Hamas Gets Ready For Obama
By EWI BLOG | by Jonathan Halevi, Rachel Ehrenfeld, Ken Jensen
Friday, February 22nd, 2013 @ 4:07PM
Gaza Strip Rocket Launching Policy Decided Exclusively by Hamas
By Jonathan D. Halevi*
Hamas Gets Ready for OBAMA
According to data released by the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, since the ceasefire agreement (as of January 22, 2013), there has not been even one missile launching from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, and only a single report of a mortar shell being fired.
The reasons for this calm in the South can be attributed mainly to Hamas’s interest to maximize its diplomatic gains from the ceasefire, by upgrading the status of the Gaza Strip, which it rules, to a legitimate political entity representing the Palestinians. According to the Hamas, the Prime Minister and the Parliament are working to strengthen the Gaza economy, [enforcing sharia in the name of democracy (latest example is that women students has to cover up completely)] while simultaneously developing Hamas’s military capabilities in advance of future military conflicts.
The most interesting aspect, however, is that that this ceasefire has been lasting for a relatively longtime, with no major violations. In recent years HAMAS instigated debates between Israeli and other experts as to the identity of and responsibility for the rocket launching from the Gaza Strip. Security sources and senior analysts argued that radical organizations over which Hamas had little or no control were responsible for launching these rockets toward Israel, and Hamas had nothing to do with these launchings. This well suited Hamas.
The current calm proves that Hamas is totally in charge of rocket launching from the Gaza Strip even if those actually launching the rockets and missiles belong to other organizations. Hamas has complete military control over the Gaza Strip and it is within its power to enforce a total cessation of fire. Hamas has demonstrated this in the past two months, even when several Palestinians were killed by IDF fire along the border with the Gaza Strip. In contrast with the past, there has been no ‘spontaneous’ retaliatory fire by ‘Palestinian resistance movements’. Discipline has been strictly enforced.
To a large extent, the Hamas government has espoused the policy of the Palestinian Authority under the past leadership of Yasser Arafat, who, in parallel to diplomatic negotiations, gave the ‘green light’ to the military wings of Fatah, Hamas and other organizations to carry out terror attacks against Israel, allowing him deniability, and at the same time the ability to pursue his particular diplomatic and security interests.
In fact, when in the past radical Islamic organizations, identified ideologically with al-Qaida, acted contrary to the guidelines of the Hamas government had launched rockets toward Israel, without coordination with Hamas; the Hamas government’s reaction was swift and harsh. It killed and arrested leaders and activists belonging to these organizations. As evident by the several month of calm, Hamas successfully established itself as the ruler in Gaza, complete with the right to decide the character and scope of terrorist activity to fit its political maneuvering.
* Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is a senior Fellow at the ACD/EWI, and Senior research Analyst of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. and is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. well.
By Rachel Ehrenfeld & Ken Jensen
As Halevi demonstrates, Hamas rules Gaza. And it is now ready to assume its role as the leader also of the Palestinians in the West Bank. Given its support by the Muslim Brotherhood, Iran, and Turkey, Qatar and UNRWA, Hamas is unlikely to face opposition it couldn’t overtake.
Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, won the PA ‘Democratic” election in the 2006. While designated as a terrorist organization, the world community allowed Hamas to participate in the election under the name “List of Change and Reform.” In June 2007, Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip from the PA. Since then, despite repeated promises to cut off funds to Hamas, international aid organizations and many countries have continued funneling money to Gaza, purportedly for humanitarian aid, but more recently to fund the “Gaza Administration.” Hamas rule over Gaza does not seem to be an obstacle to funding it.
Although the U.S. has designated Hamas as a terrorist group, the UN does not list it such. The UN lists only the Taliban and al Qaeda as terrorists. The May 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report includes UNRWA’s admission that it does not screen prospective staff or aid recipients for ties to Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic Jihad (IJG), or other local terrorist groups. Thus UN aid money continues to flow together with hundreds of millions of Euros and dollars.
In a déjà vu, Fatah and Hamas have been meeting in recent months, again, in anticipation of Obama’s visit in March. Hamas’s strength in Gaza, and its recent intervention on behalf of Hamas prisoners in Israel helps to further their authority over the Palestinian people. However, a Hamas and Fatah meeting to create a Palestinian unity government havefailed each time it comes up. On 18-19 February, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, met with Kahled Mashaal, the head of the Hamas political bureau, to sign an agreement that was concluded in Doha and Cairo previously. The signing didn’t occur for a variety of reasons, among them the fact that Hamas has allegedly negotiated directly with the Israelis.
On February 21, Khaled Abu Toameh reported in theJerusalem Post that, the PLO claimed Hamas was not authorized to negotiate with Israel, since the PLO is the sole entity authorized to do anything in the name of the entire Palestinian people. For its part, Hamas called its negotiations “indirect” and focused only on “humanitarian issues.” Talks between Israel and Hamas in Cairo purported “dealt with the reopening of the crossing borders in the Gaza Strip, the cease-fire and the hunger-strike of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.”
It will be curious to see what happens when Obama gets into the region how the PLO and Hamas respond and, of course, how he responds to them. Generally speaking, the Palestinian complain that Obama has forgotten or ignored them. The consensus seems to be that all Palestinian leaders need to pressure Obama into “personally kick starting the peace process” from its prisons.
Nabil Amro, an adviser to Mahmoud Abbas said, “[The] Dying of PA is expected to be postponed till aftermath of the U.S. President.” Amro added that the PA relies on the U.S. “presenting the Palestinian file to the global arena, particularly in the time the PA suffers a financial crisis with no solutions in the horizon.”
As always, the PA demands support, i.e. money. This, despite the fact that the PA has just paid millions of euros to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails and the families of suicide bombers. Some estimates are that this is as much as 6 percent of the PA’s budget.
Last August, the EU announced it will double its aid for Palestinian development and the Palestinian Authority to 200 million euro in 2012, with a further directive that 100 million euro in aid credits unspent last year to be also spent in 2012. Since 1994, the EU has given at least 5 billion euro in aid to the Palestinians.
For its part, the United States has provided the Palestinians with over $4 billion in bilateral assistance, including $147 million last April. In addition, we have given UNRWA, which assists Palestinian refugees from 1949 and their descendants (a growing number every year) about another $6-8 billion
But the Palestinian sink hole keeps swallowing the money, and both the PA and Hamas continuously demand more. Obama and Kerry are likely to oblige despite the fact that it’s unclear where this money goes, how much that’s supposed to go to humanitarian relief in Gaza gets into the hands of Hamas, and how much ends up in the pockets of the Fatah and PLO leadership.
This scenario alone ought to “jog” Obama’s memory vis-à-vis the Palestinians.
Now, only a few weeks before the U.S. president is due to visit Ramallah in March 2013, Fatah and Hamas still are unable to reach a unified Palestinian stance. So will Barack Obama venture to solve this issue when Palestinian side cannot even agree on its own objectives, while other parties are unanimous that Iranian nuclear weapons are now the main threat for the Middle East? Since he needs to earn the Nobel PEACE Prize he was already awarded, he’s likely to try.
Categories: ACD/EWI Blog