions, notes Peter Berkowitz, are not so different from those in a similar policy paper released a decade ago, or from the actual policies of the Obama administration. And they are just as unlikely to succeed:

First, by offering anodyne formulations about the “cycle of violence” that blur the difference between Hamas’s desire to destroy Israel and Israel’s desire to be left alone, the report obscures the abiding sources of Gaza’s humanitarian crisis.

Second, . . . [i]t is doubtful that the Palestinian Authority leadership . . . will cooperate with the elaborate scheme devised [by the think-tank experts] to end the Gaza crisis. The report also glosses over the political hurdles faced by the many other countries with conflicting concerns, including Israel, to which the report assigns crucial roles. And the report fails to identify any element in Hamas’s mindset or strategic outlook to which diplomats might appeal to induce it to relinquish administrative power, allow the PA back into Gaza, and combine security forces—all of which [these] experts deem essential.

Third, the report blames the Trump administration for damaging relations with the PA by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the American embassy there, and cutting aid to the PA and to UNRWA (a UN organization that provides Palestinians with social, economic, and educational services). But Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. Pretending otherwise encourages Palestinians to indulge unrealistic expectations and advance extravagant demands. And coddling the PA and overlooking UNRWA’s corruption and anti-Israel propagandizing are bound up with the decades-long blighting of Gaza. Disincentivizing bad conduct offers the prospect of reducing it. . . .

To craft a constructive policy for Gaza—as elsewhere—the United States must resist fantasizing about the interests that ought to motivate regional actors and instead grasp those that do.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, UNRWA

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat