Popular Protest: Palestinian Leaders’ Greatest Fear?

Both the Palestinian Authority (PA), which rules the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza, have recently cracked down on journalists, arresting several in recent weeks for criticizing their respective governments; Hamas also incarcerated several activists trying to organize anti-Hamas demonstrations. Khaled Abu Toameh comments:

The latest crackdown on Palestinian journalists [likely] springs from the fear that the current wave of anti-corruption protests sweeping Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt, and other Arab countries may spread to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Earlier this week, Hamas security forces also arrested one of their own officers, Hussein Qatoush, after he posted a video on Facebook in which he complained about the dire economic situation in the Gaza Strip. In the video, Qatoush said he does not have money to pay for transportation from his home to work. . . . In the eyes of Hamas, . . . it seems that any Palestinian who dares to complain about the bad economy in the Gaza Strip is a “traitor” and a “security threat.”

Hamas’s latest measures are evidently aimed at preventing a repeat of the widespread demonstrations that erupted in the Gaza Strip last March. Organized by social-media activists, the demonstrators protested the high cost of living and new taxes imposed by Hamas and called for solving the economic crisis in the Gaza Strip, including the high rate of unemployment. The protests, which lasted for a few days, were quickly and brutally crushed by Hamas.

Hani al-Masri, a prominent Palestinian political analyst, believes that the current anti-corruption protests sweeping some Arab countries will reach the Palestinian territories. “It is certain that the Arab Spring will arrive, sooner or later, to Palestine,” he said. “The [ruling] Palestinian elite is mostly corrupt and tyrannical [or] incompetent.”

Read more at Gatestone

More about: Arab Spring, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Palestinian Authority

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy