By Putting Economic Pressure on Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas Has Inadvertently Helped Curb Its Terrorism

Despite the talk of a possible reconciliation between Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, which reigns in the West Bank through the Palestinian Authority (PA), and Hamas, which rules Gaza, the PA has still not resumed its subsidies for Gaza’s fuel, electricity, and other civilian needs. Evelyn Gordon examines the results:

Hamas cut its annual military budget from $200 million in 2014—the year of the last Hamas-Israel war—to just $50 million this year. Granted, the cut is partially offset by renewed donations from Iran, which, flush with cash thanks to the 2015 nuclear deal, has resumed funding Hamas for the first time in five years. But even with the Iranian contribution, estimated at $60 to $70 million in 2017, Hamas’s military budget remains around 40 percent lower than it was in 2014. This has substantially reduced the risk of a new war. The less Hamas spends on its military, the longer it will take to rebuild the military capacity it lost in the last war. . . .

None of the above happened because Hamas suddenly decided to beat its swords into plowshares. Rather, it happened because Gaza faced a humanitarian crisis so severe that Hamas felt compelled to take the unprecedented step of spending its own money on civilian needs just to preserve its own political position. . . .

The [great] irony is that all three Hamas-Israel wars of the past decade might have been averted had the international community not tried so hard to “protect” Gaza’s civilian population. [Until recently], Hamas felt free to invest all of its money in the rockets and tunnels that sparked those three wars. And those wars caused greater devastation than anything Gaza has experienced due to Abbas’s funding cuts.

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Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Gaza, Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, Politics & Current Affairs

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine