Archive for the ‘Abbas’ category

Right From Wrong: Holy Terror, Turkish Delight

July 23, 2017

Right From Wrong: Holy Terror, Turkish Delight, Jerusalem PostRuthie Blum, July 23, 2017

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during an iftar event in Ankara, Turkey, June 27, 2016. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Erdogan responded to Abbas’ request for help by turning to President Reuven Rivlin. In a phone call Thursday evening, Erdogan urged Rivlin to remove the metal detectors from the entrance to the Temple Mount. Rivlin delicately asked that the Turkish president condemn the terrorist attack – just as Israel had done in the wake of last year’s terrorist attacks in Turkey – and acknowledge that terrorism is terrorism, whether it takes place in Istanbul or Jerusalem.

Fat chance of that. After all, a mere two months ago, Erdogan, an avid supporter of Hamas, called on Muslims to swarm al-Aksa Mosque, as “each day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us.”

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Leave it to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to portray his latest grab for regional relevance and power as a diplomatic effort to resolve a political- religious crisis in Jerusalem, inflamed by the July 14 shooting attack on the Temple Mount. The attack, which left two Israeli Druse policemen dead, was committed by three Israeli Arabs. Nevertheless, it served as yet another excuse for Palestinians to stage “days of rage” against Israel.

The ostensible reason for the violent uprising is the placement of metal detectors at the entrance to Judaism’s holiest site – where only Muslims are allowed to pray – as a way of preventing additional bloodshed.

On Thursday, while the Israeli government scrambled to placate the Jordanian Wakf (the custodians of the site) and the leaders of Fatah and Hamas by mulling a removal of the scanners, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that he is concerned not only about the infiltration of Arab terrorists, but of Jewish ones seeking revenge, as well. Yeah, right.

Never mind that metal detectors are a way of life in Israel, forcing anyone who rides an inter-city bus or enters a government building, to have to go through them. What is par for the course for the rest of us simply does not fly with mobs on the ready to riot against any Israeli action, including one aimed at protecting innocent Muslims.

This is not the only truth that is being drowned out by the shouts of “Allahu Akbar” wafting through the streets of east Jerusalem. Another is the response of the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, which criticized the terrorist attack by denouncing the “government of [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu [for] exploiting the operation to escalate its vicious incitement against our Arab masses.”

Meanwhile, the press has focused more on the “man bites dog” story of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas calling Netanyahu to condemn the attack. Of course, he did so by warning the Israeli leader not to take any security measures on the Temple Mount, the site of al-Aksa Mosque. He then appealed to Erdogan to intervene to “calm tensions” – a euphemism for making sure that Israel appears evil in the eyes of the international community, even as it engages in appeasement.

As a major beneficiary of Israeli appeasement, Erdogan has experience in how to get the Jewish state to treat him with deference – in spite of his having said last December at a conference in Ankara that Israel’s “policies of oppression, deportation and discrimination have been increasingly continuing against our Palestinian brothers since 1948.” Still, Erdogan knows that Netanyahu is peeved about that declaration, which deems Israel’s establishment as illegitimate.

HE IS also aware of the ire he aroused when, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 a few days earlier, he said, “I don’t agree with what Hitler did and I also don’t agree with what Israel did in Gaza. Therefore there’s no place for comparison in order to say what’s more barbaric.”

Erdogan responded to Abbas’ request for help by turning to President Reuven Rivlin. In a phone call Thursday evening, Erdogan urged Rivlin to remove the metal detectors from the entrance to the Temple Mount. Rivlin delicately asked that the Turkish president condemn the terrorist attack – just as Israel had done in the wake of last year’s terrorist attacks in Turkey – and acknowledge that terrorism is terrorism, whether it takes place in Istanbul or Jerusalem.

Fat chance of that. After all, a mere two months ago, Erdogan, an avid supporter of Hamas, called on Muslims to swarm al-Aksa Mosque, as “each day that Jerusalem is under occupation is an insult to us.”

This is a milder version of what Abbas famously said in September 2015: “al-Aksa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. [Jews] have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem.”

It is bad enough that Israel is going through the pointless process of working with Abbas – who, on Friday, ordered the suspension of all cooperation with Israel until it removed the metal detectors – to quell an onslaught that he himself has been instigating.

But adding Erdogan to the Temple Mount mix beggars belief.

Preventing an intifada

July 23, 2017

Preventing an intifada, Israel Hayom, Yoav Limor, July 23, 2017

(How likely is that Jordan, much of the population of which is “Palestinian,” will provide significant help in diminishing the current crisis? — DM)

The one scenario Israel strives to avoid at this point is a third intifada, a senior defense source said over the weekend. The words “third intifada” have been at the heart of every security assessment held over the past week and this time, defense officials are saying it outright. This is also the scenario which the Shin Bet security agency and the IDF have been increasingly warning about over the past few days, and one that various overt and covert elements on the ground have made into a very real possibility.

Those comparing the unrest of the past week to the wave of mostly lone-wolf terrorism that erupted in October 2015 are wrong. The current crisis represents a much more slippery slope because it is fueled by religious rage. Past waves of terrorism, including the Second Intifada, the attempts to use security prisoners’ hunger strikes to agitate the Palestinian street, and other flare-ups in recent years, were more rationally motivated.

In the past, flare-ups were led by political forces seeking national gains by means of violence. This time the unrest is emotionally motivated, driven by the false notion that Al-Aqsa mosque is “in danger” of Israeli takeover. Israel’s repeated statements that it has no intention whatsoever to change the status quo on the Temple Mount continue to fall on deaf ears. The perceived threat to Al-Aqsa resonates across the Muslim world and generates a very negative trend, as evident by the hundreds of thousands of social media posts echoing the need to defend the holy site.

Another indication was the reaction on the Palestinian street to the gruesome terrorist attack in the Samaria community of Halamish, where a terrorist murdered three members of the Salomon family on Friday. The glory and support showered on the terrorist was unusual even for a society that regularly glorifies terrorists, raising concerns that others might very well follow in his footsteps.

The ease with which the terrorist managed to enter Halamish — despite the security fence surrounding it and the alert, which according to the initial investigation was mishandled by the rapid response team in the community — is likely to spur others to act. Several individuals have already openly said as much on social media. The defense establishment’s immediate challenge, therefore, is to prevent copycat attacks.

The decision to deploy large security contingents on the ground is meant to do just that: prevent terrorist attacks and lend the residents a sense of security. Past experience has shown that this would most likely be only partially successful as well as slow to happen, as it takes time to get a solid hold on an area, seal any breaches to the fence and exhaust intelligence.

Palestinian security forces took an active part in efforts to curb the last wave of terrorism, mostly over their own concerns of losing control over the Palestinian population. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ announcement over the weekend that the PA was suspending all security ties with Israel will undermine the Palestinian Authority, but it may also cost Israeli lives.

Israeli effort to curtail further security deterioration will therefore focus on four fronts: in Jerusalem, by the police; in Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip, by the military; and overseas, by the Shin Bet, which will try to prevent terrorist attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets abroad. The defense establishment’s working assumption is that this situation will be somewhat prolonged. The IDF has already diverted troops in a way that would sustain this special state of alert for at least a month, and it is preparing for the possibility that it will take longer to resolve.

But this operational effort is only part of the plan, alongside significant diplomatic efforts. The Diplomatic-Security Cabinet decided to keep the metal detectors installed last week on the Temple Mount, but according to Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, whose interview with Al Jazeera over the weekend meant to allay the concerns of the Arab street, the cabinet is currently seeking alternative solutions.

While the search for metal detector-free security measures continues, Israel must also find ways to assuage the concerns expressed by Arab leaders. The anti-Israeli consensus in recent days — at a time when Israel was able to make progress vis-a-vis many Middle East nations based on the shared need to curtail Iran’s regional ambitions and the joint war on Islamic State — is very troubling and must be addressed immediately.

The main effort in this respect must be directed at Jordan: As the nation controlling the Islamic trust that manages Al-Aqsa mosque, Amman plays a special role on the holy site and that should be leveraged when discussing the various alternatives and compromises.

Israel believes that even if an agreement is reached on a diplomatic level, some “braking distance” would still be required until the unrest on the ground is quelled. For this reason, “calm” will be the operative word in the coming days, as there is a need to calm the situation on the ground and tone down the rhetoric so as to facilitate an effective war on terror while minimizing any harm to civilians on both sides. This is a particularly complicated operation in terms of security and diplomacy, but it is essential if we are to avoid an unwanted escalation that would lead to a third intifada.

This is a war for sovereign control of Temple Mt

July 22, 2017

This is a war for sovereign control of Temple Mt, DEBKAfile, July 22, 2017

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas decided to profit from the high tension around Temple Mount since the July 14 murder of the Israeli policemen. Accusing Israel of declaring a religious war (sic), he announced earlier Friday that he was suspending all Palestinian security cooperation with Israel. This demonstrated extreme hutzpah, considering that it is this cooperation which keeps him in power. He deals directly with American and American parties which support his security forces and serve as go-between for Palestinian ties with their Israeli counterparts.

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The brutal stabbing attack at Halamish, which left a grandfather of 70, his son and daughter dead while still in their 40s and a grandmother of 78 badly injured – when the family was gathered for the Sabbath Eve meal on Friday, July 21 – was no random act of terror. It followed directly and consistently on the murder of two Israeli police guards on Temple Mount exactly one week earlier. The planners of the first outrage, perpetrated by three Israeli Arabs, knew exactly that such action would ignite flames which would claim many Israeli and Palestinian lives.

Halamish is a small Orthodox Jewish community of 250 families, not far from Ramallah, which is walled, gated and guarded. Nevertheless, a 19-year old Palestinian from the nearby village of Kubar, was able to scale the wall, burst in on the family and repeatedly slash four of its members. The wife of the murdered son grabbed the five children who were visiting their grandparents, hid with them in another room and phoned the police, while a neighbor, a 19-year old soldier on leave, shot the terrorist through a window and so finally stopped the carnage.

The paramedics, though experienced in terrorist atrocities had to overcome their horror at the bloodbath in which they went to work to save laves. For the grandfather and his son, it was too late. His daughter died under their hands, and the grandmother was removed to hospital in serious condition.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas decided to profit from the high tension around Temple Mount since the July 14 murder of the Israeli policemen. Accusing Israel of declaring a religious war (sic), he announced earlier Friday that he was suspending all Palestinian security cooperation with Israel. This demonstrated extreme hutzpah, considering that it is this cooperation which keeps him in power. He deals directly with American and American parties which support his security forces and serve as go-between for Palestinian ties with their Israeli counterparts.

If the Palestinians choose to continue along the path of violence, their American and European backers will face the dilemma over whether to continue to sponsor terror. Making a public issue of this will effectively put paid to all efforts at diplomacy for ending the dispute – whether local or regional.

And that is exactly what the three Muslim gunmen were after when they shot dead three Israeli police guards at the Lion’s Gate entrance to Temple Mount.

The Palestinians are consistent in their tactics: First shed Israeli blood, then tell the world they are victims and as martyrs are justified in seeking revenge – especially against “the sons of apes and pigs who defile Al Aqsa.” This was how the Halamish killer Omar al-Abed, 19, a Hamas sympathizer, described the Jews in the “will” he posted on Facebook three hours before the murders. Except that instead of dying with a martyr’s halo, he survived.

The whole week, it was dinned into Palestinian and Israeli Muslims by their leaders, including elected members of the Israeli parliament, that the Al Aqsa compound, an artificial mountaintop platform built as the site of the Jewish Temple more than 2,000 years ago, is exclusive Muslim property and no Jew has the right to set foot in the “Noble Sanctuary.”  This claim also applies to Jerusalem, known in Arabic as Al Quds.

The most notorious metal detectors in Middle East history became emblems that objectified their rage that Iover Israeli sovereignty in Temple Mount and the holy city. This has exposed the dispute as being a national rather than a religious dispute.

For Israel, sovereignty over its capital and the site of the Jewish temples, which was won at great cost in a war of defense after millennia of exile, is not in question. The government’s reiterated pledge to preserve the status quo on Temple Mount and the cities holy places is solidly backed up. But it cuts no ice with the Palestinians since the pledge is offered by an entity they consider a usurper.

Nothing less will satisfy them than Israel relinquishing Temple Mount to the full control of the Waqf Muslim Authority.

But this presents another problem. For decades, Israeli governments has provisionally quelled endless outbreaks of violence, by rescinding pieces of control to Muslim authority – the Waqf or Jordan, allowing the Hashemite King to claims custodianship of Al Aqsa. But it was never enough to keep Palestinian violence down for long. The Waqf was even permitted to build an extension to Al Aqsa, which they rewarded by trashing the relics of the Jewish Temples discovered by the builders.

But Israel has now reached the end of its tether. It is obvious that even if the metal detectors installed at Temple Mount gates are removed or replaced, the violence unleashed at Temple Mount on July 14 was just an opener, followed a week later by the Halamish murders.

A surge Palestinian clashes with police across Jerusalem earlier Friday left three Palestinian rioters dead. Israel’s Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkott Saturday ordered a massive call-up of IDF and police reinforcements to try and put a lid on the violence and protect the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria.

Abbas: Shut Up or I will Arrest You!

July 17, 2017

Abbas: Shut Up or I will Arrest You!, Front Page Magazine, Khaled Abu Toameh, July 17, 2017

Critics say the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Cyber Crime Law, which permits the imprisonment of Palestinians for “liking” or sharing published material on the internet, paves the way for the emergence of a “police state” in PA-controlled territories in the West Bank. They also argue that the law aims to silence criticism of Abbas and the PA leadership.

“What is laughable is that this law carries penalties that are tougher than those imposed on thieves and sex offenders… the law, in its present form, is designed to limit the freedom of the media and punish people for simple matters.” — Journalist in Ramallah.

This latest dictatorial move in the PA-controlled territories might also serve to remind the international community about the current readiness of the Palestinian leadership for statehood, and what such statehood would look like. In its current incarnation, that state would fit in just fine with its brutal Arab neighbors.

A new Palestinian law combating information technology (IT) crimes has sparked a wave of protests from Palestinian journalists and human rights organizations.

The controversial Cyber Crime Law, signed by Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on July 11, permits the imprisonment of Palestinians for “liking” or sharing published material on the internet.

Critics say the law paves the way for the emergence of a “police state” in PA-controlled territories in the West Bank. They also argue that the law aims to silence criticism of Abbas and the PA leadership.

The new law comes on the heels of the PA’s recent decision to block more than 20 Palestinian websites accused of publishing comments and articles critical of the PA leadership.

The law was approved by Abbas himself, without review by the Palestinian parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). The PLC has been paralyzed for the past decade, as a result of the power struggle between Abbas’s PA and Hamas — the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip.

In the absence of parliamentary life, Abbas and his senior officials and advisors have felt free to pass their own laws to serve their interests and promote their personal and political agendas.

In the view of Palestinian journalists and human rights advocates, the new Cyber Crime Law will further restrict freedom of expression, especially on social media, which will now be closely monitored by the PA security forces. They say that the law makes a mockery of the PA leadership’s motto that the “sky is the limit when it comes to freedom of expression.”

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The absence of a free and independent media in the PA-controlled territories has prompted many Palestinian journalists, bloggers and political activists to resort to Facebook and Twitter. There, they express their opinions, air their grievances, and discuss taboo issues — such as financial and administrative corruption among the top brass of the Palestinian Authority leadership.

The new law legalizes what has long been happening in the PA-controlled territories, however. PA security forces have long targeted Palestinians who post critical and controversial comments on social media.

Hardly a week passes without two or three Palestinians arrested or summoned for interrogation by the PA security forces regarding a Facebook or Twitter posting or comment. Many Palestinians have been taken into custody for “liking” or sharing a post, article or photo that was deemed offensive to Abbas or a senior PA official.

Yet, the Cyber Crime Law is indeed a watershed in repression: prior to it, no law existed that prohibited Palestinians from expressing their views on social media platforms.

Now, anyone who commits the offense of establishing a website with the intent of disseminating news that could “undermine the safety of the state or its internal or external security” is liable to a prison sentence and fine. The law also aims to punish anyone who promotes such news by “liking” or sharing it.

Palestinian journalists identify themselves as the real targets of the Cyber Crime Law. One journalist in Ramallah remarked:

“What is laughable is that this law carries penalties that are tougher than those imposed on thieves and sex offenders. This is a law with a purely political goal, although it has some positive aspects such as preventing extortion, fraud and impersonation on social media. But the law, in its present form, is designed to limit the freedom of the media and punish people for simple matters.”

Jihad Barakat, a Palestinian journalist who was recently arrested by the Palestinian Authority security forces for filming the motorcade of PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah while it was passing through an Israeli military checkpoint, expressed outrage over the new law. He too said that the law was aimed at curbing freedom of expression and intimidating critics of the PA.

“This is a dangerous law,” Barakat complained. “The law should conform with public freedoms and not be used to curb them.” Barakat later was charged with “begging and loitering in a public place in suspicious circumstances.” He was arrested because his filming of the PA prime minister at the checkpoint was considered embarrassing and offensive.

Palestinian journalists and human rights activists point out that the law contains ambiguous references, such as the “undermining or endangering of the safety of the state.”

Journalist Shatha Hammad said that she and her colleagues were not sure what this phrase actually means.

“As journalists, we are confused,” she said. “We don’t know what type of news or postings which are considered — according to this law — a threat to the security of the state.” She also pointed out that the new law comes amid a continued crackdown by the PA on Palestinian journalists and activists over their Facebook postings.

Alarmed by the new law, several Palestinian journalists and writers said it paves the way for the emergence of a repressive regime whose goal is to suppress public freedoms and violate the privacy of people.

“This law is aimed at providing the Palestinian Authority with a legal cover to suppress the voices of its opponents,” explained Palestinian writer Ahmed Al-Najjar.

“In this way, the PA can arrest any journalist or ordinary citizen for publishing an article or posting something on social media that is deemed harmful to the security of the state. This is a bleak scenario that makes it clear that we are facing a repressive police system. This dangerous law drives the final nail in the coffin of public freedoms.”

The Ramallah-based Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq joined the chorus of critics of the new law restricting freedom of expression. “The law was issued by President Abbas without being presented to the public,” the organization said. “It was issued in a very secretive manner.”

Al-Haq also noted that the PA leadership turned down requests and appeals by Palestinian groups and individuals to receive copies of the new law before it was passed. The organization went on to denounce the law as a “Sword of Damocles” over the head of Palestinian journalists.

The Cyber Crime Law showcases the fact that the Palestinian Authority regime is being run as a one-man show.

This latest dictatorial move in the PA-controlled territories might also serve to remind the international community about the current readiness of the Palestinian leadership for statehood, and what such statehood would look like. In its current incarnation, that state would fit in just fine with its brutal Arab neighbors.

Peace is light-years away

July 14, 2017

Peace is light-years away, Israel Hayom, Ruthie Blum, July 14, 2017

(Israel: give, give, give. Palestinians: take, take, take. But no peace. — DM)

So far, however, all Abbas has done is call the shots on the venue of a meeting ‎between his honchos and Trump’s team, agree to water and electricity deals that ‎benefit the PA and give the White House cause for false optimism. Undoubtedly, ‎he has already figured out how to get around the Taylor Force Act, if and when it ‎passes. A revised, bipartisan version of the bill, in particular — geared toward ‎guaranteeing that ordinary Palestinians are not robbed of humanitarian services ‎as a result of their leaders’ violations — will provide him with sufficient loopholes ‎to keep his “martyrs” in clover.‎

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If the leaders of the Palestinian Authority had invested as much time, energy and ‎other people’s money in building a flourishing society as they do in the pursuit of ‎death and destruction, there would be no need for outside efforts to broker ‎peace between them and their Israeli counterparts. It takes only about 30 minutes ‎to drive from the Muqataa compound in Ramallah to the Prime Minister’s Office in ‎Jerusalem. Yet it is still easier for dignitaries from the United States and Europe to ‎spend hours on flights to Tel Aviv for the purpose of talking about a two-state ‎solution than it is for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to budge in any direction ‎other than backwards. ‎

Take this week, for instance, which began with the Palestinians’ refusal to host ‎U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman — whom U.S. President Donald Trump ‎has included in his Mideast peacemaking team, along with advisers Jason ‎Greenblatt and Jared Kushner — in Ramallah. Friedman is too pro-Israel, as far as ‎Abbas is concerned. As a result, the meeting between American and Palestinian ‎officials on Tuesday took place at the King David Hotel in west Jerusalem. ‎

On Thursday, Greenblatt joined fellow envoys of the Middle East Quartet — the ‎U.S. (which he represents), the European Union, the United Nations and Russia — ‎in Jerusalem “to discuss current efforts to advance Middle East peace, as well as ‎the deteriorating situation in Gaza.”‎

Also on Thursday, Greenblatt announced that Israel had agreed to sell the PA 1.2 ‎billion cubic feet of water. This, he said, in addition to an electricity deal reached ‎between Israel and the PA on Monday, will improve the Palestinians’ standard of ‎living.‎

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations ‎Committee conducted a hearing on the proposed Taylor Force Act, named after ‎the former U.S. Army officer who — while on a trip to Israel in March 2016 — was ‎stabbed to death by a knife-wielding Palestinian on a rampage in Tel Aviv. The bill, ‎co-sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dan Coats (R-‎Ind.) and Roy Blunt (R-Miss.), aims to halt American aid to the PA until it ‎stops paying salaries and stipends to imprisoned terrorists and the families of ‎those “martyred” while murdering Israelis. ‎

Testifying before the committee on behalf of the bill, Senior Fellow for Middle ‎Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations Elliott Abrams — who served as ‎deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser in the ‎George W. Bush administration — railed against the “Palestinian practice of ‎making payments to individuals convicted of acts of terror, and their families or ‎survivors, in accordance with the severity of their acts and the length of their ‎sentences.” The “predictable effect of this practice,” he said, “is to reward and ‎incentivize acts of terror.”‎

Pointing to the billions of dollars that the U.S. has poured into the PA since its ‎establishment in the 1990s, Abrams said, “As long as the Palestinian government ‎is in effect rewarding terror, we need to be sure we make our objections — our ‎condemnation — known, and that cannot be merely in words. Our assistance ‎program must reflect our feeling of repugnance.” He then proposed a revision to ‎the bill that would enable the U.S. to continue funding hospitals and other ‎projects that benefit the Palestinian people, while preventing the money from ‎lining the pockets of corrupt bureaucrats.‎

Whether this carrot-and-stick approach to the PA was purposeful or inadvertent ‎is unclear. What is certain, however, is that the PA president is not turning over a ‎new leaf. Earlier this month, as Palestinian Media Watch reported, Abbas ‎was quoted on Fatah’s official Facebook page as proclaiming: “Even if I have to ‎leave my position, I will not compromise on the salary of a martyr or a prisoner, ‎as I am the president of the entire Palestinian people, including the prisoners, the ‎martyrs, the injured, the expelled and the uprooted.”‎

This sentiment was echoed recently by PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah. ‎Hamdallah — who launched the first-ever Palestinian-owned power substation in ‎Jenin with Israeli National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Minister ‎Yuval Steinitz on Monday, and signed the electricity deal touted by Greenblatt — ‎vowed last month to continue rewarding terrorists.‎

On June 16, according to PMW, the official PA newspaper quoted Hamdallah ‎announcing: “On behalf of … Abbas and our Palestinian people, I salute all of the ‎martyrs’ families … [and] emphasize to them that their rights are protected. … We ‎remember the sacrifices and struggle of the pure martyrs, guardians of the land ‎and identity, who have turned our people’s cause into a historical epic of struggle ‎and resolve.”‎

Hamdallah’s reassurance came on the heels of U.S. Secretary of State Rex ‎Tillerson’s claim that the PA’s “intent is to cease the payments to the families of ‎those who have committed murder or violence against others.” Ironically, both ‎Israeli and Palestinian officials were incensed by the statement, and Tillerson was ‎forced to modify it. Washington and Ramallah — he said the following day — are ‎engaged in an “active discussion” on the matter.‎

So far, however, all Abbas has done is call the shots on the venue of a meeting ‎between his honchos and Trump’s team, agree to water and electricity deals that ‎benefit the PA and give the White House cause for false optimism. Undoubtedly, ‎he has already figured out how to get around the Taylor Force Act, if and when it ‎passes. A revised, bipartisan version of the bill, in particular — geared toward ‎guaranteeing that ordinary Palestinians are not robbed of humanitarian services ‎as a result of their leaders’ violations — will provide him with sufficient loopholes ‎to keep his “martyrs” in clover.‎

Ramallah may be a mere 10 miles from Jerusalem, but it — ‎like peace — is light-years away.‎

Palestinians: Mohammad Dahlan, the New Mayor of the Gaza Strip?

July 3, 2017

Palestinians: Mohammad Dahlan, the New Mayor of the Gaza Strip? Gatestone InstituteKhaled Abu Toameh, July 3, 2017

(Please see also, What Hamas Wants. — DM)

This new reality could buy quiet in the short term. In the long term, however, Hamas is likely to emerge as stronger and more prepared for the next war with Israel.

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Dahlan will be functioning under the watchful eye of Hamas, which will remain the real de facto and unchallenged ruler of the Gaza Strip. Hamas is willing to allow Dahlan to return to the Palestinian political scene through the Gaza Strip window. But he will be on a very short leash.

Dahlan’s presence in the Gaza Strip will not deter Hamas from continuing with its preparations for another war with Israel.

Dahlan will find himself playing the role of fundraiser for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip while Hamas hides behind his formidable political shoulders.

Mohammed Dahlan is an aspiring Palestinian with huge political ambitions. Specifically, he hopes to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as president of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Knowing this, Abbas expelled him from the ruling Fatah faction in 2011. Since then, Dahlan has been living in the United Arab Emirates.

Hamas, the Islamist movement that has controlled the Gaza Strip for the past decade, used to consider Dahlan one of its fiercest enemies.

As commander of the notorious Preventive Security Service (PSS) in the Gaza Strip in the 1990s, Dahlan was personally responsible for the PA’s security crackdown on Hamas. On his instructions, hundreds of Hamas activists were routinely targeted and detained.

The enmity was mutual; Dahlan too considered Hamas a major threat to him and the PA regime in the Gaza Strip.

Dahlan’s contempt for Hamas knew no limits. On his orders, Hamas founder and spiritual leader Ahmed Yassin was placed under house arrest.

Two other senior Hamas officials, Mahmoud Zahar and Abdel Aziz Rantisi, were repeatedly detained and tortured by Dahlan’s agents. At one point, Dahlan ordered his interrogators to shave the two men’s beards as a way of humiliating them.

During and after its violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Hamas targeted Dahlan’s PSS and loyalists. Some were killed or incarcerated, while many others were forced to flee the Gaza Strip to Egypt and the West Bank. For many years, Dahlan was at the top of Hamas’s most wanted fugitives. No longer.

Erstwhile enemies, Dahlan and Hamas today have a common foe: Mahmoud Abbas. They seem about to join forces to repay him for the humiliation they have suffered at his hands.

Dahlan has long sought revenge for Abbas’s decision to expel him from Fatah and prosecute him on charges of murder and embezzlement. Dahlan will never forgive Abbas for dispatching security officers to raid his Ramallah residence and confiscate documents and other equipment. On that day, Dahlan slunk out of Ramallah.

Dahlan found refuge in the United Arab Emirates, a wealthy Gulf country whose rulers seem very fond of him. He receives millions of dollars from his Gulf hosts. Until today, Abbas regards Dahlan, who was once an intimate associate, as his main enemy.

Exile has been good for Dahlan. Thanks to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, Dahlan has amassed enough power and money to become a major player in the Palestinian arena.

In the past few years, he has succeeded in building bases of power in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, largely with the cash that he has been providing to his loyalists and others.

More importantly, Dahlan has succeeded in building a personal relationship with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who also seems rather partial to him. While this relationship has alienated Abbas, Hamas sees it as an opportunity to rid itself of its increased isolation in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas’s predicament has been exacerbated by the continued Egyptian blockade on the Gaza Strip, specifically the closure of the Rafah border crossing, and a series of punitive measures taken by Abbas in recent weeks.

These measures, which are being described by Hamas as a “declaration of war” on the Gaza Strip, include refusing to pay for electricity that Israel supplies to the Gaza Strip, halting the shipment of medicine from the West Bank, denying permits to patients to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment, and cutting off salaries to thousands of PA and Hamas civil servants and former security prisoners (who had served time in Israeli prisons).

Dahlan is desperate to make a comeback to the Palestinian political scene. He is fed up with exile, far from his friends in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He is also aware that the 82-year-old Abbas may be nearing his end, especially in light of rumors concerning his failing health.

Mohammed Dahlan addresses a political rally on January 7, 2007 in Gaza City. (Photo by Abid Katib/Getty Images)

Dahlan also sees Hamas’s desperation now that its main patron, Qatar, is facing massive pressure from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to cease funding the Islamist movement and its mother group, Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas wants to hold on to power in the Gaza Strip at any cost, even if that means swallowing the poison pill of aligning itself with someone like Dahlan.

Hamas has no intention of changing its ideology or engaging in any peace process with Israel. It will not recognize Israel’s right to exist or abandon the “armed struggle” to liberate all of Palestine, “from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.” The name of the game, as far as Hamas is considered, is survival.

Hamas fears that the continued Egyptian blockade and Abbas’s draconian measures may undermine its rule over the Gaza Strip.

Even worse, Hamas fears that the pressure and sanctions could trigger a Palestinian “intifada” in the Gaza Strip. Hamas knows full well that the electricity crisis and lack of medicine is destined to explode in its face.

Hamas believes it has now found a way out of the crisis.

Ironically, yesterday’s number one enemy, Dahlan, could prove to be the savior — the very Dahlan who imprisoned and tortured and killed many Hamas members and leaders. The same Dahlan who, as a security commander in the Gaza Strip, was responsible for security coordination with the “Zionist enemy.” The Dahlan who is one of the main byproducts and symbols of the Oslo Accords, which Hamas continues to reject to this day.

Last month, Hamas leaders traveled to Cairo for talks with Egyptian intelligence officials and representatives of Dahlan, on ways of ending the “humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip. It was the first meeting of its kind between Dahlan’s men and Hamas leaders.

Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas official, disclosed that the two sides reached “understandings” over a number of issues, including the reopening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and allowing entry of medicine and fuel for the power plants in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas also reached an agreement with the Egyptians to build a security buffer zone along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, to stop the smuggling of weapons and the infiltration of terrorists. This week, Hamas bulldozers were already seen breaking ground along the border.

The unexpected rapprochement between Dahlan and Hamas has already resulted in the return of some of Dahlan’s loyalists to the Gaza Strip. Now, everyone is waiting to see if and when Dahlan himself will be permitted to return to his home in the Gaza Strip.

Sources in the Gaza Strip believe that the countdown for Dahlan’s return has begun. The sources also believe that he may be entrusted with serving as “prime minister” of a new government, while Hamas remains in charge of overall security in the Gaza Strip.

In fact, Hamas already has its own “administrative committee” that functions as a government.

Dahlan’s role will be to help break the blockade on the Gaza Strip, attract Arab and Western funds, and improve living conditions and the economy.

Dahlan, in short, may be on his way to become Mayor of the Gaza Strip.

Already this week, there were signs that Dahlan may have already succeeded in convincing Hamas that he is indeed the long-awaited savior: Egyptians began dispatching trucks loaded with fuel to the Gaza Strip to help solve the electricity crisis. Moreover, the Egyptian authorities have expressed readiness to reopen the Rafah terminal.

The “understandings” reached between Dahlan and Hamas may help alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and pave the way for improving the economy. However, the biggest winner will be Hamas, which is not being required to make any meaningful concessions other than allowing Dahlan and his loyalists back into the Gaza Strip.

Dahlan will be functioning under the watchful eye of Hamas, which will remain the real de facto and unchallenged ruler of the Gaza Strip. Hamas is willing to allow Dahlan to return to the Palestinian political scene through the Gaza Strip window. But he will be on a very short leash.

Dahlan’s presence in the Gaza Strip will not deter Hamas from continuing with its preparations for another war with Israel.

Hamas is not going to stop digging tunnels along the border with Israel for fear of Dahlan. He will likely enjoy extensive civilian powers, but security matters will remain in the hands of Hamas and its military wing, Ezaddin al-Qassam.

Dahlan will find himself playing the role of fundraiser for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip while Hamas hides behind his formidable political shoulders.

This new reality could buy quiet in the short term. In the long term, however, Hamas is likely to emerge as stronger and more prepared for the next war with Israel.

For Dahlan and Hamas, it’s win-win. No wonder, then, that Abbas and his friends in the West Bank are angry and anxious.

The unholy alliance between Dahlan and Hamas, in their view, is nothing less than an attempt to establish a separate Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip.

The international audience might wish to take note: it is now official — the division between the West Bank and Gaza Strip marks the end of the so-called two-state solution. On the Palestinian street, it appears that the Palestinians are closer than ever to achieving two separate entities of their own — one that is run by Abbas’s Palestinian Authority and another controlled by Hamas and Dahlan.

Khaled Abu Toameh, an award-winning journalist and television presence, is based in Jerusalem.

Trump’s productive Middle East failure

June 30, 2017

Trump’s productive Middle East failure, Israel Hayom, Jonathan S. Tobin, June 30, 2017

What the Palestinians fail to understand is that ending PA support for terror is itself a core ‎issue that must be addressed now, and it is not a distraction from the real diplomatic ‎agenda.‎

It’s hardly surprising that the Palestinians are having trouble adjusting to the ‎administration’s mindset. Since neither the Americans nor the Europeans have ‎been much interested in the Palestinians’ terror payments and incitement, they seem to view ‎Trump’s focus on those issues as an indication that he is in Israel’s pocket. Former President Barack Obama was obsessed with the idea that pressure on Israel was ‎the key to peace and was willing to give the Palestinians a pass on anything they ‎did. But Trump rightly understands that as long as the Palestinians are funding ‎terror — and doing so with money given them by the West — they can’t be ‎considered serious about peace.‎

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It didn’t take long for the bubble to burst. The chance of U.S. President Donald Trump achieving a breakthrough in Middle East peace that had eluded all his ‎predecessors was always slim. But reports about Palestinian Authority President ‎Mahmoud Abbas yelling at presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner during ‎their meeting last week may signal that the Trump initiative is over even ‎before it begins.‎

The president’s critics should acknowledge that even if the effort was ‎bound to end in failure, it nevertheless points toward the only way peace can be ‎achieved. By focusing on the Palestinians’ willingness to foment and subsidize ‎terror, the U.S. has exposed a key problem that the Obama administration ignored. ‎Rather than this obstructing peace, it is an important step without ‎which genuine progress toward ending the conflict will be impossible.‎

The meeting between Kushner and Abbas went badly. The Palestinians were ‎shocked that Kushner followed up on the key sticking point that had arisen ‎between Trump and the Palestinian leader during their two meetings in May. ‎Abbas claimed during their first encounter in the White House that the PA was not ‎engaging in incitement to hatred against Israelis and that it did not pay salaries or ‎pensions to terrorists and their families. By the time they met again, Trump had ‎learned that Abbas had lied to him about both issues and reportedly pounded the ‎table as he demanded that the Palestinian leader end these practices.‎

But when Kushner and chief U.S. peace negotiator Jason Greenblatt raised the issue ‎again with Abbas, the Palestinians were angry. As far as Abbas ‎was concerned, the Americans were merely relaying a list of demands from Israeli ‎Prime Minister Netanyahu, when Abbas had been expecting to hear about American ‎positions on “core issues of the conflict,” by which he meant strategies to stop ‎Israel from building in the West Bank and push it back to the 1967 ‎borders.‎

What the Palestinians fail to understand is that ending PA support for terror is itself a core ‎issue that must be addressed now, and it is not a distraction from the real diplomatic ‎agenda.‎

It’s hardly surprising that the Palestinians are having trouble adjusting to the ‎administration’s mindset. Since neither the Americans nor the Europeans have ‎been much interested in the Palestinians’ terror payments and incitement, they seem to view ‎Trump’s focus on those issues as an indication that he is in Israel’s pocket. Former President Barack Obama was obsessed with the idea that pressure on Israel was ‎the key to peace and was willing to give the Palestinians a pass on anything they ‎did. But Trump rightly understands that as long as the Palestinians are funding ‎terror — and doing so with money given them by the West — they can’t be ‎considered serious about peace.‎

The administration denies reports that it is considering backing away from the ‎push for negotiations. But the president may realize that his statement after his ‎first meeting with Abbas, in which he claimed that Middle East peace “is not as ‎difficult as most people thought,” was more than premature. ‎

While few thought his willingness to prioritize the peace process was likely to be ‎rewarded with success, his thinking that the time is ripe for a breakthrough was rational. With Sunni Arab states now looking at Israel as an ally against the ‎threat from Iran, it was reasonable to suppose that this confluence of ‎interests might result in an effort to pressure the Palestinians to settle their dispute ‎with Israel.

However, the theory that the Palestinians can be either pushed or ‎bribed by the Saudis into making peace is now being called into doubt.‎

As long as the Palestinians cling to the idea that their national identity is inextricably tied up with the ‎century-long war on Zionism, peace will remain a pipe dream. Neither Trump’s threats ‎nor the efforts of the Saudis are likely to persuade them to abandon a political ‎culture in which incitement and pensions for terrorists — on which they have ‎lavished more than $1.1 billion in just the last four years — are seen as laudable. ‎Trump is asking Abbas for something he cannot do and still ‎survive in power.‎

But with Congress looking to tie his hands by considering legislation that would ‎end U.S. aid unless the Palestinians stop the terror payments, Trump may not be ‎willing to let this issue drop. If so, his efforts won’t lead to the “ultimate deal” he ‎longs to broker, but it will lay the foundation for more realism about the peace ‎process. It will also put the Palestinians on ‎notice about what they must do if they genuinely want a two-state solution.‎

Jonathan S. Tobin is the opinion editor of JNS.org and a contributing writer for ‎National Review.