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

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank