LOOKING FOR A NEW EQUATION IN GAZA

BY KSENIA SVETLOVA
 JUNE 7, 2017 21:46

jpost.com

Israel and the world should think outside the box

A WOMAN looks out a window in the Gaza Strip.

A few days into the new regional disarray, the Americans, as well as the Kuwaitis and Omanis, are already looking for solution that will allow the re-creation of the façade of unity among the Arab Gulf countries. It’s still early to tell when the expected sulha (truce) will take place, however it’s quite obvious that Qatar – the enfant terrible of the Gulf – will have to give up something. Its support of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist organizations can be one of these concessions, and the expulsion of Hamas leaders from Qatar might be an indication of a move in this direction.

It seems that since US President Donald Trump’s visit to the region the position of Hamas became significantly worse. Hamas leaders complain to their interlocutors that they lose ground quickly in the Arab world and that financially they’ve never been worse off. Egypt destroyed most of the tunnels between Sinai and Gaza and stopped the smuggling of money, weapons and goods almost entirely. Arab donors are tired of Hamas and do not act on their financial obligations to Gaza. In fact, the only major route of supplies to Gaza is the Kerem Shalom crossing in Israel.

The number of trucks that make their way to Gaza through Kerem Shalom grew from 38,000 in 2010 to 178,000 in 2016. According to army sources, every sack of cement, every package of sugar, every grain of rice and every erg of electricity serves the Hamas regime. The Islamists are subjecting the impoverished population to heavy taxes – all merchandise that goes through Kerem Shalom is subject to taxation, and in many cases the cement intended for the rebuilding of civilian houses ends up in new tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border.

Hospitals in Gaza lack electricity, but Hamas has enough (most of it provided by Israel) to supply the tunnels and its military bases.

So attitudes toward Hamas in the region and in world have changed significantly, and the organization has become a lonely pariah, lacking funds and support. Israel is de facto responsible for Hamas’s survival.

This absurd situation must come to an end. The window of opportunity in the region is open now, and the equation in Gaza has to change to exclude Hamas. It’s quite obvious that as long as Hamas clings to power in Gaza, the probability of new round of fighting will grow and the chances of any future agreement between Israelis and Palestinians will decline. The organization, responsible for hundreds of terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings and rocket attacks, never fulfilled the three demands of the Middle East Quartet in 2006 that focused on ending the military struggle, recognition of Israel and recognition of agreements previously signed between Israel and the PLO.

So in order for any future negotiations to succeed, Hamas should be ousted in Gaza and replaced by the Palestinian Authority. No crossing with Gaza should be controlled by Hamas, so that not even one dollar will end at its leaders’ pockets.

Until now it seemed that PA leaders were quite reluctant about getting the control over Gaza back.

However, in the past few weeks it seems that the tone in Ramallah has changed. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been trying very hard to distance himself from Hamas. In one of his latest decisions he ordered payment for Gaza’s electricity to stop. In order to prevent an escalation, Israel continued to support Hamas with electricity, despite the knowledge that this is exactly what Hamas needs to survive. A few weeks ago, during another electricity crisis angry Gazans were starting to pour into the streets, and a few demonstrations against Hamas took place.

Unfortunately, Hamas is too strong today to be toppled from within.

Considering its dire condition, strong economic pressure and isolation of Hamas leadership by all parties – the Arab world, the international community and Israel – can force it into so-much-needed concessions. Relinquish control of border crossings, agree to the return of the PA without any fictitious “reconciliation” agreement and only then will Gaza receive generous aid to allow rehabilitation and prosperity.

I believe that this move should coincide with a return to the negotiation table with the PA to work out the agreement that will allow the Israelis to set secured borders that will be recognized by the whole world and to separate itself from over four million Palestinians, who will be able to build their state. The Arab Peace Initiative can serve as a base (although some of its chapters should be adapted to create a framework that is suitable to 2017) which will allow many of the Arab countries to support the agreement.

Should Hamas stay in power in Gaza (it’s important to remember that it only got there through a coup d’etat in June 2017), the peace process will remain stuck as it is today, regardless of the international or local efforts, the people of Gaza will continue to suffer since the humanitarian crisis is ongoing, and a new round of hostilities will be inevitable.

Israel and the world should think outside the box and use the favorable regional situation to promote the common interest for all parties who seek agreement and peace advancement in the region. Without solving the issue of Gaza such an advancement will be impossible.

MK Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) is a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. She is an expert in Middle East Affairs and served as a correspondent and analyst on the Middle East prior to joining the Knesset.

Middle East. Personally. Yours.

To date, the region’s prospects are not promising.

huffingtonpost.com

05/24/2017 01:55 am ET Updated May 25, 2017

GETTY IMAGES
Trump in Saudi Arabia with king Salman

 

The United States President, Donald Trump, was all smiles as he strode down the red carpet in Al-Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. He clearly enjoyed the royal welcome, the gold, the glitter, the huge weapon deal and the generous donation made to Ivanka Trump’s new fund for women entrepreneurs.

And so, the idea promoted years ago by former U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, of creating an alliance between Arab states, Israel and the United States against Iran, was brought back to the table. Saudi Arabia assumed a leading role in the alliance, namely, to combat Islamist terrorism worldwide.

It is no secret that to this very day Saudi Arabia invests vast sums of money in spreading Wahhabism – the most puritan and radical of all Islamic Sunni streams – in many countries in African and Southeast Asia, thereby nurturing future generations of jihadist terrorists. One may also recall that shortly before President Trump’s visit to Al-Riyadh, the Saudis effectively blocked a proposal made by the Trump administration to impose sanctions on a Saudi branch of ISIS.

The motion to add the Islamic State’s Saudi affiliate to a list of terrorist groups in the UN Security Council was sabotaged by Trump’s newly acquired best friends. It seems the Saudis did not wish to acknowledge the existence of an ISIS branch in their Kingdom, despite evidence to show otherwise. This was quite a peculiar move for a country that intends on playing a vital role in a newly formed anti-terror alliance. However, this doesn’t seem to bother Donald Trump.

Furthermore, the new American agenda for the Middle East, as presented by President Trump, will greatly impact the region’s ability to attain stability, or otherwise collapse. To date, the region’s prospects are not promising. The conditions that led to the rise of the Arab Spring have remained as they were, including unemployment, frustration, despair, and sparse opportunities for the younger generation, which make up a majority of the population. Top that off with corruption, a failing economy, and incompetent ailing Arab monarchs, presidents and prime ministers, who were forever supported by the United States, and occasionally Europe, and you have an estimate as to how well prepared the region is to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Nearly one hundred years ago, the Ottoman Empire was nicknamed “The Sick Man of Europe”. Today, most countries in the Middle East, excluding Israel and perhaps Tunisia, fall under a similar category. The wave of revolutions in 2011 was sparked from what were possibly the most personal stories in the history of humankind, with figures such as the Egyptian blogger Khaled Saeed, and the Tunisian vegetable seller, Mohamed Bouazizi. People easily identified with their personal suffering and took to the streets in mass protests. However, it appears the leaders of the Arab states, followed by their Western friends, continue to turn a blind eye to the individual needs of their people. They have yet to take a close and careful look at the region and shape their policy vis-à-vis the Middle East.

Meanwhile, the Middle East isn’t only suffering from bloodshed. It is also suffering from insufficient medical care, meagre wages, unemployment, power outages, rising costs of basic staples, rampant corruption, and a constant threat to people’s personal safety. If no one addresses these issues, or takes notice of the next Mohamed Bouazizi or Khaled Saeed, we will find ourselves back at square one. We will witness the chaos that serves the precise dark powers of extremism, which Donald Trump has promised to fight.

Is the Middle East capable of evading such a gruesome fate? The answer can’t be summed up with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but rather a ‘perhaps’. Perhaps with sufficient combined efforts, cooperation and critical thinking that address the region’s problems, a suitable Marshall Plan can be devised for the Middle East.

Perhaps if the American President refrains from sweeping the human and individual rights of the region under the rug and takes a closer look at what’s really going on, the situation will improve. The young people of the Middle East deserve his time, efforts and close attention, so that he truly sees them. A good deal in the Middle East must benefit actual people, real women and men. It must include and apply to individuals. In the words of the Godfather: “It’s all personal, every bit of the business”.

Middle East. Personally. Yours.

05/24/2017 01:55 am ET | Updated 26 minutes ago

GETTY IMAGES
Trump in Saudi Arabia with king Salman

The United States President, Donald Trump, was all smiles as he strode down the red carpet in Al-Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. He clearly enjoyed the royal welcome, the gold, the glitter, the huge weapon deal and the generous donation made to Ivanka Trump’s new fund for women entrepreneurs. And so, the idea promoted years ago by former U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, of creating an alliance between Arab states, Israel and the United States against Iran, was brought back to the table. Saudi Arabia assumed a leading role in the alliance, namely, to combat Islamist terrorism worldwide. It is no secret that to this very day Saudi Arabia invests vast sums of money in spreading Wahhabism – the most puritan and radical of all Islamic Sunni streams – in many countries in African and Southeast Asia, thereby nurturing future generations of jihadist terrorists. One may also recall that shortly before President Trump’s visit to Al-Riyadh, the Saudis effectively blocked a proposal made by the Trump administration to impose sanctions on a Saudi branch of ISIS. The motion to add the Islamic State’s Saudi affiliate to a list of terrorist groups in the UN Security Council was sabotaged by Trump’s newly acquired best friends. It seems the Saudis did not wish to acknowledge the existence of an ISIS branch in their Kingdom, despite evidence to show otherwise. This was quite a peculiar move for a country that intends on playing a vital role in a newly formed anti-terror alliance. However, this doesn’t seem to bother Donald Trump.

Furthermore, the new American agenda for the Middle East, as presented by President Trump, will greatly impact the region’s ability to attain stability, or otherwise collapse. To date, the region’s prospects are not promising. The conditions that led to the rise of the Arab Spring have remained as they were, including unemployment, frustration, despair, and sparse opportunities for the younger generation, which make up a majority of the population. Top that off with corruption, a failing economy, and incompetent ailing Arab monarchs, presidents and prime ministers, who were forever supported by the United States, and occasionally Europe, and you have an estimate as to how well prepared the region is to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Nearly one hundred years ago, the Ottoman Empire was nicknamed “The Sick Man of Europe”. Today, most countries in the Middle East, excluding Israel and perhaps Tunisia, fall under a similar category. The wave of revolutions in 2011 was sparked from what were possibly the most personal stories in the history of humankind, with figures such as the Egyptian blogger Khaled Saeed, and the Tunisian vegetable seller, Mohamed Bouazizi. People easily identified with their personal suffering and took to the streets in mass protests. However, it appears the leaders of the Arab states, followed by their Western friends, continue to turn a blind eye to the individual needs of their people. They have yet to take a close and careful look at the region and shape their policy vis-à-vis the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Middle East isn’t only suffering from bloodshed. It is also suffering from insufficient medical care, meagre wages, unemployment, power outages, rising costs of basic staples, rampant corruption, and a constant threat to people’s personal safety. If no one addresses these issues, or takes notice of the next Mohamed Bouazizi or Khaled Saeed, we will find ourselves back at square one. We will witness the chaos that serves the precise dark powers of extremism, which Donald Trump has promised to fight.

Is the Middle East capable of evading such a gruesome fate? The answer can’t be summed up with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but rather a ‘perhaps’. Perhaps with sufficient combined efforts, cooperation and critical thinking that address the region’s problems, a suitable Marshall Plan can be devised for the Middle East. Perhaps if the American President refrains from sweeping the human and individual rights of the region under the rug and takes a closer look at what’s really going on, the situation will improve. The young people of the Middle East deserve his time, efforts and close attention, so that he truly sees them. A good deal in the Middle East must benefit actual people, real women and men. It must include and apply to individuals. In the words of the Godfather: “It’s all personal, every bit of the business”.

MKs, IDF accuse media of fomenting conflict in West Bank; journalists’ groups say security forces are increasingly violent towards reporters.

“With all the importance of the press in a democratic country,” MK Moti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) began, “we cannot get confused and must always give priority to the IDF’s operational freedom of action, because they are acting to save lives.”Yogev accused the press of behaving like an “imbalanced theater.”

MK Yisrael Eichler (UTJ) compared the press to a car, saying that in some cases it is helpful and brings progress, and in other cases it can be destructive.

According to Eichler, a former journalist, objective reporters should be given freedom of action, but reporters who “take a side in the conflict” should be given less access.

MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) said there is no justification for violence against journalists, but added: “We cannot ignore the fact that the press takes an active, one-sided and tendentious stance in covering the conflict, and therefore, it is part of the game.

“We know with certainty about many cases that were staged and orchestrated, so the media needs to ask itself if it is truly balanced,” Oren stated.

IDF Spokesperson’s Unit representative Lt.-Col. Peter Lerner said forces in the field sometimes have to deal with “media traps” or events that would not have happened if the press was not present.

Lerner explained that the IDF works to allow the press to act freely, while considering operational limitations, and that aim is backed by military orders and regulations.

“We make sure to be in the field to help the press and when necessary, we act to prevent violent incidents,” Lerner stated. “The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit gives instructions and simulations at all levels in the field, under the assumption that [operations] will be covered [by the press] and documented.”

Lerner admitted that there was an increase of violent incidents in recent months, but said they are exceptions that do not reflect the general situation.

He also pointed out that an officer who was violent toward the press was fired.

Zionist Union MK Ksenia Svetlova, a former Arab affairs reporter for Russian-language media who has written for The Jerusalem Post, initiated the discussion and said, “Freedom of action for the media is a central component in a democratic state. Unfortunately, recently, it seems that some reporters are seen as the enemy or as a foreign agent acting against the State of Israel.”

She added, “Violence against the press hurts Israel’s good name in the world.”

Foreign Press Association secretary Gila Sugarman said that in the past two years there has been an increase in physical violence against journalists and their equipment.

Union of Journalists in Israel chairman Yair Tarchitsky called the phenomenon fairly common and said the violence generally comes from low-level soldiers or police officers who are not aware of the way they should treat the press.

“The general feeling is that they see journalists as an annoyance,” he said. “Security forces have to understand the job of the press in a democratic country, even if the truth is uncomfortable for the country.

Our job is to reflect reality as it is to the broader public.”

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) closed the meeting by calling the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit to review the complaints from press representatives and make sure that they are present in sensitive situations to hold a dialogue with reporters.

“IDF commanders are not trained or authorized to deal with the press; it’s not their responsibility,” Hanegbi said.

“They are focused on security and executing their operational orders. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit must send people to events with the potential for conflict, in order to avoid obstacles to reaching operation goals, on the one hand, and harm to journalists’ work, on the other.”

Hanegbi also said he will discuss the issue with Interior Committee chairman David Amsalem (Likud), whose panel is responsible for overseeing police and border police actions, to hold a similar discussion about complaints of police treatment of the press.

According to Bayit Yehudi MK, the lack of policy in Judea and Samaria has allowed for a situation of lawlessness

The IDF has failed to tackle the issue of illegal Palestinian building, particularly those projects funded by the European Union, charged MK Moti Yogev during a stormy meeting Wednesday of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee subgroup on Judea and Samaria.

“Officers in uniform are not doing their job, and we will insist on a commission of inquiry to deal with it,” Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) angrily stated.

The lack of policy has simply allowed for a situation of lawlessness, added Yogev, who chairs the committee subgroup.

Hundreds if not thousands of illegal Palestinian homes were built on state land in Area C of the West Bank, he said.

The Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria “has abandoned that territory,” Yogev said.

“This is simply construction terrorism directed by the Palestinian Authority with funding from the European Union that amounts to “110 million euros annually,” Yogev said.

The EU has also supporting the illegal construction of Palestinian infrastructure, such as roads, in Area C, Yogev charged.

Representatives of the civil administration, the Foreign Ministry and the Prosecutor’s Office for Judea and Samaria took issue with Yogev’s words.

Civil administration deputy head Uri Mendes said that his office is cracking down on illegal Palestinian building. It is destroying all such structures, save for those that are the subject of legal cases or are protected by a court injunction.




Civil Administration deputy head, Col. Uri Mendes, Brig. Gen. (ret) Dov Sedaka and MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi)

He explained that there is a fair amount of illegal building on the part of both Israelis and Palestinians in Area C. In 2014, 904 illegal structures were built, of which 408 were destroyed, Mendes said.

But Merav Ettinger, the legal adviser for the Judea and Samaria police, took issue with his words.

“Enforcement [of building laws] is a top priority for us. We are disappointed that the civil administration has not asked for more help from us on this matter,” she said.

Foreign Ministry Department for European Organizations director Avivit Bar-Ilan said that her office has persistently brought up the matter with the Europeans, who have characterized their activities as humanitarian aid to the Palestinians.

MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Bayit Yehudi) seemed surprised by her words.

“Why are we letting EU equipment into Area C?” she asked. “Why aren’t we confiscating it?” She added, “You are talking and talking. I have never heard so many words that amount to nothing. Such behavior is intolerable. If you can’t do your work, you should return your keys.” At some points the debate turned into a screaming match, with Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) and Nurit Koren (Likud) yelling at each other in rapid-fire fashion.

Koren took issue with the Svetlova’s use of the words “occupied territory.” “We’re the sovereign power there,” Koren said.


Ksenia Svetlova (Zionist Union) and Nurit Koren (Likud) at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee sub-group on Judea and Samaria.

“What are you talking about?” yelled Svetlova. “We aren’t ruling over a population there. Are you saying that everyone is Israeli there?” MK Michael Oren (Kulanu) attempted to clarify that Israel has authority over the area but is not the sovereign power there.

“We rule there according to international agreements. We have the responsibility and the authority to prevent illegal Palestinian building there, including from the EU,” he said.

He charged that the EU was “blatantly creating facts on the ground” with the aim of helping the Palestinians create a state without negotiations.

The matter needs to be dealt with at the policy level and the responsibility for it rests with the government, Oren said.