Despite Their Talk, Reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah Isn’t on the Horizon

Recently Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party, which rules parts of the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules Gaza, have declared plans to set aside their differences and hold elections for a new Palestinian Authority (PA) government to preside over both territories together. These would be the first Palestinian elections in fifteen years. Calling this promise the two rival parties’ “hoariest, least convincing talking point,” Hussein Ibish predicts that it will come to naught:

Neither Fatah nor Hamas has demonstrated any real interest in healing the fractured Palestinian body politic. Over the past decade, each has become well-entrenched in their own fiefdom, where it rules and consumes resources without effective opposition.

In the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority receives tens of millions of dollars in annual aid from the international community. (This, even after President Donald Trump ended American aid to Palestinians last year.) Although the PA stopped all dealings with Israel to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans for annexation of large swathes of the West Bank, it can still lay claim to the taxes Israel collects on Palestinian imports and exports. With annexation off the table at least through 2024, the PA will find a way to resume dialogue and once again get the tax revenues.

Both sets of leaders can live with the current arrangements, despite the hardships they impose on the Palestinian population. If the Palestinian parties keep talking up the idea of national reconciliation, it is because, no matter how cynical and unconvincing, these performances are useful. The Palestinian public and their supporters around the world want unity, and promises of unity relieves some of the pressure on both parties. They also help to satisfy donors and the international community. For Fatah and Hamas, these promises are a substitute for having no governing policy at all.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: Fatah, Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy