Israel Won’t Benefit from a Palestinian Civil War

Last month, the magazine Foreign Policy published a profile of Hussein al-Sheikh, currently the secretary-general of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), and one of several politicians vying to succeed the aging Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas. Hussain Abdul-Hussain takes a closer look at Sheikh, noting his unpopularity among Palestinians, and examines the looming succession struggle more closely:

If Sheikh wants to become the PA chairman, he’ll likely have to fend off challenges from stronger and more popular contenders. His competitors, like Sheikh himself, are non-Islamists who have cooperated well with Western and Israeli authorities. While these men should work together to reform the PA and crack down on violent militants and Islamists, it’s doubtful that any of them would settle for anything less than becoming the undisputed PA chief.

When Abbas dies, other armed Palestinian factions—such as Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)—could smell blood and try to wrestle territory from the hands of the warring PA strongmen. If Hamas, the PIJ, or both, manage to displace the PA, the West Bank could be turned into another Gaza Strip. But the West Bank has a higher elevation than Gaza, giving Hamas, the PIJ, and ultimately their sponsor, Tehran, a better view of Israel and its strategic and sensitive spots.

Some might imagine that Israel will watch with glee as Abbas’s successors tear themselves apart. But a civil war carries huge risks for Israel and the region, and increases the chances of an Islamist takeover of the West Bank. If that were to happen, Israel might find itself back in pre-Oslo days, suspending Palestinian self-government until Palestinians can figure out how to produce an authority that can run their affairs without threatening Israel’s security.

Read more at Arab Weekly

More about: Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority


An Israeli Buffer Zone in the Gaza Strip Doesn’t Violate International Law

 The IDF announced on Thursday that it is safe for residents to return to some of the towns and villages near the Gaza Strip that have been abandoned since October 7. Yet on the same day, rocket sirens sounded in one of those communities, Kibbutz Mefalsim. To help ensure security in the area, Israel is considering the creation of a buffer zone within the Strip that would be closed to Palestinian civilians and buildings. The U.S. has indicated, however, that it would not look favorably on such a step.

Avraham Shalev explains why it’s necessary:

The creation of a security buffer along the Gaza-Israel border serves the purpose of destroying Hamas’s infrastructure and eliminating the threat to Israel. . . . Some Palestinian structures are practically on the border, and only several hundred yards away from Israeli communities such as Kfar Aza, Kerem Shalom, and Sderot. The Palestinian terrorists that carried out the murderous October 7 attacks crossed into Israel from many of these border-adjacent areas. Hamas officials have already vowed that “we will do this again and again. The al-Aqsa Flood [the October 7th massacre] is just the first time, and there will be a second, a third, a fourth.”

In 2018 and 2019, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad organized mass marches towards the Israeli border with the goal of breaking into Israel. Billed by Palestinians as “the Great March of Return,” its name reveals its purpose—invasion. Although the marches were supposedly non-violent, they featured largescale attacks on Israeli forces as well as arson and damage to Israeli agriculture and civilian communities. Moreover, the October 7 massacre was made possible by Hamas’s prepositioning military hardware along the border under false cover of civilian activity. The security perimeter is intended to prevent a reprise of these events.

Shalev goes on to dismantle the arguments put forth about why international law prohibits Israel from creating the buffer zone. He notes:

By way of comparison, following the defeat of Nazi Germany, France occupied the Saar [River Valley] directly until 1947 and then indirectly until reintegration with Germany in 1957, and the Allied occupation of Berlin continued until the reunification of Germany in 1990. The Allies maintained their occupation long after the fall of the Nazi regime, due to the threat of Soviet invasion and conquest of West Berlin, and by extension Western Europe.

Read more at Kohelet

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, International Law, Israeli Security