Israel’s Gaza Options – War or Ceasefire?

December 4, 2018

War or cease-fire? Following the botched undercover IDF operation, Hamas fired  hundreds of rockets and mortar shells at Israel while Israel Air Force responded with massive airstrikes in the Strip. In few days, a cease-fire was reached and relative calm has since been maintained.  However Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, resigned – political crisis was created while people from border communities demanded stronger actions against Hamas and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is struggling to save his government.

With these kind of recent events the urgent question is how is the Israel government’s Gaza policy developing in coming days/weeks/months.  From positive side Israel today has several options related to Hamas and Gaza;  negative side is that none of these options are good, ideal nor easy to implement.

From escalation…

The recent escalation in Gaza started when an undercover IDF group – dressed in civilian clothes – clashed with Hamas in Khan Yunis, a city in the south of the Gaza,on November 11. The team was installing an advanced surveillance system, listening device, according to Palestinian sources. The Israeli group killed seven members of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades including its commander, lost their own commander and escaped into Israel with the help of air support. The incident was followed by a barrage of some 460 rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel and Israel Air Force responded by firing more than 160 missiles that fell throughout the Palestinian enclave. Hostilities were halted on November 13, when Hamas declared a unilateral ceasefire brokered by Egypt. After the incident Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, resigned – political crisis was created and there is good change for early elections for Knesset in Spring 2019.

Captured spy gear that the Israeli troops planned to use to wiretap the Hamas’s internal communications system, according Hamas’ military wing.

Related to the botched operation, aired live on the Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV, Hamas’ Gaza City Deputy Chief Khalil al-Hayya claimed  that the Israeli undercover incursion was significant. The Israeli troops planned to use to wiretap the Hamas’ internal communications system. Had it been able to “install the surveillance equipment”, the undercover team would have given Israel the ability “to kill, hack and abduct”, and it would have “possibly made it easy for [Israel] to discover tunnels and other” activities pursued by Hamas, according to the Palestinian side. It was reported that during the most recent round of escalation Hamas’s security forces in the Khan Yunis region carried out an operation to locate Palestinians who had collaborated with Israel . According to reports, a number of suspects were detained. 

Six death sentences handed out by the Hamas  terror group on 3. Dec. 2018 to Palestinians who allegedly “collaborated” with Israel, a Hamas-controlled court also sentenced another eight defendants in Gaza to prison for various periods.The verdicts in the six most recent cases were linked to a botched undercover Israeli commando raid .

Information is mainly one-sided as Israel has imposed broad restrictions on media reporting of the incident.

( Sources: Intelnews.org , The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center and Haaretz )

 

 

…to relative calm

After the most recent round of escalation and the ceasefire ending it the “return marches” and mini-flotillas continue. Hamas, which is currently interested in calming the situation in order to advance its contacts for an arrangement, has lowered the level of violence (by preventing exceptional clashes, preventing rioters from approaching the border fence and preventing the launching of incendiary kites and balloons). 

The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) reported  [28th Nov. 2018], that the past week Hamas continued to supervise reducing the level of violence at the weekly events (the “return march,” the mini-flotilla and the demonstration in the northern Gaza Strip). There were no exceptional clashes with the IDF and no use was made of incendiary kites and balloons. Hamas’ objective was to ensure the continuation of the talks for an arrangement and an internal Palestinian reconciliation as this past week a delegation of senior Hamas figures held talks in Cairo.

Sure Hamas has reduced violence in Gaza-Israel borderline but the West Bank is an different issue. The Israel Security Agency reported  that in September 2018 a Hamas network was exposed. The network planned to carry out attacks in Israel. To that end, Hamas’ military wing recruited operatives in Judea and Samaria and taught them to make IEDs. To transmit messages to operatives in Judea and Samaria, Hamas used residents of the Gaza Strip who had permits to enter Israel for life-saving medical treatment (a modus operandi familiar from the past).

 

Israel’s Gaza Options

From positive side Israel today has several options related to Hamas and Gaza;  negative side is that none of these options are good, ideal nor easy to implement.

Most popular option in Israeli border communities might be destroying Hamas.  This can be made with two methods:

  • By carpet bombing, which will reduce Gaza to rubble – to uninhabitable ruins, or
  • By re-occupying Gaza with massive land operation.

The first option is cheap and effective but cause huge human casualties in Gaza even when Israel gives warnings before bombing as usual.  Probably great part of Gazans would flee to Sinai but great part would stay if Hamas coerces them to act as human shields.  Using this option would lead huge international opprobrium, maybe even to isolation. However main obstacle of this option is IDF ethical code – Tzahal, which has widely accepted values – such as respecting human’s life (also enemies), purity of arms etc – not only in army but in society in general.

The second option is very expensive and both sides would suffer heavy casualties, human and material,  during operation/war and what even worse these huge costs would continue perhaps decades.  Sure in Gaza would be more like Israeli military government than even facades of democracy and Israel would suffer international opprobrium decade or more. 

Both Hamas and know Israelis that despite the fact that Israeli border communities and Gazans suffer, Gaza isn’t causing most Israelis enough troubles to make them willing to destroy Hamas or reoccupy the territory. Hamas understands the “red lines” very well. That’s why it deliberately confined itself to bombarding the south, despite having missiles capable of reaching most of Israel. It wanted to cause as much pain as possible without crossing the threshold that would provoke Israel into war — and it succeeded.

The third and forth options are both short-term fixes:

  • Implementing restricted land operation or 
  • Negotiate a long-term ceasefire – “Hudna”.

Restricted land operation is like small-scale war like in 2014 (Operation Protective Edge  aka Gaza War 2014) or in 2012 (Operations “Returning Echo” and “Pillar of Defense”) or in 2008-09 ( Operation “Cast Lead”  aka Gaza War). All these operations created few years peace,  there were moderated casualties and moderate international opprobrium.  Any of these operations did not seriously harm Hamas and its ability to build stronger army for next round. 

Long-term ceasefire – “Hudna” might bring a similar period, than before clashes of quiet, and it has several obvious advantages: no deaths, no international opprobrium, and greater support within Israel.  At best this option gives some positive vision for future: Hudna can lead to Gaza reconstruction with international Aid and it can be the first step of implementation of regional peace process (or maybe first part of coming “Trump’s Plan” aka “Deal of Century”).  The core idea is to develop welfare in Gaza and so reduce motivation to violence.

The fifth option keeps the status quo, it is the Zero Option and has no progress nor vision for better future.  It implements “tit for tat” strategy and both Gazans and Israeli border communities suffer even more than today as attacks and response might be more effective.

  

The Deal?

According  The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center  since the most recent round of escalation Hamas-Israel deal – or arrangement or hudna – is currently being formulated between Hamas and Israel. The deal is based on understandings achieved before the most recent round. According to the understandings, there will be quiet in return for easing the “siege,” in two stages. In the first stage, which will last for about two weeks, Israel will allow fuel for the power plant and financial aid to enter the Gaza Strip, and extend fishing waters to 12 miles. In the second stage, which ill take about half a year, fishing waters will be extended to 20 miles, a new electric line will be laid from Israel to the Gaza Strip, and gas pipes will be laid for the power plant. In addition, Gazans will be allowed to export merchandise, especially to Judea and Samaria, and restrictions on movement will be eased. According to reports, as part of the understandings Israel will agree to advance the establishment of a sea lane to the Gaza Strip.

Hamas replacing Fatah?

Hamas was established as a social-religious movement, has transformed from a terror organization into a semi-state actor – or de facto a governing entity – in control of the Gaza Strip and its population. There is big probability that Hamas in post-Abbas era will replace Fatah as leader of the Palestinian national movement and gain inter-Arab and international legitimacy. Hamas has real support on the grassroots and they are leading Palestinian power in struggle against Israel.

A new type of rocket which, according to PIJ claims, was fired at the southern Israeli city of Ashqelon. Its nickname is “The hell of Ashqelon” (Jerusalem Brigades website, 13th Nov. 2018).

General Tamir Yadai, head of Israel’s Home Front Command, issued a frightening warning [28th Nov. 2018] to Israel’s citizens: ”The days are past, when we’ll be fighting in the North or in Gaza, and folks will be drinking coffee in Tel Aviv.” Although Tel Aviv and Israel’s central region have been relatively untouched by Hamas rocket fire and incendiary bombs over the last eight months of hostilities, Hamas rocket capabilities have clearly improved since Israel’s last incursion into the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge in July-August 2014. Though only guesstimates, Israeli citizens in the south living under the rocket fire say the rockets are at least five times more powerful than what they remembered from four years ago. From the north, Israel faces a still greater threat. Hezbollah is considered the world’s strongest non-state actor, fielding a medium-sized army and a large arsenal of rockets estimated at around 130,000. (Source WIN  )

In ongoing political crisis PM Netanyahu got support from former chief of staff and current political hopeful Benny Gantz, who spoke against “Exploiting our just defensive war for personal or political gain.”

According Debkafile  shortly after Avigdor Lieberman resigned as defense minister, the IDF (or ”anonymous “military sources”)  rated as “low” the level of the Hamas threat, and maintained that Hamas does not want a confrontation. And their conclusion: “This was no time for a [major military] operation.” They advised capitalizing on Hamas’ “weakness” to press forward with the diplomatic process.

Bottom line

The relations between Egypt and Hamas have been one of the core questions in (partial) Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Besides ongoing process of 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.

From my point of view now is the right moment to explore the regional alternative based on maybe soon coming American plan. In my opinion “regional peace process” can be implemented by Egypt, Jordan and Israel and instead of Arab Peace Initiative be based on Sinai and Jordan options. A major emphasis will be placed on economic investments for the Palestinians, as well as regional cooperation, anti-terror measures and normalization of relations between the Arab states and Israel, on the basis of the 2002 Saudi peace initiative. First step could be long term truce – hudna – according Hamas-Israel deal. During this it is possible to develop civil society in Gaza and so reduce motivation to terror. If there is no progress in short term so then the best way forwards from my perspective is Israeli unilateral actions hopefully based on “Constructive Unilateralism” approach.

 


Hudna – The Hamas-Israel deal – on the Way

November 6, 2018

The Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar – affiliated with Hamas – has reported on 3rd Nov. 2018 that according a draft agreement between Israel and Hamas the later will commit to restricting border protests and restict violence until the end of 2018, while Israel will agree to lift 70 percent of its blockade on the Stript and expand the fishing zone to 14 nautical miles. Apparently for the first time since August 2018, significant progress was again made in contacts for an Egyptian-mediated arrangement.

One proof of the progress was the “return march” held on November 2nd Nov., 2018: Participation in the march was limited compared with previous weeks, the demonstrators did not approach the security fence, no attempts were made to break through the fence and no incendiary kites and balloons were launched into Israeli territory and Hamas’ restraint force kept demonstrators away from the fence.

Operatives of Hamas’ restraint force use clubs to keep demonstrators from approaching the security fence (Fatah Facebook page, November 2, 2018).

Despite this 32nd protests – during the “Return March” campaign – were significantly calmer than those 31 held in previous weeks, eighty-seven protesters were wounded, 32 have been evacuated to hospitals, with seven of those being wounded by live gunfire. The rest were treated for tear gas inhalation. However no severe injuries were reported.

A senior Hamas official told Haaretz the Palestinian factions in the Strip decided to put an end to the violent protests along the border with Israel, as well as stop the launching of airborne firebombs. According to the official, the protesters will also stop setting tires on fire and approaching the Israeli side of the border.

The lowered level of violence of the last “return march” was apparently the result of a number of understandings achieved through Egyptian mediation. As part of the attempts to reach an arrangement, an Egyptian delegation headed by Ahmed Abdel Khaliq, head of the Israeli and Palestinian directorate in Egyptian General Intelligence, came to the Gaza Strip. The delegation held a series of meeting with representatives of Hamas, the other Palestinian organizations, and members of the Supreme National Authority of the Great Return March.

The Egyptian security delegation meets with representatives of the Palestinian organizations and the Supreme National Authority of the Return March in the Gaza Strip (QudsN Facebook page. November 1, 2018).

At a conference held ahead of Friday’s protests [2nd Nov. 2018], the factions – Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front and several others – agreed to lower the level of friction in light of the talks brokered by Egypt. The decision also follows Israel’s decision to expand the permitted fishing zone off the Gaza Strip’s coast and transfer funds from Qatar for Hamas salaries.

The Draft agreement

The published draft also includes – i.a. – following clauses:

  • Israel agreeing to allow 5,000 Gazan workers under the age of 40 into Israel for employment,
  • Egypt will open the Rafah crossing, which it has mostly maintained closed since Hamas took over the Strip in 2007.
  • Israel will strive to leave its crossing with Gaza open and the United Nations will advance projects in the Strip that will create tens of thousands of jobs.
  • The Palestinian Authority will pay Hamas civil servants 80 percent of their salaries and not object to Qatar funding Hamas salaries for at least six months.
  • At a later stage Egypt would work to advance the prisoners’ exchange deal between Hamas and Israel and institute a ceasefire of at least three years with international supervision and Russian and UN sponsorship
  • Egypt would work to extend the fishing area to 14 miles, leave the Rafah Crossing permanently open and support infrastructure projects and projects that were expected to provide about 30,000 jobs in the Gaza Strip.

Neither Hamas nor Israel has verified these details. However “Palestinian sources” explained that in fact no lull agreement had been reached, but an equation of “quiet in return for quiet” had been formulated, based on the ceasefire of 2014.

On 31st Oct. 2018, Israel reportedly agreed to allow Qatar to transfer funds to Hamas to pay the salaries of its civil servants after Israel negotiated with Qatar and received guarantees that the money will be transferred only for the stated purpose.

Sources: Haaretz , The Jerusalem Post and The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

 


Some Aspects About ”The Great Return March” Campaign

April 30, 2018

When we are brave, we are getting closer toward martyrdom, martyrdom, martyrdom…we say to Nikki Haley, to Netanyahu, to the criminal Lieberman we are afraid neither of death nor of martyrdom.” (Senior Hamas leader Ismail Radwan on 27th Apr. 2018)

“The Great Return March” Campaign has now been implemented a month and probably it will will climax on May 15 (Nakba Day) 2018 with aim of a massive procession of 100,000 Gazans storming the Israel security fence around Gaza. The main goal of this action is not immediately to kill Israelis but to get attention by getting Gazans killed themselves as when Israel must use lethal force to protect Israelis and Israeli border this will bring the Palestinian case back to the agenda and the media headlines will come back.

Behind the hypcrate statements from international organizations and behind the body count of main stream media I would like to highlight some other aspects of this ongoing play.

 

The Great Return March campaign exhausted?

It is no secret that the campaign of protests at the border has been a disappointment for Hamas, as it failed to meet the group’s initial expectations. The number of participants (average Gazans, no-Hams members) has diminished from week to week, and Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and his associates, including many high-ranking officials in the group’s military wing, feel that the campaign has exhausted itself. They say that if Hamas continues to conduct the campaign as it is currently being handled, it will erase any achievement it has managed to reach.

The popular turnout is diminishing week by week. Some 3,000 protesters turned out on 20th April, significantly smaller than the 10,000-15,000 at previous Friday’s demonstration. In the three weeks before, there were an estimated 20,000 and 30,000 protesters, respectively.

However some 10,000-14,000 Palestinians participated March on Border for fifth week [27.-28.4.2018] but only four (3 on Friday and 1 wounded died on Saturday) was killed and over 600 injured (174 wounded due use of live ammunition) – lower figures anyway than during first week.

According Hamas the weekly Gaza border riots will not end on May 15th, the day the Arabs mark as ‘Nakba’ or “Catastrophe” in Arabic (Israel’s rebirth as a state), but will continue through Ramadan, Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh said on 26th Apr 2018 according JewishPress. The events at the Gaza border “brought the Palestinian issue back to center stage, and revived the memory of the right of return,” Haniyeh said. He claimed the demonstrations would also have the effect of spoiling the Israeli celebrations marking the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem on May 14, as well as the Jerusalem Day celebrations on the day prior (May 13), marking Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six Day War. Haniyeh added that the demonstrations would no longer be limited to the Gaza border, but are to be expanded and spread throughout Judea and Samaria. At a press conference held by the “supreme national authority of the great return march,” it was stated that on May 15, 2018, all the demonstrators would move towards the security fence to cut through the barbed wire, calling on the international community to protect them (al-Aqsa, April 17, 2018).

A protest in Khan Younis on March 30. The photographer, Yasser Murtaja, was killed in a protest in the same location the following week. Aerial image by Yasser Murtaja, Ain Media

Behind body count

According The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center the Hamas-controlled ministry of health in the Gaza Strip reported that 40 [now 44] Palestinians have been killed during the “great return march” events since March 30, 2018, when the rioting began along the Gaza Strip-Israel border (updated to April 25, 2018); 32 of the 40 Palestinians killed (80%) were terrorist operatives.

One significant aspect with ongoing fence-storming campaign is that not a single rocket has been fired into Israel from Gaza in over two months, yet since March 30 during fence-storming more Palestinians in Gaza have been killed than it did in the previous 16 months, during which time militants launched over 60 rockets and mortars. Another aspect more: Compared the death ratio of civilians vs militants, it is now 1:5 as during previous Gaza conflicts/wars it was about 2:1 so this ”peaceful” demonstration seems to be much better for civilian population as terrorists can not use them so much as human shields than during previous conflicts.

Israeli army leaflets dropped over Gaza to warn Palestinian demonstrators not to approach the border fence

All violent deaths are not made by IDF. Arab media outlets reported that the explosion occurred in the town of Beit Lahiya killing 55-year-old Mohammed Nimr Maqadmah – a member of the Hamas terror group’s military wing, it is unclear if Maqadmah was killed in a targeted killing, or in an accidental explosion while building a bomb. Local media outlets initially claimed the explosion was the result of an Israeli drone attack, but subsequent reports by Arab news sources suggested the explosion may have been an accident. Three other people were injured in the explosion, one of which is reportedly Maqadmah’s son. On Sunday night, a Hamas terrorist from the Al-Qassam Brigades was killed during a tunnel collapse in the central Gaza Strip. The terrorist was identified as 33-year-old Tha’er Nayef az-Zare’ey. Source: Arutz Sheva  , more in report by The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

In addition there was a funeral of Fadi al-Batsh in the Jabalya refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on 27th April where thousands attended. Al-Batsh, a Palestinian engineer working for Hamas on weapons projects was killed in Malaysia and whose death was attributed by foreign media outlets to the Mossad.

Identities of Palestinians killed during the “great return march” who were terrorist operatives or affiliated with terrorist organizations

A quarrel inside Hamas

Sources in Egypt and within Hamas confirm that a quarrel over an Egyptian initiative to end Gaza border marches has split Hamas into two opposing camps, Israel Hayom recently learned from senior Hamas sources. Tensions within Hamas’ leadership have caused a rift between the two strongest and influential people in the movement today – Ismail Haniyeh, the political bureau chief, and Yahya Sinwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Sinwar is displeased with the fact that Haniyeh has chosen to remain in Gaza. This decision breaks with years of tradition, as his predecessor, former political bureau chief Khaled Mashaal, managed the movement’s affairs from Syria before moving operations to Qatar. Sinwar has complained to his associates that Haniyeh was intervening in internal affairs.

The rift exacerbated an already strained relationship between the two “exploded” after Haniyeh snubbed Egyptian efforts to discuss a possible prisoner swap deal with Israel and an easing of the blockade on Gaza in exchange for a cessation of the border demonstrations. A delegation of Egyptian intelligence and security officials visiting Gaza submitted a proposal to Haniyeh. According to a senior Hamas official, Hamas then received an ostensibly improved offer from Egypt to halt the campaign of border demonstrations in exchange for the possibility of significantly advancing a potential prisoner exchange deal with Israel, in addition to its offer of opening the Rafah terminal and easing the blockade on Gaza.

Haniyeh reportedly rejected the Egyptian proposal without consulting the heads of the movement or even divulging its details to the organization’s leadership. “Not only did Haniyeh reject the improved proposal,” a senior Egyptian intelligence official told Israel Hayom, “he even rejected the invitation we gave him to come to Cairo with a delegation of Hamas officials to discuss details of the deal to stop the marches on the border and the possibility of a prisoner exchange.”

High-ranking Hamas officials, including Sinwar, were furious with Haniyeh and had accused him of coordinating Hamas policy with Tehran rather than the group’s own leadership. According the Egyptian official “Sinwar exploded with rage and screamed at Haniyeh,” the official said “when he learned that [Haniyeh] wasn’t planning to accept the Egyptian delegation’s proposal.”

Meanwhile, a senior Hamas official in Gaza told Israel Hayom there are voices in Hamas that argue that the border marches have run their course in their current format and that the diminishing number of demonstrators from week to week is actually undermining the potential for the grand finale demonstration. The official said that Sinwar and other high-ranking Hamas figures share this view. Furthermore, an associate close to Sinwar told Israel Hayom that the Sinwar camp believes that if the border marches continue in their current format it could undo any progress that has been made thus far and that it could undermine the general Palestinian interests as well. According to Sinwar, Haniyeh made a terrible mistake by rejecting the first Egyptian proposal and an even bigger mistake in rejecting the revised proposals.

sinai option by Ari RusilaSinwar’s associates say that while he has worked tirelessly, in conjunction with other Hamas figures, to rehabilitate the group’s relations with Egypt, Haniyeh undermined Sinwar’s efforts by offending the Egyptians’ honor when he refused an invitation to come to Cairo to discuss an Egyptian proposal for Hamas.

The relations between Egypt and Hamas have been 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.

Long truce?

Jerusalem Post   reports  that European groups recently passed on to Hamas a wide-reaching proposition to solve the humanitarian crises in Gaza. The proposed deal is that Hamas would relinquish armed struggle against Israel for at least five years and in exchange, an EU-created institution would pay the salaries of the Gaza strip civic administration and run all humanitarian affairs there.

This offer is unique in including an assumption of comprehensive authorities by a European body that would operate in the Gaza strip. For Hamas, it may be tempting that the financial aid for health, education and developing public administration would come directly from a European body and not via the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, currently controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, as is currently the practice. Hamas refused the demands made by Abbas that the security, legal and tax collecting powers in the Gaza strip be handed over to the PA as a condition for national reconciliation.

The Hamas negotiation team is reportedly still studying the European offer before responding to it. Officially Hamas denies any offer from EU and there is no confirmation about neither from EU.

2015 “no-paper”

The concept of connecting wide-scale humanitarian and financial aid to Gaza with Hamas rejecting terrorism and violence is not new and it might be possible that also this time the question is about unofficial talks with or without ”white papers”. For example few years ago according Israel Hayom [18th Aug. 2015] as well the Times of Israel reported that Hamas and Israel essentially agreed on a long-term cease-fire. A “comprehensive” agreement between Hamas and Israel included e.g. lifting of an blockade placed on the Gaza Strip in return for a long-term ceasefire. The gist of the deal is that Israel will end the blockade and allow thousands of Palestinian day laborers to enter Israel. Gaza will import items through a Cyprus port overseen by NATO representatives (until a floating offshore port can be developed) and cease all rocket fire and tunneling for eight years. A prisoner swap may be in the works too. I predicted then that this kind of Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’ and this  new EU proposal could do the same job if true and agreed.  [More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal  and  Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander ]

PA

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas does not have a mandate from his people to reach any agreement with Israel: his term in office expired in January 2009. For Abbas last Hamas-Fatah deal is a boost to his sagging popularity and same time a likely blow to any challenge from Mohammed Dahlan and other potential rivals if elections go ahead.

Earslier Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) reportedly told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept the plan or resign. It is likely that MbS did this to hasten the sidelining of the Palestinian issue so that he could facilitate normalisation with Israel.

The Kingdom of Jordan began the process of revoking the Jordanian citizenship of about 30 Palestinian Authority and Fatah officials and their families, London-based Arabic language newspaper Raialyoum reported according Jpost and Alaraby. The officials who are slated to lose their citizenship include Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Palestinian Authority negotiator Ahmed Qurei (“Abu Ala”). They also stated that there would be major changes in the visa arrangements for entry into Jordan of the senior officials, granting them only temporary visitor’s rights. Jordan granted citizenship to Palestinians in the West Bank after extending sovereignty to the territory following its capture in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. King Hussein officially severed Jordan’s legal and administrative ties to the West Bank in 1988, relinquishing claims to sovereignty and withdrawing Jordanian nationality from Palestinian residents.

Epiloque

Today it seems clear that the Great Return March” is not a peaceful demonstration. Gazans are trying to infiltrate into Israel, damage its infrastructure and kill Israelis; it is a massive attempt by dozens of rioters to breach a border fence less than a kilometer from Israeli civilians.From my viewpoint the IDF operates to protect Israeli civilians and will not allow harm to be done to the security infrastructure that protects them. According IDF the snipers only fire under direct order from a battalion commander or officer of higher rank to neutralize situations in which the fence could be breached.What would be the alternative as a breach would require the IDF to open deadly fire at hundreds or thousands of Gazans trying to break into Israel.

Interesting detail with ongoing ”Return March” is that Hamas used that exact same tactic to breach the Egyptian border 10 years ago. On January 22, 2008, a group of unarmed Hamas demonstrators–mostly women–rushed the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt and managed to break through. That night, Hamas operatives planted explosives along the border wall in several places, creating huge gaps in it. The next day, anywhere from 200,000 to 750,000 Gazans (estimates vary) poured through those breaches into Egypt.

In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza had a choice. They could have used their newly acquired freedom to build a strong economy in that coastal and fertile land, or they could have used that freedom to fight Israel. The fact that they chose the latter is not Israel’s responsibility, and it is not too late for Gaza’s Palestinians to choose a different path.

Israel could independently implement a ‘Cold Peace Solution’, a minimal level of peace relations, to ensure its character as a Jewish and democratic state, by fixing a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state in the West Bank unilaterally.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila

 

Some of my previous related articles:

Western Donors Still Funding Terrorists

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal

Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander

Gaza Update: Hamas Downfalling – IDF Prepared

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened

 

 

 


Appendix 1: Israel, EU and Palestine

 

 


Appendix 2: Media persons as terrorists

On April 25, 2018, the death of media person Ahmed Abu Hussein was reported. He was seriously wounded during the “great return march” events on Friday, April 13, 2018, while covering a demonstration near the border fence in the Jabalia area. Due to the complicated nature of his wound he was transferred to a hospital in Ramallah, and from there to the Intensive Care unit in the Tel Hashomer hospital in Israel (Ma’an, April 26, 2018). He died from his wounds in the hospital.

An examination of Ahmed Abu Hussein’s identity revealed that in addition to being a media person, he was also a PFLP member. That was manifested in several ways: the PFLP’s military wing issued formal death notices for him; at his funeral red PFLP flags were carried; and the Ahmed Abu Hussein’s Facebook page posted notices glorifying the PFLP, its leaders and terrorist attacks (such as the assassination of Israeli minister Rehavam Ze’evi).

Ahmed Abu Hussein was the second media person killed during Palestinians riots near the border fence. Before him, press photographer Yasser Murtaja was killed on April 6, 2018, while covering the march. Like Ahmed Abu Hussein, Murtaja had a double identity: in addition to being a media person, he was also an operative in Hamas’ security forces. The double identities of media personnel who are also operatives in terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip were widely exposed and documented by the ITIC during Operation Protective Edge. Source: The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center

Remark:  Also this PFLP terrorist  ( Ahmed Abu Hussein)  got treatment in the Intensive Care unit in the Tel Hashomer hospital in Israel


Appendix 3:  Compensation

Terrorists and their leaders get good compensation for their activities:

 

 


Sinai Option again

November 11, 2015

Sinai OptionGreenJerusalem Post reports   that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted on Monday [9th November 2015] as claiming that Israel and Hamas have been conducting direct negotiations to expand the Gaza Strip so that it would include some 1,000 square kilometers of Sinai. Abbas, who was recently visiting in Cairo, told that the idea of slicing off land from Sinai to expand the Gaza Strip was first proposed by ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

Abbas said that he knows the names of the Hamas and Israeli negotiators, but did not mention them. He said that former British prime minister and Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair is supervising the purported negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Abbas told that he opposes the idea of annexing any part of Sinai to the Gaza Strip.

History of the Sinai option

The Sinai option indeed is not a new option to solve Egypt-Gaza-Israel conflict. According Middle East Monitor (MEMO) report [01 September 2014 ] Egypt offered Palestinian Authority’s President Abbas a Palestinian state in Sinai.   Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi offered Palestinian Authority 620 square miles of land adjacent to Gaza in exchange for relinquishing claims to 1967 borders for the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state. PA President Abbas reportedly rejected proposal. Speaking in a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah, Abbas said: “The plan, which was proposed in 1956, included annexing 1,600 square kilometres from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip in order to receive Palestinian refugees.” He continued: “The plan is being proposed again, but we refused it.” One idea with offer was to resettle “Palestinian refugees” in the Sinai.

At its core, the Egyptian initiative proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to five times its current size and settling all the Palestinian refugees in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized, Army Radio reported. In addition, the report continued, the Palestinian Authority would be granted autonomy in the Palestinian cities in the West Bank in exchange for relinquishing the Palestinian demand to return to 1967 borders. The U.S. was involved and even greenlighted the initiative, Army Radio reported, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also brought into the loop, but did not brief the cabinet on it.

trilateralscenario1A similar idea was floated some eight years ago by Israeli academics, but it was rejected outright by the regime of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Experts surmise that Sisi’s generous offer stems from Egypt’s current difficulty in controlling terrorist groups based in the Sinai Peninsula. Source: Israel Hayom

According Middle East Eye (MEE)   the scheme became the centrepiece of the 2004 Herzliya conference, an annual meeting of Israel’s political, academic and security elites to exchange and develop policy ideas. It was then enthusiastically adopted by Uzi Arad, the conference’s founder and long-time adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister. He proposed a three-way exchange, in which the Palestinians would get part of Sinai for their state, while in return Israel would receive most of the West Bank, and Egypt would be given a land passage across the Negev to connect it to Jordan. (This and more plans in Herzliya Papers )

According to the reports, the territory in Sinai would become a demilitarised Palestinian state – dubbed “Greater Gaza” – to which returning Palestinian refugees would be assigned. The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas would have autonomous rule over the cities in the West Bank, comprising about a fifth of that territory. In return, Abbas would have to give up the right to a state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The plan probably originated with Giora Eiland, Israel’s national security adviser from 2004 to 2006. According Eiland’s Plan in 2004 that Israel hoped would be implemented after the withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza – the so-called disengagement – a year later. Under Eiland’s terms, Egypt would agree to expand Gaza into the Sinai in return for Israel giving Egypt land in the Negev. Eiland’s plan also stipulates that the Palestinians would be granted sovereignty over 89 percent of the West Bank as part of a final settlement to the decades-old conflict. ( More about Eiland’s Plan also in my document library )

According the Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat (HQ in London but with strong ties to the Saudi royal family) the Egyptian source said a similar proposal was put to Morsi when he came to power in 2012. A delegation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders travelled to Washington, where White House officials proposed that “Egypt cede a third of the Sinai to Gaza in a two-stage process spanning four to five years”.US officials, the report stated, promised to “establish and fully support a Palestinian state” in the Sinai, including the establishment of seaports and an airport. The Brotherhood was urged to prepare Egyptian public opinion for the deal.

My conclusion           

Nimetön (60)There is some speculations that, were Isis’s influence to expand further in Gaza or Egypt’s adjoining Sinai peninsula, Hamas could end up forging a common cause — openly or otherwise — with either Israel or Egypt; co-operation between Hamas and Egypt, and between Hamas and Israel might be the outcome.

In my opinion annexing part of Sinai to Gaza as might partly solve Arab-Israeli Conflict. In addition Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’ and beyond. (More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal )

Related articles:

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal


[Sinai Option again  first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila]

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Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal

August 18, 2015

 

“This agreement is no longer just rumors or blabber, but will be signed any minute,” (Walid Awadh, a member of the political office of the Palestinian People’s Party in Gaza)

Israel-Palestine roadmap to peaceAccording to the Times of Israel, Hamas and Israel have essentially agreed on a long-term cease-fire. Hamas is about to sign a “comprehensive” agreement with Israel for the lifting of an eight-year blockade placed on the Gaza Strip in return for a long-term ceasefire The gist of the deal is that Israel will end the blockade and allow thousands of Palestinian day laborers to enter Israel. Gaza will import items through a Cyprus port overseen by NATO representatives (until a floating offshore port can be developed) and cease all rocket fire and tunneling for eight years. A prisoner swap may be in the works too.  Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’

Israel Prime Minister’s Office gave following statement on 18th Aug. 2015: “Israel would like to officially clarify that it is not holding any meetings with Hamas, neither directly, nor via other countries, nor via intermediaries.” However – in addition to rumours described in my April 2015 article  Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystanderhamas-agreement-1 (2) – the original sources of last developments have been a Turkish official, few days earlier, it was a “knowledgeable source” in the Israeli defense establishment and before that, it was a U.S. State Department official. All confirmed that Israel and Hamas are discussing a long-term cease-fire deal. Already in April it was estimated that official representatives of the Israeli government and defense establishment have been holding a real dialogue even months 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. This information was based on an YNet article.

In April 2015 it was claimed that from the Israeli side 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)

The Hamas-Israel Deal

In an interview- according The Times of Israel – with Hamas daily al-Resalah, Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, said that Hamas’s political leader Khaled Mashaal came to Ankara last week to update the Turkish leadership on the details of an agreement reached with Israel. According Israel Hayom [18th Aug. 2015] Hamas officials told Arab media outlets that significant progress had been made in recent talks in Qatar between Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and former Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair about the possibility of a long-term truce deal. Reports also cited a Turkish official as saying progress had been made toward such a deal between Israel and Hamas. According to the official, the deal would include the lifting of the blockade on Gaza. According to the reports, Gaza will be allowed to import merchandise through a “floating port” located 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) off the coast. An intermediary port will be established in Cyprus, where all Gaza-bound merchandise will be scrutinized by NATO representatives.

300px-gaza_strip_map2-svgMeanwhile, progress has been made in reconciliation talks between Israel and Turkey yet differences remain on several issues, the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper reported on Tuesday. The report quoted a Turkish Foreign Ministry official as saying that Israel had agreed to significantly ease the blockade on Gaza — which has been one of Turkey’s demands in the reconciliation talks.

According to Hamas daily al-Resalah, Israel would like to see a larger package deal that would include the exchange of “live and dead Israeli prisoners” held by Hamas — likely a reference to Ethiopian-Israeli citizen Avraham Abere Mengistu and a Bedouin man who both entered the Gaza Strip voluntarily, as well as the remains of Israeli soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge last summer — in return for Hamas prisoners jailed by Israel.

Israeli Arabic-language website al-Masdar reported on 16th Aug. 2015 that Hamas’s leadership held a meeting in Gaza on 14th Aug. 2015, specifying the deal’s details. According to al-Masdar’s unnamed Hamas source, Israel has also agreed to allow in thousands of Gazan day laborers through the Erez crossing in return for Hamas’s agreement to stop launching rockets into Israel and digging subterranean attack tunnels underneath the border for a period of at least eight years. Hamas’s Shura Council, the movement’s highest deliberative body, endorsed the agreement following a three-hour debate.

Fatah/PLO against

The reported agreement is opposed by the PLO because it wasn’t consulted, and because it would “eventually detach Gaza completely from the West Bank and Jerusalem,” said one Fatah figure. Hamas officials, headed by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, have been dispatched to Egypt, Qatar, and Turkey to discuss the deal. But the agreement is facing domestic opposition from without, as Palestinian factions consider it a potential danger to the political unity of Gaza and the West Bank as stipulated by the Oslo Accords.

no_solutionWalid Awadh, a member of the political office of the Palestinian People’s Party in Gaza, said that his party, like all other PLO factions, is opposed in principle to the deal reached between Hamas and Israel. The agreement, carried out unilaterally by Hamas without consulting the PA, strengthens the political divide with Fatah and will eventually detach Gaza completely from the West Bank and Jerusalem, he argued. “Gaza faces an unknown future,” he said. “This agreement leads us from political divide to [Gaza’s] secession, making it impossible for Gaza to be part of the future Palestinian state.”Awadh said the agreement is being finalized “far from the Gaza Strip” by Hamas’s overseas leadership in coordination with Qatar and Turkey. Notifying the PLO organizations in Gaza was only done in order to market the agreement and portray it as a result of local consensus. Most factions in Gaza support a ceasefire with Israel, Awadh stressed, but insist that it be the result of “unified Palestinian representation, tying the future of Gaza to that of the West Bank.”

Awadh’s dismay with Hamas was expressed even more bluntly by Fatah spokesman Osama Qawasmi over the weekend. “Why insist on a naval passageway to the entire world but the West Bank?” Qawasmi wondered in a press statement published on Fatah’s official website. “Why has the land corridor with the West Bank, known as the ‘safe passage,’ not been proposed before anything else, given that the PLO delegation raised the issue forcefully? Is Gaza a humanitarian issue [only] or is it part of the Palestinian homeland?”

Two Palestine?

The eight-year split between Fatah and Hamas aka the Islamic Resistance Movement has cut off Gaza and its 1.7 million people from the West Bank and e.g from negotiating efforts; instead Hamas has implemented few military campaigns against Israel and Gaza still suffers from the last conflict Summer 2014.

According Jerusalem Post Hamas in April 2015 was 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. From point of view of Fatah/PLO Israel wants to divide the Palestinian people and turn the Palestinian territories into separate entities and cantons. The idea of establishing a Palestinian state only in the Gaza Strip was first raised by late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1988; it is also claimed that the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed the idea about 10 years ago, when he decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.

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.

14374044578404767 (2)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 wannabe state in the West Bank.

Earlier on April 2015 in my article Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander I estimated that this possible deal between Hamas and Israel has a risk that internal disagreements between Hamas’ political and military wings could endanger it. Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades might take advantage of instability within the Hamas to carry out attacks on the border with Israel without getting a green light from Hamas’ political leaders. Struggle inside Hamas is not the only battlefield in Gaza. A group calling itself Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem has continued to challenge the Gaza-ruling Palestinian entity Hamas.

Hamas-Israel Deal pave the way for Cold Peace Solution

23boundar_map-popup (2)I still consider a two-state solution be possible. The final status agreement has been very close at least since Beilin-Abu Mazen understandings / agreement / plan (1995) where nearly all issues were agreed. The Olmert proposal (2008) was probably the last serious try (both plans can be found from my document library ) If however it can’t be negotiated so there is possibilities to make regional solution; I for example have long propagated the idea of the “Three-State-(return) Option” ( e.g. in ”The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict” ). Also – if two-state solution is de facto cul-de-sac and if there is no readiness to regional solution so a unilateral ‘Cold Peace solution’ from my perspective is the best option especially if Hamas-Israel Deal will come true.

Israel could independently implement a ‘Cold Peace Solution’, a minimal level of peace relations,  to ensure its character as a Jewish and democratic state, by fixing a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state in the West Bank unilaterally. Creating a reality of two states for two peoples by separation into two nation states would be based on voluntary Israeli concession of territories outside of the large with Israel on the route of a permanent border on the basis of agreed-upon land swaps or independently in case negotiations does not take place. In the event that negotiations are not renewed, the temporary border will become permanent. As long as there is no agreement, the IDF and Israel would retain control of the outer borders and surrounding areas of the territories to be evacuated by Israelis who would be resettled within the state’s temporary borders. This kind of unilateral “cold peace” solution – that Israel annexes all Judea and Samaria (West-Bank) inside security fence and draws all outposts inside fence and Palestinians can do whatever they want in remaining territory – in my opinion might – in the course of years – develop to permanent state of affairs and thus end Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  An example could be the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel signed in 1979 which most Egyptians view as a cold peace;  retrospectively not so bad deal anyway.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila