A Year of “Protest” on the Gaza Border Has Achieved Little—but Not Nothing—for Hamas

March 14 2019

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Hamas’s “March of Return.” The weekly demonstrations were meant to culminate in a massive storming of the fence separating Gaza from Israel, after which participants would ostensibly “return” to the homes their ancestors fled in 1948. While part of the campaign has been peaceful, other parts have involved shooting and throwing Molotov cocktails at Israeli border guards, using balloons and kites as incendiary devices aimed at Israeli villages, and sporadically firing rockets and mortars. Michael Milstein evaluates the success of these tactics:

A year into the campaign, Hamas cannot claim a stellar performance. On the one hand, Israel was forced to deal with events on the Gaza border, and the organization succeeded in positioning the issue at the heart of Israeli discourse. . . . Furthermore, Hamas attained some civil successes, leading to a certain easing of civilian conditions in the Gaza Strip over the last few months; the most important [of these] was securing the Qatar-financed payments for civil-servant salaries and the Gaza Strip’s electricity bill, which led to the doubling of the electric supply from four to eight or more hours a day.

On the other hand, the eased conditions are still overshadowed by the profound basic problems that Hamas is unable to resolve, above all, unemployment (especially among the young), the devastated civil infrastructures, and the restrictions on entering and leaving Gaza. As Hamas is well aware, unresolved, these contribute to a highly volatile domestic situation. Moreover, the concessions achieved are seen as disproportionate to the heavy human toll exacted by the campaign [at the border fence]. . . .

More moves on Israel’s part [to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza], even if limited in scope—such as easing restrictions on movement, jumpstarting infrastructure projects (especially for water and electricity), and attracting foreign aid—could help ease the tensions. Such moves have the power to temper public anger and increase Hamas’s motivation to enforce its rule. This is a complex decision, throwing into stark relief the polar opposite alternatives plaguing Israel: to promote the easing of civilian restrictions, which plays into Hamas’s hands by acknowledging its rule without any progress on the issue of Israel’s MIAs and POWs, or to raise the probability of a new broad military offensive whose end is impossible to predict.

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

 

Maintaining Security Cooperation with the PA Shouldn’t Require Ignoring Its Support for Terror

In accordance with legislation passed last year, the Israeli government has begun to deduct from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) an amount proportional to what the PA pays to terrorists and their families. Last year, a similar law went into effect in the U.S., suspending all payments to the PA so long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” policy. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, has retaliated by refusing to accept any tax revenue collected by Israel—raising concerns that the PA will become insolvent and collapse—while insisting that payments to terrorists and their families are sacrosanct. To Yossi Kuperwasser, Abbas’s behavior amounts to mere extortion—which has already worked on the Europeans to the tune of 35 million euros. He urges Israel and the U.S. not to submit:

Abbas [believes] that influential Israeli and European circles, including the security establishment, view strengthening the Palestinian Authority, and certainly preventing its collapse, as being in Israel and Europe’s best interests. They will therefore give in to the pressure he exerts through the creation of an artificial economic crisis. . . .

[T]he PA leadership’s insistence on continuing wage payments to terrorists and their families, even at the price of an artificial economic crisis, shows once again that . . . the Oslo Accords did not reflect a substantive change in Palestinian national aspirations or in the methods employed to achieve them. . . . If paying wages to terrorists (including the many terrorists whose attacks took place after the Oslo Accords were in force) is the raison d’être for the PA’s establishment, as Abbas seems to be saying, . . . one cannot help asking whether Israel has to insist on maintaining the PA’s existence at any price.

True, Israel cooperates on security issues with the PA, but that serves the interests of both sides. . . . The short-term benefits Israel gains from this security cooperation, [however], are of less value than the benefits enjoyed by the Palestinians, and worth even less when measured against the long-term strategic damage resulting from Israel’s resigning itself to the constant incitement, the promotion of terror, and the political struggle against Israel carried out by the PA. Israel should not do anything to hasten the PA’s breakdown, because it has no desire to rule over the Palestinians and run their day to day lives, but it also should not feel more obligated to the PA’s continued existence than do the Palestinians themselves, thereby leaving itself open to continuous extortion.

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More about: Israeli Security, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror