Israel Govt. Reshuffle Done – Lieberman Instead Herzog

June 1, 2016

imagesHYX6NWROAfter nearly two weeks of political turmoil, Yisrael Beytenu (the Israel Our Home party) leader Avigdor Lieberman sworn in as Israel’s Defence minister on Monday 30th May 2016 – after cabinet and Knesset approval. The main outcome of political drama might be — an expanded right-wing government that can bolster the Likud’s hold on power for a long time. The turmoil is now heading Labor’s way as opposition leader Yitzhak  [Isaac] Herzog’s rivals are putting his ouster in motion, and Herzog will have hard battle to retain his position as Labor leader. In addition Lieberman’s appointment raises questions about direction of Israeli government related to peace process.

New political development started as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Opposition head MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) started their talks to bring Herzog’s leftist party into the coalition. The core sticking point between the sides seems to be the diplomatic policies that a joint government would pursue.

According Arutz Sheva Netanyahu refused to allow Herzog to advance his “separation plan” from the Palestinians, which among other things involves cutting off Arab neighborhoods such as Isawiya from the Jerusalem municipality and transferring them to Palestinian Authority (PA) control in a unilateral division of the capital. Herzog has long touted his idea of dividing the capital and making massive concessions, but ironically Netanyahu and his governments have also been accused of enforcing a quiet de facto division of the 3,000-year-old capital of the Jewish people. Aside from the “separation plan,” it appears that Netanyahu was reluctant to give Herzog a free hand in holding peace talks by himself or making announcements about a reduction of construction in Judea and Samaria. According Arutz Sheva Netanyahu’s past two governments have been imposing a covert and informal construction freeze on the region ever since the last failed round of peace talks in 2013.

The reshuffle was triggered last Wednesday [25th May 2016], as instead of announcing a deal with Herzog as many had expected, Netanyahu invited Avigdor Lieberman, head of the right-wing Yisrael Beytenu party, to separate talks aimed at bringing his six Knesset seats into the coalition, which resulted in the appointment of Lieberman as Defence Minister. He replaces Moshe Ya’alon, who has resigned from his post and from Likud.

After Netanyahu/Lieberman agreement last week came new crisis in government as Education Minister and Jewish Home chief Naftali Bennett called for an army official to be assigned to the security cabinet to keep members abreast of important military developments. Jewish Home was prepared to vote against the inclusion of Lieberman into the government if that issue weren’t solved. Indeed the Jewish Home was prepared to split from the government if the reforms were not adopted. After some talks the full cabinet met on Monday 30th and unanimously approved the appointment of Yisrael Beytenu leader and MK Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister and Yisrael Beytenu MK Sofa Landver as immigrant absorption minister and in addition the government members, including party Bennet, receive frequent personal reports of the national security adviser.

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Peace process?

There was a new, although brief, sense of optimism in European capitals that Netanyahu would engage in the beginning of a two-state solution process and restrain settlement expansion. However the horizon darkened again when instead of Herzog’s appointment as foreign minister, Lieberman was appointed defence minister. There is also wider international concerns that the new government would put another nail in the coffin of peace efforts. However Netanyahu has made repeated statements inviting Abbas to meet, saying he is willing to talk with the Palestinian leader “whenever, wherever.” On Wednesday, 25 May 2015, at the signing of the coalition agreements, PM Netanyahu also made the following remarks [according Government Press Office]:

“My government remains committed to pursuing peace with the Palestinians, pursuing peace with all our neighbors. My policy has not changed. We’ll continue to pursue every avenue for peace while ensuring the safety and security of our citizens. I believe the developments in the region have created new challenges for us all. But I also believe that they’ve created new opportunities for peace, and I intend to seize those opportunities. A broader government, a more stable government, will make it easier to do so.”

Immediately following the ceremony, Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman and PM Netanyahu reaffirmed their commitment towards a two-state solution and endorsed the possibility of a wider regional peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative. The Arab peace initiative refers to a Saudi-spearheaded plan, which would see a pan-Arab rapprochement with Israel, in return for the establishment of a Palestinian state. Minutes after being sworn in, Lieberman appeared at a joint press conference with Netanyahu, who said: “I remain committed to making peace with the Palestinians and with all our neighbours. The Arab Peace Initiative includes positive elements that can help revive constructive negotiations with the Palestinians. We are willing to negotiate with the Arab states revisions to that initiative.” Meanwhile, senior Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi has been appointed Minister without Portfolio, but will apparently deal with foreign affairs, including any diplomatic initiatives. [Source: BICOM ]

Israeli Foreign Ministry officials travelled on 25th May 2016 to Egypt’s capital Cairo on a two-day visit to lay the ground work for a trilateral peace summit between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. It has been widely reported that former Prime Minister Tony Blair played a crucial role behind the scenes encouraging al-Sisi to deliver such as speech, and coordinated this effort with Netanyahu and opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who were locked in ultimately failed talks to form a unity government. [Source: BICOM ]

The Egyptians committed themselves, together with other Sunni states, to convene an international conference in Cairo that would jump-start the process — mainly renewal of the bilateral negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and turning the Arab Peace Initiative into a working plan.

Related to another international move, the French initiative [France should hold direct Israeli-Palestinian talks at its June 3rd 2016 in Paris on the frozen peace process], PM Netanyahu told his French counterpart that “If you really want to help launch peace, then help us launch direct negotiations with [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas”… “Israelis and Palestinians have suffered too much. It’s time to sit down together and work out our differences so that peace may reign at long last,” Netanyahu told French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. [Source: Jerusalem Post]

Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace

Reactions

Opposition head MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Union) held a Labor faction meeting on Monday 30th , in which he spoke about Avigdor Lieberman’s appointment as Defense Minister as part of his Yisrael Beytenu party joining the coalition government. According Arutz Sheva  Herzog in his speech also addressed Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), calling for the former Likud minister to take his party out of the coalition government and bring it down. Herzog’s unity talks with Netanyahu fizzled out amid the Labor party head’s demand for a unilateral division of Jerusalem, among other things. [ More about Herzog’s peace plan in Herzog’s Plan: Security Barrier Around the Major Settlement Blocs of West Bank ]

After the resignation of Kulanu Environment Minister Avi Gabbay on Friday 27th, because he objected to the prime minister’s replacing Ya’alon with Lieberman; and after Kulanu chairman and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon’s tweet that he would veto any attempt to curb the legislative ambitions of the Israeli Supreme Court; Kulanu’s Housing Minister Yoav Galant, has also moved to pull his fledgling party to the left. According to a Jewish Insider report, Gallant spoke to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in New York last week and told them his government’s policy was to freeze construction in the Judea and Samaria Jewish settlements. Galant also warned against the emergence of a two-nation state if the 2-state solution is not implemented, and advocated moving in that direction even without cooperation from the PA Arabs. [Source: JewishPress ]

Israel Hayom reported than even before the ink on the Yisrael Beytenu-Likud coalition agreement could dry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Labor leader Isaac Herzog to join. Netanyahu did it again on Monday, despite (or because of) Herzog’s call for Kulanu leader Moshe Kahlon to take his party out of the coalition. Kahlon has also been actively trying to bring Herzog into the fold. The Kulanu leader is becoming increasingly isolated since Moshe Ya’alon was kicked out of the Defense Ministry and Avi Gabai left the Environmental Protection Ministry. Herzog’s dilemma is also Labor’s and Zionist Union’s dilemma: one part of opposition want to join the coalition, others insist to stay in the opposition.

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Appendix:  

Avigdor Lieberman

Avigdor Lieberman [Эве́т Льво́вич Ли́берман] is a Soviet-born [Kishinev, Moldova] Israeli politician who serves now as the Defense Minister of Israel. He has served as Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2009 to 2012, and again from 2013 to 2015. He is the founder and leader of the secular-nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, whose electoral base are overwelmingly Russian-speaking immigrants from the former Soviet Union. As a result of the arrival in Israel during the 1990s of more than one million Russian-speaking immigrants, Yisrael Beiteinu has regularly played the ‘king-maker’ role in Israel’s coalition governments. Lieberman’s very pro-Russian stance and perceived friendly relations with Putin have also drawn criticism from fellow Israelis.

yisrael-beiteinu_14702

 

16 most outrageous statements of Avigdor Lieberman over his provocative past by MEE :

  1. If you thought beheadings were only an IS specialty then think again, Lieberman is also a fan – for disloyal Palestinians anyway: “Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe.”
  2. Democracy is good, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of “Zionist values”: “The vision I would like to see here is the entrenching of the Jewish and the Zionist state…. I very much favour democracy, but when there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important.”
  3. I suppose we could always pay Palestinian Israelis to leave though: “Israel should even encourage them with economic incentives.”
  4. Talking of democracy, even members of the Knesset are not safe: “World War II ended with the Nuremberg trials. The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in [the Knesset].”
  5. “I think the biggest problem of the 21st century is how to deal with minorities.” 
  6. It’s pretty safe to assume he doesn’t watch Al Jazeera: “Qatar has turned into a global problem. Al Jazeera is a central pillar of the propaganda apparatus of Hamas.”
  7. He’s not big on LGBT rights either: “Civil marriage is a very serious problem. I think that even the religious understands that we must look for some kind of a solution because we have some contradictions. I’m sure there are many solutions.”
  8. But what he lacks in love for same-sex marriage, he makes up for with a fondness for brutal rhetoric: “You have to be generous to your friends and cruel to your enemies. We are simply a society of wimps.”
  9. Taking inspiration from the atomic bombs dropped on Japan to make occupation “unnecessary”: “We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II. Then, too, the occupation of the country was unnecessary.”
  10. But he’ll make sure to safeguard innocent civilians, right? “If it were up to me, I would notify the Palestinian Authority tomorrow at 10 in the morning we would bomb all their places of business in Ramallah, for exampleI would not hesitate to send the Israeli army into all of Area A for 48 hours. Destroy the foundation of all the authority’s military infrastructure, all of the police buildings, the arsenals, all the posts of the security forces… not leave one stone on another. Destroy everything.”
  11. And you wouldn’t want to be a Palestinian prisoner in Avigdor’s world: “It would be better to drown these prisoners in the Dead Sea if possible, since that’s the lowest point in the world.”
  12. What about Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, surely he must be okay? “He is preoccupied with diplomatic terrorism.”
  13. Former Egyptian Prime Minister Hosni Mubarak“can go to hell.”
  14. But what does he think of his new boss, Benjamin Netanyahu? “He is a liar, a fraud and a crook. Those are the words I can say about our prime minister. He brazenly defrauds the people of Israel.”
  15. No really, what’s he like? Netanyahu isn’t left or right. He has no ideology. He is the ultimate Mr Zigzag. He may be the world champion of zigzaggers.”
  16. “I’ve always been controversial because I offer new ideas.”

Nimetön (95)


Article first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila


Underground Iron Dome i.a. Against Hamas’ Terror Tunnels

March 21, 2016

IDF-SymbolIsrael  has started testing a secret new weapon for defeating the tunnel systems which the Palestinian Hamas and Hizballah are busy digging for surprise attacks  against Israel. Following Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014, a  great deal of attention shifted to Israel’s need to develop a technological  solution to the underground tunnel problem.

Now, according to Foreign Policy magazine, it  appears Israel has found that solution. Western sources reported on 11th  March 2016, that the new weapon, dubbed the  “Underground Iron Dome,” can detect a tunnel, then send in a moving missile ton blow it up. The new weapon is not counter measure only against threat from Gaza  and Lebanon but against Iran nukes too.

US intelligence sources disclosed only  that new weapon is equipped with seismic sensors to detect underground  vibrations and map their location before destroying them. Western experts haven been talking for years about a secret Israeli weapon capable of destroyingn Iran’s Fordo nuclear facility, which is buried deep inside a mountain not farn from the Shiite shrine city of Qom. They suggested that this hypotheticaln weapon could be slipped through the Fordo facility’s vents, thread its way  through the underground chambers and take down the illicit enrichment facility.  It was discussed again three years ago, when the Israeli Air Force on 23rd  Aug. 2013 blew up the Popular Palestinian Front-General Command underground  facility at Al-Naama on the South Lebanese coast, 15 km south of Beirut. (Source:  DEBKAfile )

Iran keeps its ballistic missiles in underground bunkers

Iran keeps its ballistic missiles in underground bunkers

The new threat to Israel that appeared in the summer of 2014,n Operation Protective Edge was a network of terror tunnels. Now, Israel Hayom reports, Israel has built its own network of defense tunnels along the Gaza border, with the cooperation of the United  States. The US government is set to invest $120 million in developing and manufacturing the “Israeli invention” for detecting and identifying  tunnels, in collaboration with the Ministry of Defense, following Congress’  approval of the budget transfer. Israel is set to invest a similar amount.  For its investment U.S. will receive  prototypes, access to test sites, and rights to any intellectual property.  Military officials estimated the costs of  setting up an advanced tunnel barrier at about 2.8 billion shekels ($710  million).

The goal, U.S. Defense Department spokesman Christopher Sherwood told Foreign Policy, “is to establish  anti-tunnel capabilities to detect, map, and neutralize underground tunnels that threaten the U.S. or Israel…”The US is in need of such a system on its
Mexico border and with the Americans in the picture, there is a chance that the  project here will start to make progress. The injection of American money and  technology will shorten the process and the system will be upgraded, meaning  that it will be deployed more quickly. (Source:
Israel Hayom  )

Among the Israeli companies working on the  tunnel-detection project are Elbit Systems and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems,
both of which developed the Iron Dome.

Collapsing  tunnels

According Arutz Sheva  a Hamas “field commander” [Abd al-Salah al-Butnaji  from The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades,  Hamas’ armed wing]  died 14th  March 2016 in a “tunnel accident” in Gaza.

A gas pipe running through a tunnel under the Gazan town of Rafah exploded, wounding some 60-70 people, and  killing 2, according to The Jewish Press  based on Egyptian sources.  According to Al Bawab News, some 50 smuggling  tunnels were uncovered due to the explosion. 60 homes in Rafah have been  evacuated due to the explosion.  There’s  no indication at this point as to what caused the gas pipe to leak and explode.
A terror tunnel under the Gazan town of Khan Younis collapsed on 19th March 2016; three Hamas terrorists  have been wounded and five others are still missing underground.  This is the 10th or 11th terror tunnel to  collapse since December 2015.  (Source: The Jewish Press )

On Egypt-Gaza border the Egyptian military vehicles are transferring Mediterranean Sea water to the Rafah border, to fill a
newly-built crude canal, flooding and destroying the tunnels connecting Egypt and Gaza. While it is generally believed that this year’s unusually heavy rainfall  and flooding by Egyptian army are the main reason for the collapses on  Gaza-Israel border, there is growing speculation that an Israeli secret  anti-tunnel weapon is at work underground.  

Egypt, historically the Palestinians’  major backer, has brokered several truces between Israel and Gaza factions and tried to heal past rifts between rival Palestinian factions.  But Egypt has intensified a blockade of Gaza  by largely sealing the border since 2013, citing precarious security conditions  in the neighboring Sinai Peninsula where Islamist militants have launched many
deadly strikes on Egyptian soldiers. Recently Egypt accused Hamas of  involvement in last year’s assassination of Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat.  (More in
Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened )

 

Robots in anti-tunnel campaign

talon_fm_f_oqweri
As part of Israel’s anti-tunnel  campaign the IDF‘s earlier recruit was a versatile little Foster-Miller military robot Talon 4 which proved he can handle himself  on the battlefields of Iraq and was drafted for use in the dangerous tunnels on  the Gaza Strip border instead of soldiers to reduce risks to troops.
In addition Israel debuted the Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) built by Roboteam, a locally developed micro robot, to explore the labyrinth of tunnels and concealed shafts  supporting subterranean arms depots, command posts and cross-border attacksn from Gaza. After competing for more than two years with America’s leading robot providers, an Israeli newcomer to the industry through its US subsidiary has  snagged a $25 million US Air Force contract to provide its man-portable, stair-climbing, battle-tested system in support of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) missions. MTGR weighs less than 20 pounds and is built to clear  obstacles, climb 8-inch stairs and maneuver in tight, dangerous terrain. Its five onboard cameras, internal microphone and infrared laser points generate  intelligence and targeting data 360 degrees around the vehicle. (Defense News)

 

The  bottom line
One reason which angers Palestinians is a sc. siege on Gaza, which prevents the building process of the new homes since last
Gaza conflict in 2014.  As a matter of fact Palestinians should be angry with Hamas for rebuilding the tunnels instead of homes.   In fact, since the cease-fire  between Israel and the militant Islamist group Hamas, more than 3 million tons of construction material have entered Gaza through Israel’s Kerem Shalom border crossing,
according to Israeli figures. Big part of construction materials as well of other donations is used for building terror and smuggling tunnels< (More in Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption )

Hamas is in its own race against time.  From the organization’s perspective, it’s already finished its preparations for a military entanglement with Israel and is now grappling with timing. And thisn timing will be greatly affected by the pace of the Israeli project’s progress. Hamas is preparing a surprise attack. If they are led to believe for a moment that Israel has a solution that will bring its tunnels out into the open, it  will push them to bring their attack forward. The IDF is already making estimates around possibility that the collision is likely to take place within a few months. A series of gestures and events over the past few weeks attest to the building concern that the next round of fighting between Israel and Hamas will arrive sooner rather than later. It started with reports, specifically in Israel, on the certainty that Hamas’ tunnels have already entered Israeli territory.

Both Palestinian Hamas and the pro-Iranian Hizballah are working overtime on tunnels for sneaking terrorists and commando
fighters into Israel to attack IDF posts and civilian locations. During Israel’s last counter-terror operation in the Gaza Strip, Hamas staged a deadly tunnel attack on the Israel side of the border and is planning repeats. Hizballah is training commando units for underground surprise incursions to capture parts of Galilee in northern Israel. Israel still appears unable to completely counter Hamas’s subterranean advantage. And if the development of the Underground Iron Dome is any indication, it could be several years before Israel is able to employ an effective anti-tunnel system.

An injection of US cash into Israel’s anti-tunnel technology will speed up its development. But the increased activity on the Israeli side is liable to  provoke Hamas into jumping the gun and launching an early surprise attack.
Tunnel war infograph by Ari Rusila

Some  related articles:

New Israel Military Strategy

Now Israel Has The Most Advanced Missile Defense System In The World

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

 

 

 


Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened

March 13, 2016

 

Hamas = ISISResearch institute JCPA reports that Egypt has officially accused Hamas of training the terror operatives who assassinated Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat last year. Hamas now fears that Egypt will declare the movement a terror organization and torpedo Turkey’s efforts to ease the blockade of Gaza.

In recent weeks, senior Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip claimed that the movement’s relations with Egypt have improved somewhat thanks to contacts initiated by Hamas leaders. However, an announcement by the Egyptian Interior Ministry on March 6, 2016, sharply rebuffed such claims.

In a press conference, the Egyptian interior minister, General Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, declared that Egyptian security forces had arrested a network of 48 Muslim Brotherhood terror operatives responsible for the assassination of Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat and that Hamas had played a “major role” in training the operatives.

The prosecutor general’s convoy after a bomb on a Cairo Street

The prosecutor general’s convoy after a bomb on a Cairo Street

Barakat was killed by a car bomb directed at his convoy as it passed through central Cairo. According General Ghaffar Barakat’s assassination had been planned by Muslim Brotherhood leaders who had found political asylum in Turkey and that the terrorists had been trained by Hamas. Hamas, he said, had played a “major role” in training and preparing the perpetrators over a period of three months. That claim was bolstered by electronic communications between Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Turkey that were intercepted by Egypt.

The Egyptian operatives had been trained in northern Sinai and then brought into Gaza with the help of Bedouin residents. At the end of the training, they returned to Sinai where they prepared the explosives for the attack. The Egyptian Interior Ministry said the terror operatives who were apprehended also planned to attack several public figures as well as foreign embassies in Egypt, with the aim of destabilizing the country.

The Balad Egyptian TV channel cited an Egyptian security expert who said the explosives used in the attack had been brought to Egypt from Qatar through diplomatic mail channels of the Qatari embassy in Egypt. Both Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood maintain offices in Qatar.

Hamas – Daesh cooperation?

Egyptian authorities say Hamas is also actively assisting Wilayat Sinai, the Islamic State movement’s branch in northern Sinai, and that this aid involves training its operatives in Gaza and treating its wounded fighters in Gaza hospitals. In return, Wilayat Sinai helps Hamas smuggle weapons into Gaza from Sinai.

Some similarities: Hamas-Hizbollah-ISIS

Some similarities: Hamas-Hizbollah-ISIS

The timing of the Egyptian announcement on Hamas and Turkey’s connection with the prosecutor general’s murder is not coincidental. Egypt is now under pressure from Saudi Arabia to agree to a Turkish foothold in Gaza, linked to the easing of the blockade and the building of a floating seaport that would enable Turkish ships to reach the Gaza Strip. The Egyptians strongly oppose Turkey’s demand because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, outlawed by Egypt, and because of Hamas’ involvement in terror within Egypt.

Egypt is under pressure from Saudi Arabia to agree to a Turkish foothold in Gaza. Hamas pins great hopes on Turkey’s efforts to get Israel to ease the blockade on Gaza and build the floating seaport in return for normalization of Turkish-Israeli relations. Hamas fears that Egypt will decide to declare it a terror organization, just as the Gulf States declared Hizbullah to be one on March 2, 2016. The Arab interior ministers’ meeting in Tunisia also came out in support of the move against Hizbullah.

Egypt is rejecting Hamas’ requests for a permanent opening of the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only egress to the Arab world. Since Sisi took office Egypt has opened the crossing for only a few days each year. The aim is to pressure the Hamas government, which is working with radical Islamic forces to undermine the Egyptian regime. Source and more at: Hamas’ Terrorism in Egypt Yoni Ben Menachem/JCPA

Hamas-Israel cooperation?

Easing of longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza is related to planned long ceasefire deal between Hamas’ political wing and Israel. In April 30, 2015 it was reported, that official representatives of the Israeli government and defense establishment have been holding a real dialogue with the Islamic terrorist group – Hamas – in a bid to reach a long-term calm on the Gaza border. These secret talks have been “partly direct” and partly through Qatari and European mediators. There is struggle inside Hamas between political and military wings and same time a group calling itself Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem has continued to challenge the Gaza-ruling Palestinian entity Hamas.

From point of view Fatah (PLO/West Bank) Hamas’ agreement to establish a seaport under Israel’s full supervision and opposition to transferring the Rafah crossing to PA control, constitute clear proof of Hamas’ intentions to sever Gaza from “the homeland.”

More in my articles What’s Going On In Gaza (And Mideast Peace) and Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

Egypt is implementing sc Gaza blockade

Following the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007 the imposition of a sc blockade or siege took place. The situation has been compounded by the restrictions imposed since June 2013 by the Egyptian authorities at Rafah Crossing. Egypt is now implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling. In my opinion Egypt not Israel is blocking Gaza today.

Egyptian military vehicles are transferring Mediterranean Sea water to the Rafah border, to fill a newly-built crude canal, flooding and destroying the lifeline tunnels connecting Egypt and blockaded Gaza. By canal the Egyptian government is trying to economically crush Hamas, an ally of the Muslim brotherhood. Egypt is planning that sea water will flood into any remaining undiscovered tunnels and completely destroy them. So called Gaza blockade or siege is one of the main causes or excuse – depending from viewpoint – for flotillas, BDS, EU’s labelling plans, anti-Semitism, donations to Hamas, humanitarian crisis etc. Given the facts referred above one could conclude that blaming Israel for blockade is at least unjust. (More in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! )

Egypt discovers enormous tunnels coming from Gaza

YNetNews reported on 11th March 2016 that tunnels big enough to fit a truck have been discovered by the Egyptian military on the Sinai-Gaza border. These tunnels are allegedly the source of weapons being used by ISIS and Islamic Jihad in the peninsula, and point to a thriving weapons industry in the Strip. The tunnels connect the Gaza Strip with the Sinai Peninsula, and are being built in order to compensate for the tunnels which were flooded or blocked by the Egyptians.

Israeli security officials don’t know of any tunnels that large crossing into Israel. However, if they do exist, Israel will have to take into account the possibility of the existence of tunnels that are over three kilometers in length, which will make them harder to find.

Israel estimates that the recent increase in the number of tunnel collapses in Gaza in the past several months is due to the increased difficulty in obtaining materials to structurally support the tunnels – principally wood and cement. To replace these materials, Hamas is using fiberglass, which is also illegal to import into the Strip. Hamas still tries to smuggle it in, even though the material can’t support the same amount of weight as cement, and collapses.

The Egyptian government also notes another worrying phenomenon regarding the relations between Hamas and the terrorist organizations in the Sinai: it turns out that Hamas has become a weapons exporter to Egypt  – the export of weapons made in the Gaza Strip in industrial quantaties is a new phenomenon which indicates a new level of institutionalization of the weapons manufacturing process in the Strip.

Hamas' tunnelIn the past several months, several types of weapons were found by Egyptian security forces which bear the markings of being manufactured by the Hamas military wing. Amongst the weapons found were solar water heaters filled with explosive materials, which are one of the deadliest weapons ISIS in Sinai uses against the Egyptian military. The solar water heaters are used as ‘Improvised explosive devices’ (IEDs) with the ability to take out a tank. 

The Egyptian government also claims that ISIS shoots Hamas-made rockets at Egyptian military bases in the peninsula. Hamas also ships weapons from the Gaza Strip to elements affiliated with global Islamic Jihad which is active in Sinai. These are weapons which were smuggled into Gaza either by the Iranians or from Libya, which then ended up in the hands of the jihadists.  Source: YNetNews

10th March 2016 again at least seven Palestinians digging a wide tunnel to smuggle “goods” under the divided Gaza-Egyptian town of Rafah died when the Egyptian army flooded the tunnel with sea water and caused its collapse.

Bottom line

The relations between Egypt and Hamas are one core question in (partial) Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Besides planned Hamas-Israel ceasefire deal Egypt has a decisive role if sc ‘Sinai option’ (more in Sinai Option again ) will go further as partial solution to conflict. Also even without these kind progress Egypt’s actions with Rafah crossing have great importance for welfare of Gaza population.

sinai option by Ari Rusila

 

 


Article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila


Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

October 3, 2015

Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Many of the current restrictions, originally imposed by Israel in the early 1990s, were intensified after June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the imposition of a sc blockade or siege. The situation has been compounded by the restrictions imposed since June 2013 by the Egyptian authorities at Rafah Crossing.

Gaza vs Rafah

Kerem Shalom vs Rafah 2015

Despite restrictions there has been whole time – even during conflicts/wars – movement of commodities as well Palestinians to and from Gaza via Israeli border crossings. During last months movement of goods has increased via Kerem Shalom Crossing at Israeli border to/from Gaza but is almost non-existent via Rafah Crossing at Egyptian border. Besides official border crossings Egypt is now implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling.  In my opinion Egypt not Israel is blocking Gaza.

 

The Rafah Border Crossing

The Rafah Border Crossing lies on the international border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip that was recognized by the 1979 Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty and confirmed during the 1982 Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. The crossing was managed by the Israel Airports Authority until Israel evacuated Gaza on 11 September 2005 as part of Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan. It subsequently became the task of the European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah (EUBAM) to monitor the crossing. Though Israel and Egypt allow limited imports into Gaza, the economy of Gaza largely relies on illicit trade that flourishes via an alternative “tunnel economy.” Hamas enriches itself at the expense of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by collecting tolls from tunnel operators and import taxes on goods brought into Gaza. This second economy increases ordinary Gazans’ reliance on Hamas rule, which most would prefer to see end. Making peace deal only between Israel and the PA does not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ignoring Gaza further incentives Hamas to oppose peace with Israel and any deal its Palestinian adversaries conclude.

Since former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in June 2013, the Egyptian military has been trying to eliminate the smuggling tunnels beneath the border in the southern Gaza Strip, destroying them and expanding the buffer zone.  Egypt has demolished tunnels e.g. by exploding them, Egyptian army also fires tear gas or throws wastewater inside the tunnels to kill diggers. Rafah crossing with Egypt has been closed almost permanently since October 2014, heavily restricting those who can enter or leave the Gaza Strip. Egypt closed the border after relations soured between the Gazan and Egyptian leaderships after the overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the ensuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers. Egypt has linked instability in the Sinai peninsula to Gaza causing it to isolate the strip. Since 17th September 2015 the Egyptian army has been pumping large volumes of Mediterranean Sea waters  into the buffer zone that it began building two years ago, along 14 kilometers of the Palestinian-Egyptian border. The move is the latest attempt to destroy the tunnels dug by Palestinians under the city of Rafah over the years of the Israeli blockade. (Source and more e.g. in Al-Monitor )
rafah_tunnel-e1406588938670 (2)

2014—15 Egyptian demolition of homes and terror/smuggling tunnels

In 2008 and 2009, according to media reports and the US Defense Department, the US Army Corps of Engineers trained Egyptian troops to use advanced technological equipment that measures ground fluctuations to indicate tunnel digging. In August 2013, the US Defense Department awarded the defense company Raytheon a $9.9 million contract to continue research and development in Egypt on its version of this technology, which is known as a laser radar vibration sensor.

The tunnels were first constructed immediately after Israel’s disengagement from the Sinai Peninsula, as part of the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt. But digging got more intense after Israel declared a blockade on Gaza after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. Hamas’s government started to flourish on what economists called the booming “tunnel economy” until current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi joined Israel in trying to destroy it.

In October 2014 Egypt announced that they planned to expand the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt, following a terrorist attack from Gaza that killed 31 Egyptian soldiers. The buffer was created “in a move meant to halt the passage of weapons and militants through cross-border smuggling tunnels but which also puts more pressure on the Palestinian militant Hamas group.” The buffer zone originally was 500 meters, following the announcement of the expanded buffer zone many residents voluntarily left the area. Ibrahim Mahlab the Prime Minister of Egypt announced that any residents unwilling to move willfully would be forcefully removed from their homes. Between July 2013 and August 2015, Egyptian authorities demolished at least 3,255 residential, commercial, administrative, and community buildings in the Sinai Peninsula along the border with the Gaza Strip, forcibly evicting thousands of people.

On 17 November, 2014, Egypt announced that the buffer zone would be doubling to 1 km due to the longer than expected tunnels discovered, in addition to a night time curfew for the area. On January 8, 2015, Egypt’s expansion resulted in the destruction of about 1,220 homes, while destroying more than 1,600 tunnels. Some tunnels discovered ranged over 1 kilometer long and contained lighting, ventilation and phone systems. In February 2015, in response to the buffer zone, ISIS beheaded 10 men they believed were spies for Mossad and the Egyptian Army. In June 2015 Egypt completed its digging of a ditch by the Rafah Crossings, 20 meters wide by 10 meters deep. (Source and more e.g: Wikipedia )

Over the past months Egyptian military bulldozers have also destroyed many Egyptian homes to create a buffer zone of at between 500 and 1,000 metres on the Egyptian side, and 1,000 metres. Entire neighborhoods have been flattened being gutted.

 

Egypt floods the rest of Gaza’s tunnels with seawater

According  MEE – Middle East Eye report Egyptian military vehicles are transferring Mediterranean Sea water to the Rafah border, to fill a newly-built crude canal, flooding and destroying the lifeline tunnels connecting Egypt and blockaded Gaza. By canal the Egyptian government is trying to economically crush Hamas, an ally of the Muslim brotherhood. Egypt is planning that sea water will flood into any remaining undiscovered tunnels and completely destroy them. Most tunnels are usually 20 meters deep, and can stretch for three hundred meters inside Egyptian Rafah. Israel also tried to fight Gaza’s tunnels by digging a canal and pumping sea water into the 14 km borderline with Egypt, but due to environmental damage and danger to natural aquifer water systems, it built a separation wall instead; deep into, and above, the ground.

Egyptian military personnel won’t speak openly of the nature of the project, but some local experts have said the aim is to create fish farms. Water pipes can be seen on the Egyptian side of the border-leading from the beach area into the west of the city, to an area filled with supply tunnels. A local water engineer said that pumping sea water into natural clean-water aquifers will increase salinity twenty-fold.

Palestinians inspect the damage after Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip September 18, 2015. | Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinians inspect the damage after Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip September 18, 2015. | Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Mayor of Rafah, Subhi Radwan believes this could lead to the forced migration of the local population. “The sea water is leaking into the clean aquifer, damaging the ground structure and pure water,” he said. Radwan said that drinking water, for the population, will not be available soon, as dirty salt water is pushed into the already damaged plumbing system of Gaza. “This will also deprive farmers of the ability to plant consumable vegetables and all forms of fresh plants which rely on clean aquifer waters,” the mayor added.

Economic analyst Moein Rajab told Al-Monitor that the pumping of salt water into the tunnels will affect agriculture and render farmlands unproductive as salt levels rise. As such, large tracts of Palestinian agricultural land that stretches along the Egyptian border will be made useless, leading to a marked decrease in agricultural production. Rajab added that soon after, the area’s inhabitants would be forced to leave as the topsoil is destabilized, further exacerbating the current Gaza Strip housing crisis. He explained, “Due to the fact that houses are so close to the border — mere hundreds of meters away — homes will become threatened with demolition or damaged to the point of being unlivable, with their foundations buckling as the earth liquefies. As a result, inhabitants will be forced to abandon their homes, which will add problems and further exacerbate the housing crisis engendered by the scarcity of building materials, blockade and pitiable economic situation.”

 

The Kerem Shalom crossing

Kerem Shalom in Israel is the main – and now practically only – border crossing to and from Gaza for goods (People are using more Erez crossing in Northern Gaza).   Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is part of the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) agency monitoring and reporting e.g. Gaza’s situation to international community. Its statistics show clearly where movement of commodities to and from Gaza take place. To the text frame below I have collected from OCHA reports the main points about import and export of Gaza through Israel on August 2015:

Gaza Import/Export, August 2015

Gaza Import/Export, August 2015

And here is wider picture of Gaza crossings in infographic:

Commodities Dashboard I

 

The Kerem Shalom crossing is relatively small and is not enough for the entry of all of Gaza’s needs. An average of 300 to a maximum of 700 trucks enter every day. To increase the truckloads of supplies that enter Gaza from Israel and speed up efforts to rebuild the territory, the Dutch government donated a new security scanner on July 2015. Some 1,000 trucks are expected to cross with the new scanner, according to COGAT and the Dutch Foreign Ministry. (Source. The Times of Israel )

 

My  conclusions

Hamas’ economic well-being was in large part dependent on its system of smuggling tunnels snaking underneath the Gaza border with Egypt. The supply lines that have fed it cash, arms, goods, luxury items, fuel, and cement for its terror-tunnel industry suddenly were gone. These goods, which were smuggled into Gaza at obscenely low prices at the expense of Egyptian citizens, were no longer flowing in due to the closure of the tunnels. The economy of Hamas is weakening as Egypt has closed main part of over one thousand smuggling tunnels on Gaza border; before that Hamas administration got remarkable income from smuggling activities.

Gaza’s isolation was imposed originally to delegitimize and undermine Hamas’ leadership. Palestinian Authority or better say Fatah was hoping to produce positive economic development in the West Bank which could lead Gazans to overturn Hamas rule. The opposite came true as Hamas’ control grew tighter. During last year there has been talks about national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. The Hamas-Israel dialogue is the last example that instead unity the split between Hamas and Fatah as well between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is even wider than before.

This situation can at best to lead long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Part of deal is lifting of an eight-year blockade placed on the Gaza Strip, less restriction for goods and people to go over border, importing goods to Gaza through a Cyprus port overseen by NATO representatives (until a floating offshore port can be developed). Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’ and beyond. (More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal )

EU claims that imaginary Gaza blockade is the reason for slow reconstruction in Gaza strip while the main reason is corruption and misuse of funds. (More e.g. in Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption ). Besides emergency relief the international community gives also huge donations for capacity building activities. One problem however is that the impact of the international assistance is poor if not even non-existent in relation to sustainable development. As The Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) concluded “it has been almost impossible to trace any positive impact of these mobilized resources on the ground”. More about MAS analysis in Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks .

So called Gaza blockade or siege is one of the main causes or excuse – depending from viewpoint – for flotillas, BDS, EU’s labelling plans, anti-Semitism, donations to Hamas, humanitarian crisis etc. Given the facts referred above one could conclude that blaming Israel for blockade is at least unjust.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila

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Peace Index 2015: BRIC, Balkans And Eastwards

June 18, 2015

 

The Global Peace Index (GPI) is implemented by organization called Vision of Humanity, which groups together a number of interrelated initiatives focused on global peace. As its mission Visions of Humanity brings a strategic approach to raising the world’s attention and awareness around the importance of peacefulness to humanity’s survival in the 21st century. Now on May Vision of Humanity published its new edition of the Global Peace Index (GPI). It has been expanded to rank 162 independent states and updated with the latest-available figures and information for 2013-14.

Indicators

The index is composed of 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from respected sources, which combine internal and external factors, such as violent crime, political stability and military expenditure, correlated against a number of social development indicators such as corruption, freedom of the press, respect for human rights and school enrolment rates and relations with neighbouring countries. These indicators were selected by an international panel of academics, business people, philanthropists and members of peace institutions.

Global%20Peace%20Index%20Results%20Map

Some reservations

  • Vision of humanity, its expert panel and GPI are representing mainly western methodology, approach and values
  • GPI is based to data available of different indicators and as such a compromise
  • The 2015 scores are based information collected mainly information for 2013-2014 so there is some delay

With these reservations I however find GPI both interesting and useful and anyway I haven’t seen any better global survey.

 

The Rank

To the table below I have collected the GPI rankings from the Balkans and Eastwards on countries analysed in 2015 report. In addition I have included to table also top-3 and worst-3 countries, the BRIC countries and USA. Besides 2015 ranking I show also rankings and score in 2010 [when available]  to see trend during last years as this may help to track when and how some countries become more or less peaceful. Countries most at peace are ranked first. My source – Vision of Humanity Org, GPI results, full list of 149 countries, methodology and other explanations and scores per country/indicator can be found from here! Besides my table one can also explore the data on the interactive Global Peace Index map.

 

Country 2015 2010
Rank Score Rank Score
Iceland Iceland 1 1.148 2 1.212
Denmark 2 1.150    
Austria 3 1.198    
Slovenia Slovenia 15 1.378 11 1.358
Romania Romania 26 1.542 45 1.749
Croatia Croatia 27 1.550 41 1.707
Bulgaria Bulgaria 32 1.607 50 1.785
Serbia Serbia 46 1.768 90 2.071
Albania Albania 52 1.821 65 1.925
Bosnia and Herzegovina Bosnia and Herzegovina 53 1.839 60 1.873
The image “https://i0.wp.com/europeandcis.undp.org/uploads/public1/images/Montenegro_Flag-RESIZE-s925-s450-fit.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Montenegro 57 1.854 88 2.060
gr Greece 61 1.878
Kosovo 69 1.938    
Moldova Moldova 70 1.942 66 1.938
Republic of MacedoniaMacedonia (FYR) 71 1.944 83 2.048
Georgia (country) Georgia 79 1.973 142 2.970
Armenia Armenia 91 2.028  113  2.266
United StatesUSA 94 2.038 85 2.056
BrazilBrazil 103 2.122 83 2.048
People's Republic of China China 124 2.267 80 2.034
AzerbaijanAzerbaijan 132 2.325 119 2.367
TurkeyTurkey 135 2.363 126 2.420
IndiaIndia 143 2.504 128 2.516
Ukraine Ukraine 150 2.845 97 2.115
Russia Russia 152 2.954 143 3.013
AfghanistanAfghanistan 160 3.427 147 3.252
Iraq Iraq 161 3.444 149 3.406
Syria 162 3.645    

Highlights

  • Since last year, 81 countries have become more peaceful, while 78 have deteriorated.
  • Many countries in Europe, the world’s most peaceful region, have reached historically high levels of peace. 15 of the 20 most peaceful countries are in Europe.
  • Also Balkans has bacome more peaceful as all countries of this region made better ranks between positions Slovenia – 15 to Macedonia (FYROM) -71.
  • All ranks of BIRC countries as well USA went down. 
  • In general the world is less peaceful today than it was in 2008. The indicators that have deteriorated the most are the number of refugees and IDPs, the number of deaths from internal conflict and the impact of terrorism. Last year alone it is estimated that 20,000 people were killed in terrorist attacks up from an average of 2,000 a year only 10 years ago.
  • Due to an increase in civil unrest and terrorist activity, the Middle East and North Africa is now the world’s least peaceful region for the first time since the Index began.  The best in Mideast ranks was Jordan -71 following Saudi Arabia -95, Egypt -137, Iran -138, Lebanon -145, Israel -150 and on the bottom Iraq -161 and Syria -162.
  • The country that suffered the most severe deterioration in peace was Libya, which now ranks 149th of 162 countries. Ukraine suffered the second largest deterioration, from 97 to 150: following a revolution which brought down the administration of Viktor Yanukovych, Russia supported regions of East Ukraine agains Kiev regime, meaning it scored poorly on organised conflict indicators.
  • Globally the intensity of internal armed conflict has increased dramatically, with the number of people killed in conflicts rising over 3.5 times from 49,000 in 2010 to 180,000 in 2014.
  • The economic impact of violence reached a total of US$14.3 trillion or 13.4% of global GDP last year.

Economic%20impact%20of%20violence_1

Peace and global challenge

“The world is over-armed and peace is under-funded” (Ban Ki-moon )

Related to the economic impact of violence one esily can see that peace has also its monetary value in terms of business growth and economic development.  However also war has its monetary value and in short term business – especially inside military-industrial-complex – world the profits from war can be more attracting than those from peace. In my previous articles Arms Trade: The Crux Of The MIC“, BTW MIC Still Rules and   “Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too?”.

Global challenges, such as climate change, decreasing biodiversity, lack of fresh water and overpopulation, call for global solutions and these solutions will require co-operation on a global scale unparalleled in history. Peace is the essential prerequisite because without it the level of needed co-operation, inclusiveness and social equity necessary to solve these challenges will not be achieved. The big challenge at global, regional and state level is to strengthen factors – or “drivers” of peace in social structures and attitudes.

 

 

 

 


Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

April 30, 2015

 

For several weeks or even three months now, official representatives of the Israeli government and defense establishment have been holding a real dialogue with the Islamic terrorist group – Hamas – in a bid to reach a long-term calm on the Gaza border. These secret talks have been “partly direct” and partly through Qatari and European mediators. (Source e.g. YNet ) There has been rumours about this dialogue and both parties have so far denied them, for example a senior Hamas official said earlier that group does not conduct any negotiations with Israel; “We negotiate with the occupation only through the rifle.”

Gaza2However now Hamas official Ahmed Yousef confirmed to Maan News that Hamas is having “chats” with Israel through mediators but denied direct contacts. Yousef told Ma’an that “we await the formation of an Israeli government so things can get more serious. European diplomats and civil society activists come to the Gaza Strip constantly and pose Israeli viewpoints and convey the reaction of the movement through unofficial chats.”

While both sides are preparing for next Gaza war, estimated start in one year or even this coming Summer, there is slight chance that Hamas and Israel can broke a deal as the war would not benefit either side. If so the outcome might be a longer calm period or even a Gaza state, while Fatah led Palestinian authority on West Bank will stay as bystander or try to build its own state with their unitary actions.

Hamas-Israel Dialogue in progress

It was reported in The Times of Israel that Hamas offers long-term calm in exchange for end of blockade. Senior Hamas officials met with Western diplomats about the ceasefire, and also reached a number of understandings about the character of the ceasefire. During the talks, Hamas officials emphasized that they were willing to agree on a ceasefire of at least five years (though some sources said the offer was for 15 years), during which time all military activities “above and below ground” from both parties would end. At the same time, the blockade on Gaza would be removed, including restrictions on exports, and Israel would allow the construction of a seaport and an airport.

An Israeli official confirmed that the offer was presented to Israeli officials.

In conversations with other diplomats, Hamas presented different terms for a ceasefire with Israel. One of the draft agreements reached The Times of Israel, with the following clauses:

1) All forms of military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians will cease.

2) Israel will commit to removing the blockade on Gaza, including: opening all crossings around Gaza; permitting unfettered import and export from Gaza; allowing the construction of a sea and airport.

3) The tahdiyya [ceasefire, AR] will last between three and five years starting from the moment the agreement is signed, but the two sides will finalize the exact length of the ceasefire.

Earlier there was unconfirmed rumour that three months before the elections, Israel received a concrete and detailed proposal from Hamas for an agreement on a calm period of five to 10 years. The official Israel did not respond but both sides’ interests dictate cooperation without formal decisions in the government. And now this cooperation is changing Israel’s strategy towards Hamas and same time bypassing the Palestinian Authority.

 Hamas-agreement-1

Israeli side it has confirmed a report that Israel had received a concrete and detailed proposal from Hamas for a truce of five to 10 years. Explaining the Israeli rationale, Ynet quotes defense establishment officials believe that the absence of a dialogue that will help ease the living conditions in Gaza will lead an armed conflict in the summer, and Operation Protective Edge will be perceived as a colossal failure. The person pushing for talks with Hamas is the coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories (COGAT), in cooperation with new IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot , with assistance from the political leadership. The official Israel continues to conceal the dialogue with Hamas: It would have disrupted the elections, it’s not good for the image of a right-wing government, and it gets in the way of continuing to define Hamas as a terror organization in the world. (Source and more in Ynet)

 

Palestinian Authority – West Bank remains bystander

According Jerusalem Post Hamas is negotiating with Israel on Palestinian state in Gaza. The Palestinian officials have claimed that Hamas was negotiating with Israel about its plan to turn the Gaza Strip into a separate Palestinian entity. Mahmoud Habbash, the chief Palestinian Authority religious judge, who also serves as PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor on religious affairs, said that Hamas’ “plan” to create a separate entity in the Gaza Strip was a “dangerous Israeli conspiracy.” Habbash claimed that the Israeli “conspiracy” envisages the total separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. “Israel wants to divide the Palestinian people and turn the Palestinian territories into separate entities and cantons,” he said.

imagesUFO2G8JXKayed al-Ghul, a senior official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said that the idea of establishing a Palestinian state only in the Gaza Strip was first raised by late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1988. Al-Ghul warned that the “plan” would have serious repercussions for the Palestinians. Ahmed Majdalani of the Popular Struggle Front, another PLO faction, accused Hamas of working toward establishing an “Islamic emirate” in the Gaza Strip. “There will be no Palestinian state without the Gaza Strip,” he said. He claimed that the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed the idea about 10 years ago, when he decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

Another PLO official, Wasel Abu Yusef, warned that Hamas’ effort to create an “Islamic emirate” in the Gaza Strip would hinder the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and solidify divisions among the Palestinians. He urged Palestinians to work toward scuttling Hamas’ alleged scheme. Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf claimed that Israel and Hamas have already reached understandings regarding the separate state in the Gaza Strip. “This is an Israeli plot designed to eliminate the Palestinian cause,” he argued. “What is the price that Hamas will pay to Israel in return for allowing the movement to establish its mini-state in the Gaza Strip?” (Source Jerusalem Post )

 

Preparations ongoing for the next war

Despite dialogue both sides are preparing themselves for the next war. Hamas is intensively rebuilding its terror tunnel infrastructure, that were used to attack Israelis during previous war, with the digging reportedly taking place six days a week with three shifts each day. Over 1,000 diggers are said to be employed by Hamas to construct the tunnels, and the current estimation is that the tunnels lead up to Israeli territory – Hamas will extend them beyond when it feels the time is right to strike.

Shujaiya-3-300x268Iran has sent Hamas’s military wing tens of millions of dollars to help it rebuild the network of tunnels in Gaza destroyed by Israel’s invasion last summer, intelligence sources have told The Sunday Telegraph. It is also funding new missile supplies to replenish stocks used to bombard residential neighborhoods in Israel during the war, code-named Operation Protective Edge by Israel. (Source: i24news )

From the opposite side the Israeli military is actually training for the reconquering of the entire Gaza Strip next time a confrontation flares up between the two sides. A new tunnel detection system developed by Elbit Systems will protect Israeli citizens from the threat of infiltration by Hamas terrorists. Now, after two months of development, the Israel-based international defense electronics company says that they have created an effective system which uses sensors to detect tunnel building activity. The system will be implemented along the entire Israel-Gaza border, Elbit said. The system includes a series of sensors. The information they receive is analyzed using a control system based on algorithms. This method enables the precise identification of tunnel building and its location without false alarms. The system is the first of its kind in the world and was developed in Israel in record time by the Director of Research and Development in the Defense Ministry in cooperation with Israeli industries. (YNetNews )

The Lebanese Shiite Hizballah group, Iran’s Lebanese surrogate, has clearly taken a leaf out of its Palestinian ally, Hamas’ book, for a fully mobilized terror tunnel project against northern Israel. Its manpower, including engineering units, is working under the guidance of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers to sink a large network of tunnels leading under the border into Galilee. They are working efficiently and at top speed with the aid of modern Western-made earthmoving equipment and foreign professionals paid top dollar to manage the project. Debkafile

 

A Hamas State of Palestine in Gaza?

Hamas is consolidating its grip over the Gaza Strip and making plans to turn it into a separate state. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah consider the purported plan a “severe blow” to the two-state solution and unity among Palestinians. As the U.S. Administration and the international community continue to push for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, Hamas seems to be working toward establishing an independent state of its own in the Gaza Strip. In recent weeks, reports have surfaced in a number of Arab and Western media outlets to the effect that Hamas leaders have decided to establish a “higher committee” for managing the affairs of the Gaza Strip.

300px-Gaza_Strip_map2.svgMahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, last week confirmed that his movement was working toward turning the Gaza Strip into an independent state. “There is nothing wrong or shameful about labeling the current situation in the Gaza Strip an authority or administration,” Zahar said. “If we establish an emirate or state in the Gaza Strip or in any part of Palestine, this would not mean that we are prepared to give up one inch of Palestine.” (Source: Gatestone Institute )

 

The bottom line

During last year there has been talks about national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. The Hamas-Israel dialogue is the last example that instead unity the split between Hamas and Fatah as well between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is even wider than before. It might be that the international community must define their two-state solution with new content including two Palestinian state – one Islamist emirate in the Gaza Strip and an other Fatah-controlled state in the West Bank.

Related to possible deal between Hamas and Israel there is a risk that internal disagreements between Hamas’ political and military wings could endanger it. The rift within Hamas is widening amid disagreement over several issue: First the organization’s position on the recent turmoil in the Arab world, specifically over its stance on a Saudi-led coalition against Yemen’s Huthi group and second Hamas’ policy in Gaza concerning the confrontation with Israel and the deterioration of ties with Egypt. Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades might take advantage of this instability within the organization to carry out attacks on the border with Israel without getting a green light from Hamas’ political leaders.

 

*   *   *

Earlier related to Hamas e.g:

Fatah-Hamas Accord can be more an Opportunity than an Obstacle

Analysis: 2014 Gaza Conflict

Peculiarities of Operation Protective Edge

Reality Check Time of Mideast Peace Process

Hamas’ Miscalculation: Israel Started Operation Pillar of Defense

Fatah-Hamas Deal: Three Scenarios

Will Iron Dome balance the Hamas Terror?


Top Priority of EU Foreign Policy: A New ‘Jude’ Badge

April 23, 2015

emergencyssxfoiWhen fragile Minsk II for Ukraine is ‘to be or not to be’ stage, while 21 Ethiopian Christians were beheaded in Libya and while hundreds of refugees drowned in the Mediterranean and while there the increasing chaos in the Maghreb region and in the Middle East with increasing refugee problem, when Palestinians are being brutally murdered by ISIL in refugee camps in Syria, so during these ongoing conflicts it might be difficult to decide about priorities of EU foreign policy. However EU Foreign ministers found an easy and cheap solution – their top priority is labelling Israeli products from the disputed territories (West Bank).

16 of the European Union’s (EU) 28 foreign ministers co-signed a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, urging her to advance the creation of guidelines to separately label goods produced in the West Bank as part of an economic offensive on Israel. The labeling plan was first mooted in 2012, but the 16 member states told EU foreign affairs head Federica Mogherini it was now time to press ahead as part of efforts to force Israel to divide in a “two state solution.”

When the whole MENA region risks falling into an abyss of war and genocide EU foreign ministers choose to attack the only stable democracy in the region, namely Israel. And this attack even does not help Palestinians as its effect might be totally opposite.

In response, a senior Israeli diplomat told the EU “labeling products from Judea and Samaria is a yellow badge,” referencing the “Jude” stars the Nazis forced Jews to wear during the Holocaust. One should note that the letter was signed in same week when it was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel.

bds-bigotry-double-standards-bigotryThe letter was signed by Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz and drafted by his Belgian counterpart Didier Reynders who also signed it. UK, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Malta, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Croatia, Finland, Denmark, The Netherlands and Luxembourg were the other signatories.

 

 

Palestinian workers come under threat due BDS

The number of Palestinians working for Israelis on either side of the Green Line doubled in the last four years and now make up 2.2 percent of all workers in the country, according to the Bank of Israel’s upcoming 2014 annual report. The 92,000 Palestinians who work for Israelis make on average NIS 198 per day, while their peers in the Palestinian territories make just 45% of that, on average, or NIS 91 per day, according to the report. According to a Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics report published in February 2014, there were 105,200 Palestinians employed in Israel, including 20,200 in the settlements. (Source: Jpost )

Sieppaa

According to Israeli law, Palestinian workers are entitled to employment terms and rights guaranteed by Israeli labor laws. Based on a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, they should enjoy the same rights enjoyed by Israeli workers.

The September 21 [2014] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida article, translated by Palestinian Media Watch, said that “whenever Palestinian workers have the opportunity to work for Israeli employers, they are quick to quit their jobs with their Palestinian employers – for reasons having to do with salaries and other rights.” Wael Nazif, CEO of the Union of Palestinian Workers’ Organizations in the Jericho district, said it was “inconceivable that the Palestinian worker should receive his full rights from the Israeli employers but not from the Palestinian ones.” Surveys and interviews conducted by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida clarify that the salaries of workers employed by Palestinians amount to less than half the salaries of those who work for Israeli employers in the areas of the Israel-occupied  West Bank, which house factories, tourist facilities and agricultural lands. Although the Palestinian Authority has criminalized working in the settlements but given the high unemployment rate PA do not enforce the law that criminalizes work in the settlements.

Daniel-Birnbaum-CEO-SodaStream-Forward-BDS-quote-01There are 15 industrial zones in territory Israel seized in the 1967 war. They have about 1,000 plants — sophisticated aluminum and food manufacturers as well as tiny textile and furniture workshops — that pump roughly $300 million into the Palestinian economy through salaries .

My view

The proposed labelling of Israeli goods from the disputed territories is giving supporting message to the growing anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments in Europe, while EU instead should promote cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. The letter might reflect EU frustration over the re-election of Prime Minister Netanyahu and his recent remarks on the difficulties of creating a Palestinian state in the current circumstances.

One should note that the employment of Palestinians, including refugees, is one of the main problems that must be solved if the stability of the region is to be ensured. Instead of BDS foreign investment to West Bank and Gaza should be encouraged; restrictions on marketing West Bank and Gaza produce in Israel, Europe and the rest of world should be removed to create employment opportunities for the Palestinians. Beside salaries Israeli enterprises provide rare opportunities for coexistence between the two peoples.

My related earlier article (in Finnish): SodaStream rauhanmallina

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P.S:  The BDS  poster below can be used also opposite way – as shopping list of Israeli products

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 and more:boycott_israeli_products_2014_by_islamalive-d7tnyns


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