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August 1, 2014 0

Gaza’s Future: It’s Up to the International Community

by Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared in The Jerusalem Post

The “bar­baric vio­la­tion of the cease-fire agree­ment,” in the words of the White House spokesman, by Hamas when they attacked Israeli sol­diers, killing two and tak­ing one hostage, sums up the chal­lenge fac­ing Israel and the West in this vital conflict.

An orga­ni­za­tion that launches rock­ets at civil­ians, uses its own civil­ians as human shields, that has in its char­ter repeated calls for the destruc­tion of the Jew­ish state is, not sur­pris­ingly, an orga­ni­za­tion to whom an agree­ment on a cease­fire is just another tac­ti­cal oppor­tu­nity in its ongo­ing war and is there merely to be vio­lated to achieve their evil ends.

This bla­tant action high­lights the need for stronger solu­tions to the prob­lem of Hamas in Gaza. Make no mis­take about it. If this con­flict ends leav­ing Hamas stand­ing with­out a clear path toward pre­vent­ing its rear­ma­ment in the years ahead, the vio­lence to come will make what we have seen so far look pale in comparison.

Some would argue that what Israel has to do is expand its oper­a­tion to destroy the Hamas infra­struc­ture and lead­er­ship so that it is no longer a threat and can no longer dom­i­nate Gaza. Such a deci­sion lies, of course, with the Israeli gov­ern­ment, but clearly there has been a hes­i­ta­tion to go in that direc­tion because of the poten­tial for sig­nif­i­cant IDF casu­al­ties, the inevitable dra­matic rise of Pales­tin­ian civil­ian casu­al­ties, and the impact on it would have on inter­na­tional, and specif­i­cally U.S. opin­ion toward Israel.

Short of such an expan­sion of the war, the goals need to focus on two things: pre­vent­ing Hamas from rearm­ing after this con­flict and the need for a Secu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion estab­lish­ing a super­vi­sory mech­a­nism and force to imple­ment the ban­ning of new weapons to Hamas.

The his­tory of such efforts is not good, as for exam­ple, the U.N. res­o­lu­tion about Lebanon after the 2006 war which banned weapons going to Hezbol­lah. It is believed that Hezbol­lah now has as many as 60,000 rock­ets, not to men­tion other advanced weaponry.

A com­mit­ment to pre­vent the rearm­ing of Hamas, how­ever, can be far more suc­cess­ful. In the case of Hezbol­lah, Iran was the main sup­plier of weapons and Syria the main conduit.

In the case of Hamas, all of its neigh­bors under­stand that Hamas is not only a threat to peace and sta­bil­ity but it rep­re­sents the larger threat of Islamic extrem­ism that is a dan­ger to mod­er­ate forces through­out the region. There­fore, Egypt, Jor­dan, Saudi Ara­bia, and the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity all would have an inter­est in ensur­ing that a Secu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion of this sort would work and that a super­vi­sory body would have enough author­ity and means to make sure that it does work.

And here is the cru­cially impor­tant upside: only through such an agency could con­di­tions be ripe to improve the qual­ity of life for the res­i­dents of Gaza and for the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity to return to gov­ern­ing Gaza.

One of the dis­may­ing aspects of this con­flict is the lament about civil­ian casu­al­ties in Gaza with­out suf­fi­cient recog­ni­tion of why they have occurred and what has to take place to pre­vent them from recurring.

The com­bustible com­bi­na­tion of an extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tion hav­ing access to rock­ets, mor­tars, machines and mate­r­ial to dig and build tun­nels for mas­sive acts of ter­ror, made this war inevitable.  Future wars are like­wise inevitable unless a new dynamic is created.

The Israel Defense Forces will do their part. It is now time for the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity, led by the U.S., to do its part. The viciously cal­cu­lated vio­la­tion by Hamas of the 72-hour cease­fire agree­ment must serve as a reminder: with­out an over­see­ing body man­dated to pre­vent Hamas from rearm­ing, we will find our­selves in a worse sit­u­a­tion down the road.

The time to act is now.

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July 2, 2014 0

European Directives Take Position on Settlements to New Extreme

 

by Abra­ham H. Fox­man
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

 

 

In the past few weeks, the gov­ern­ments of Spain, Italy, Ger­many, France and the United King­dom issued direc­tives warn­ing cit­i­zens of risks involved for com­pa­nies engag­ing in eco­nomic activ­ity in Israeli West Bank set­tle­ments, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, includ­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of vio­lat­ing inter­na­tional law and human rights.

These moves have been linked to the pos­si­bil­ity of sim­i­lar action being taken by the entire Euro­pean Union.  At a moment when Hamas has abused its unity arrange­ment with Fatah to resume fir­ing rock­ets on Israeli civil­ians, and news has just been released that Hamas has viciously mur­dered the three Israeli teenagers it kid­napped eigh­teen days ago, the EU remains focused on Israeli settlements.

The EU’s bureau­cra­ti­za­tion of this pol­icy points to set­tle­ments as the key issue in the Israeli Pales­tin­ian con­flict, and the obsta­cle to a peace agreement.

In real­ity, the issue of set­tle­ments is but one of the numer­ous, con­tentious, emo­tional, issues which must be resolved through direct nego­ti­a­tions, along with the Pales­tin­ian demand for a “right of return”of refugees, the sta­tus of Jerusalem and final bor­ders and secu­rity arrangements.

The new Euro­pean direc­tives stand in stark con­trast to the real­i­ties on the ground in Israel and the region.

As has become typ­i­cal of such state­ments, the warn­ing focused solely on Israel, and made no men­tion of the Pales­tin­ian Authority-Hamas unity gov­ern­ment which con­tributed to the col­lapse of recent peace talks. Fur­ther­more, the warning’s sug­ges­tion that con­duct­ing busi­ness with pri­vate West Bank-based Israeli com­pa­nies could vio­late human rights takes the Euro­pean posi­tion on set­tle­ments to a new extreme.

Israel has a track record of dis­man­tling set­tle­ments in the name of peace, includ­ing those in the Sinai as part of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, and has repeat­edly offered to dis­man­tle many West Bank set­tle­ments as part of a two state solu­tion with the Palestinians.

If Euro­pean gov­ern­ments wish to be seen as a con­struc­tive party in help­ing resolve the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict, they must cease their unfair prac­tice of solely focus­ing on Israel’s set­tle­ment activ­ity, and hold the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity respon­si­ble for their own obstruc­tion­ist actions, includ­ing directly affil­i­at­ing with ter­ror­ist groups like Hamas.

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June 9, 2014 3

Hamas-Fatah Unity Deal Raises Many Questions

On Mon­day June 2nd, a tran­si­tional Pales­tin­ian unity gov­ern­ment was sworn in based on an agree­ment reached between Fatah and Hamas. The gov­ern­ment, which is headed by Pales­tin­ian Author­ity Prime Min­is­ter Rami Ham­dal­lah, con­sists of rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Fatah and so-called inde­pen­dent “tech­nocrats” who appear to be not directly affil­i­ated with Hamas. The agree­ment requires elec­tions to be held within six months.

Although the US admin­is­tra­tion rushed to pub­licly say it “would work with” the new gov­ern­ment, even they have acknowl­edged there are many ques­tions regard­ing the prac­ti­cal impli­ca­tions and via­bil­ity of this unity gov­ern­ment. After all, sim­i­lar past rec­on­cil­i­a­tions, includ­ing the 2011 Cairo Accord and 2012 Doha Dec­la­ra­tion, both of which are cited as a basis for parts of the cur­rent agree­ment, quickly fell apart.

Hamas Flag

Hamas Flag

At this very early stage, it is fool­ish to pre­dict how the arrange­ment will work in prac­tice, and espe­cially whether free and fair Pales­tin­ian elec­tions will indeed be held in six months. In fact, in the days since the agree­ment was signed, there have been pub­lic dis­putes over finan­cial issues between Hamas and Fatah, and secu­rity forces of both par­ties have detained and arrested offi­cials from the other. Hamas retains its con­trol over a highly trained and well-armed ter­ror­ist para­mil­i­tary force, and an arse­nal of rock­ets and mis­siles which it has used to tar­get Israeli civil­ians. Will the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity secu­rity forces be deployed in Gaza and will Hamas lay down its weapons? If not, how can the pledge by Pres­i­dent Abbas to adhere to the Quar­tet con­di­tions be taken seriously?

Mid­dle East ana­lyst Ehud Yaari argues that by enter­ing into the unity agree­ment, Hamas is fol­low­ing the so-called Hezbol­lah model. Sim­i­lar to Hezbol­lah in Lebanon, Hamas gets polit­i­cal legit­i­macy and main­tains its intim­i­dat­ing and bru­tally effec­tive mil­i­tary force through their Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigade. Indeed, Hamas’s secu­rity forces are larger and bet­ter equipped than the Pales­tin­ian Authority’s, and the unity agree­ment makes no men­tion of Hamas dis­arm­ing the al-Qassam Brigade.

Other dif­fi­cult ques­tions about the unity agree­ment that remain murky include what role the so-called tech­nocrats will play in set­ting pol­icy for the new gov­ern­ment, how much influ­ence Hamas’s lead­er­ship will actu­ally have in the Pales­tin­ian Authority’s pol­icy mak­ing, and if or how finan­cial sup­port to the PA from the US and other inter­na­tional donors will be applied in Hamas’s strong­hold over Gaza.

Regard­ing the inde­pen­dent tech­nocrats, there are likely two rea­sons why Pales­tin­ian Pres­i­dent Abbas decided to include them as opposed to actual Hamas offi­cials. First, Abbas cal­cu­lated that the US and oth­ers in the inter­na­tional com­mu­nity would almost cer­tainly reject a Pales­tin­ian gov­ern­ment which included Hamas, a State Depart­ment des­ig­nated For­eign Ter­ror­ist Orga­ni­za­tion. And sec­ond, there are inter­nal Fatah con­cerns about grant­ing Hamas sig­nif­i­cant influ­ence within the Pales­tin­ian Author­ity, and how it could under­mine Abbas and Fatah’s stand­ing among Palestinians.

Yet even with­out its direct par­tic­i­pa­tion, Hamas’s back­ing of the new gov­ern­ment raises seri­ous ques­tions about Pres­i­dent Abbas’s desire and abil­ity to pur­sue a peace­ful end to the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict. Despite Pales­tin­ian Author­ity claims that Hamas’s acqui­es­cence to the unity gov­ern­ment is suf­fi­cient to estab­lish its accep­tance of the inter­na­tional community’s cri­te­ria for engage­ment – which includes renounc­ing ter­ror against Israel, acknowl­edg­ing Israel’s right to exist and accept­ing exist­ing Israeli-Palestinian agree­ments – no senior Hamas offi­cial has ever made such a pub­lic pro­nounce­ment. In fact, when asked recently about the unity deal, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh stated emphat­i­cally that Hamas would con­tinue its “resis­tance” efforts against Israel, even in the face of an agreement.

Thus far, the US admin­is­tra­tion has lit­tle or noth­ing to say about all of these open questions.

One last big ques­tion remains — what if new elec­tions are held in the next six months and Hamas wins again, just as it did in 2006?

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