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Entries in Hamas (20)


UPDATED Middle East Inside Line: Lebanon Warning, Obama on Iran Sanctions, Clash within Palestinian Authority

Lebanon's Warning: On Wednesday, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned Israel, "If there is a war against us, there won't be a division in Lebanon. We will stand against Israel. We will stand with our own people." He added: "We see what's happening on the ground and in our airspace and what's happening all the time during the past two months - every day we have Israeli planes entering Lebanese airspace. This is something that is escalating, and this is something that is really dangerous."

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman responded sharply, "Hezbollah murdered his father (former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, assassinated in 2005 by unknown assailants) and he is in the position of being a hostage."

Israel: A Loose Cannon for a Middle East Conflict?

Clash in Gaza: Responding to two Gaza-made rockets fired into southern Israel on Sunday and Monday, the Israeli Air Force launched missiles into the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday. A military spokesman said, "The Israel Defense Forces will continue to act firmly against anyone who uses terror against Israel, and we see Hamas as solely responsible for maintaining peace and quiet in the Gaza Strip."

Split in Israeli Cabinet: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced Monday that they intend to promote a bill that would let Israeli citizens vote from abroad in Knesset elections. However, Minister of Defence Ehud Barak was quick to criticize his the measure:
I strongly object to granting the right to vote to Israelis living permanently abroad. Only those people who are here with us and who bear the risks and burden of being here should be allowed to vote in Israel.

Obama Proclaims More Sanctions on Iran: President Barack Obama declared last night that a series of sanctions on Iran are to be developed in the coming several weeks, though he could not assure China's support in the UN Security Council.

Palestinian Authority Out in West Bank?: In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Fahmi Shabaneh, who until recently was in charge of the Anti-Corruption Department in the Palestinian Authority's General Intelligence Service (GIS), warned that Hamas' victory the Fatah-controlled regime in Gaza in 2006-7 is likely to recur in the West Bank. He said that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had surrounded himself with many of the corrupt officials who used to work for his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, and added: “It’s hard to find people in the West Bank who support the Palestinian Authority. People are fed up with the financial corruption and mismanagement of the Palestinian Authority.”

The PA said on Wednesday morning that Shabaneh's allegations were part of an Israeli conspiracy aimed at undermining Abbas because of his refusal to return to the negotiation table unconditionally.

Israel: A Loose Cannon for a Middle East Conflict?

Sharmine Narwani writes in The Huffington Post:

Another war is looming in the Middle East, say the pundits. It is hard to ignore the whispers -- now louder -- when they are regularly punctuated by hostile statements from various officials in the region, leading further credence to a possible conflagration.

The likely site of the newest regional battle is the Levant. Funnily enough, nobody can pinpoint exactly where, although it is clear that Israel will be involved. Which should tell us something right there.

Middle East Inside Line: Hamas in Russia, Iran FM on “Crazy Israel”, Palestine Talks
Israel, Hamas, and Russia: Who is in Bed with the Bear?

Since the Jewish state's military attack on Lebanon in 2006, it has been itching for a "do-over." Why? Because for the first time in its history, Israel did not win a war. The month-long bombardment of Lebanon resulted in a stalemate -- an intolerable outcome by the standards of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

To add to the indignity, it was a mere few thousand men -- not even a national army -- that took the IDF by surprise.

The cornerstone of Israel's military strategy is deterrence -- whether though brandishing a nuclear arsenal to warn off threatening nation-states, or by Gaza-style intensive attacks that send a strong message to a weaker party. This is a highly militarized state that has lived under the legacy of conflict its entire existence. Loss -- or even perceived loss -- is not an option.

So instead of self-examination, Israel's conflicted, and increasingly right-wing political body unleashed a belligerent tone -- angry, defiant, threatening, unfocused like a petulant and wounded child. Diversionary tactics came into play to focus domestic and international attention elsewhere and fill the frustrating void -- Hamas in Gaza, the potential nuclear aspirations of Iran, Palestinian intransigence on peace talks, Hezbollah's weapons, Syria, Turkey, anti-Semitism, the Goldstone Report.

In recent weeks, Israeli officials have made inflammatory statements about conflicts on half a dozen fronts.


"When there is another war, you will not just lose it, but you and your family will lose power," right-wing Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman challenged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad last Thursday, after Assad claimed that Israel is "driving the region towards war, not peace."

Lieberman went further and hit at the heart of any future Israeli-Syrian rapprochement: "We must bring Syria to realize will have to give up on its ultimate demand for the Golan Heights." Israeli leaders have in the past accepted in principle that the Syrian Golan Heights, captured and occupied by Israel in 1967, would necessarily be part of any bilateral peace deal.


In January -- one year after Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza that lead to the deaths of 1,400 Palestinians -- Major General Yom Tov Samia, former head of the IDF's Southern Command, told the Jerusalem Post: "We are before another round in Gaza... another war with Hamas is inevitable." And Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned Gaza's leaders to "watch their step, and not to cry crocodile tears if they force [us] to take action."

The hue and cry about Hamas' rockets hitting Israeli towns was Tel Aviv and Washington's driving narrative in defense of Israel's military actions in Gaza. Still is. But just this week, the Jewish State announced that a new $200 million rocket defense system called the "Iron Dome" will not be deployed against Gaza as promised. Too expensive for Gaza, says the military, explaining that it will be deployed elsewhere where there is more of an "imminent" threat.

And this comes after months of Israeli insistence that Hamas has significantly boosted its military capabilities and has obtained long-range rockets, mostly from Iran. So which is it -- either they do or don't have weapons, either they do or don't pose a threat?


No two other parties have been more relentlessly subjected to Israeli threats than Iran and Hezbollah. Last summer, after it was clear that the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah would likely participate at the cabinet level in any unity government formed following Lebanon's June elections, Israeli leaders fell over themselves in their rush to issue warnings. Netanyahu, Barak and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon all threatened that any border attacks would be blamed on the Lebanese central government -- with repercussions.
Just last month, Israeli Minister Yossi Peled opined, "Without a doubt we are heading for another round (of battle) in the North. No one knows when, but it's clear that it will happen."

And so both Hezbollah and Israel have moved weapons systems closer to their mutual borders.


Iran, in turn, has been the recipient of non-stop bombing threats from Israel over its civilian nuclear program, which the Jewish State claims is really a clandestine plan to build nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Never mind that some two dozen International Atomic Energy Agency reports over six years show no diversion of materials to weaponization. Or that Israeli military intelligence has been extending the date for a finished Iranian nuclear warhead since the 1990s. Last June, Mossad Chief Meir Dagan declared the new date for the first Iranian nuke would be in 2014. But Israel's war drums have kept beating as though these weapons were already sitting on launch pads, ready to go.


Relatively new on the scene in the game of belligerent words is Turkey. A rare Israeli ally in the Middle East both in political and military terms, Turkey has drawn away from the alliance since Israel's widely-criticized Gaza attacks last year, when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at the particularly brutal IDF campaign.

Things have gone from bad to worse since, culminating a month ago in the now-infamous Ayalon row when the Israeli deputy foreign minister publicly and deliberately humiliated Turkey's ambassador in front of cameras. Israel has called Turkey anti-Semitic and very recently slammed the Turkish prime minister again when he drew attention to the continuing Israeli blockade of Gaza and its daily violations of Lebanese airspace.


Some Israeli critics suggest that the destabilizing escalation in rhetoric may not just be as a result of Israel's psychological loss in 2006, but more recently, because of an increased paranoia about international isolation -- the result of war crimes allegations documented against Israel in the UN's Goldstone Report about the Gaza war, and the country's ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands.

In a stunning attack on his government two weeks ago, Israeli writer Gideon Levy wrote a commentary piece in Haaretz in which he takes to task their "cynical" use of Holocaust Remembrance Day to propagandize toward political ends:
"An Israeli public relations drive like this hasn't been seen for ages. The timing of the unusual effort - never have so many ministers deployed across the globe - is not coincidental: When the world is talking Goldstone, we talk Holocaust, as if out to blur the impression. When the world talks occupation, we'll talk Iran as if we wanted them to forget."

But the escalation of rhetoric from Israel's right-wing government is not being viewed as simple political posturing -- more, like a promise of battle. As concerned as the Jewish State may be about conflict on its borders, its neighbors -- having been on the receiving end of superior Israeli weapons, and having suffered far larger numbers of civilian casualties -- are taking these words very seriously.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem, at a joint press conference with Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos on Thursday pointed to this verbal escalation of hostilities by calling on Israel to "desist from making threats against Gaza, southern Lebanon, Iran and now Syria."

Because rhetoric after all creates a perception. And perception is 100% of politics -- not to be played with when standing on a tinderbox. The Levant has always been rife with small-scale border skirmishes -- that is the way of an area re-mapped by foreigners, with unnatural, artificial borders. But it is only Israel that has, since 1973, launched full-on military battles from these skirmishes. And without a doubt it is gearing up for a fight. Where, is anyone's guess.

Israel, Hamas, and Russia: Who is in Bed with the Bear?

In June 2009, we noted that the Netanyahu Government was trying to use the Kremlin as leverage against the pressure of the Obama Administration as it manoeuvred over the peace process with Palestine and other Arab states. And we added that Israeli officials might want to remember that the multipolar works in more than one direction: Moscow had just welcomed Palestinian Authority representatives as part of its interest in the Middle East developments.

After eight months, Moscow has found more space for its initiative, welcoming Hamas's Khaled Meshal on Monday. Amidst the inability of the Obama Administration to make headway on the peace process, Kremlin has remembered and upheld one of the actors "forgotten" by Washington and the European Union.

Middle East Inside Line: Hamas in Russia, Iran FM on “Crazy Israel”, Palestine Talks

On the one hand, this tells  the Israelis that Russia's relationship with Palestinian factions cannot be broken easily and, on the other hand, it sends a signal to Washington that Moscow's can influence the course of the process in the region. Israeli officials could not summon Moscow's Ambassador "on a lower chair" but had to send a letter of protest asking Moscow to clarify its intentions.

The Kremlin said that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was the highest-level official Meshal would meet. Its ambassador assured Israel that the visit did not signal a swing in Moscow's policy toward Hamas, and he said that Lavrov would reiterate its stance that the Islamist movement must abide by conditions to recognize Israel, give up violence, and honor past peace accords.

Meanwhile, Meshal declared:
I don't see any prospects on the Palestinian, the Syrian or any other track of the Middle East process because the Israeli leadership is a leadership of war, aggression and occupation.

It's enough that Moscow tells the world that Hamas is a movement of freedom fighters, not a terrorist group.

Middle East Inside Line: Hamas in Russia, Iran FM on "Crazy Israel", Palestine Talks

Hamas in Russia: On Monday, Hamas's Khaled Meshal was in Moscow, a guest of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov despite protests by Israel. Meshal said there was "no prospect of peace because the Israeli leadership is a leadership of war" and added, "It's enough that Moscow tells the world that Hamas is a movement of freedom fighters, not a terrorist group."

Iran FM on Israel "Crazy Nation, Crazy People": Following Ayatollah Khamenei 's statement, "Today Palestine is the symbol of life, determination, faithfulness, diligence, and dignity," Foreign Minister Manchour Mottaki jumped in: "Israel is a crazy nation run by crazy people. Therefore, we must prepare for the chance that Israel will do something crazy against everyone in the region: the Syrians, the Lebanese and the Palestinians."

Israel, Hamas, and Russia: Who is in Bed with the Bear?

Palestinian Authority on Peace Talks: With the leader of the Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas agreeing in principle to the U.S. proposal to hold talks with Israel, Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said Monday that renewed talks with Israel under US mediation must focus first and foremost on the issue of borders.

The talks are expected to begin on February 20, a senior Palestinian official told AFP on Monday. "These contacts will be aimed at creating a better climate and reaching an understanding on the borders of the Palestinian state, and they will begin on February 20. They will last three months, with the Americans negotiating directly with the two sides after determining a timetable and agreed-upon mechanisms for implementation," the official said.

Palestine Document: Abbas Interview "I Will Not Back Down From Demands"

On Sunday, in an interview with Der Spiegel, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, expressed his disappointment with the Obama Administration, saying that Barack Obama has changed the route of the negotiations by dropping demands for a freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Abbas said that there was hope for an agreement with Ehud Olmert, but the Israeli Prime Minister had to leave the office earlier due to corruption accusations. Another complication, implied by Abbas, was that Hamas had rejected a Palestinian reconciliation agreement with Abbas' party, Fatah, because of Iran.

Palestine Special: All Along Israel’s West Bank Watchtower

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, the whole world is waiting for you to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for talks. When is this finally going to happen?

ABBAS: That depends on Israel. We Palestinians have always said that we are willing to negotiate, but only if Israel stops settlement construction completely and recognizes the 1967 borders.

SPIEGEL: Why are you standing in the way of talks by setting these preconditions?

ABBAS: They aren't preconditions, but steps that are overdue after the first phase of the international roadmap for peace. Unlike Israel, we have met our obligations: We have recognized Israel's right to exist, and we are combating violent Palestinian groups. The Americans, the Europeans and even the Israelis have acknowledged this.

SPIEGEL: At least Netanyahu has ordered a 10-month freeze on settlements, something no other Israeli prime minister has done. Wouldn't it be your turn now to take a step in his direction?

ABBAS: It isn't a real moratorium, because a few thousand housing units are still being built in the West Bank, and Jerusalem is completely exempted from the settlement freeze.

SPIEGEL: You negotiated with Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, even though settlement construction was continuing without restrictions at the time. Aren't you applying a double standard here?

ABBAS: In a way, yes. But I have asked Olmert to freeze settlement construction every time we met. Besides, Barack Obama was elected president of the United States in the interim. In his speech to the Islamic world in Cairo, he called for a complete freeze on settlements. When the American president does this, I cannot accept anything less.

SPIEGEL: But now Obama is only talking about Israeli "restraint" in building settlements. At his request, you even agreed to a symbolic handshake with Netanyahu in New York.

ABBAS: I was initially very optimistic after Obama won the election. His Middle East envoy, George Mitchell, kept coming to us and promised to urge the Israelis to stop settlement construction completely. Mitchell said that the negotiations would only resume after a moratorium. The American government suddenly backed away from this position in September.

SPIEGEL: Are you saying that it's the Americans' fault that things aren't progressing?

ABBAS: Naturally, I'm not pleased with the Americans' change of course. But I will not back down.

SPIEGEL: What do you expect from Obama?

ABBAS: I still hope that he will revive the peace process. At least he has to convince the Israelis to announce a complete freeze on construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem for a few months.

SPIEGEL: Apparently the pressure Obama has exerted on Israel until now hasn't been very effective.

ABBAS: It isn't my job to tell the Americans how to deal with Israel. But they have options. They are, after all, the most powerful country in the world. Obama said that a Palestinian state constitutes a vital American interest. The president is under an obligation to apply all of his energy to achieving peace and the vision of a Palestinian state.

SPIEGEL: Could it be that the real reason for the current standstill is that you don't trust Netanyahu?

ABBAS: What he has said so far, at any rate, leads me to question whether he really wants a solution. He has not expressly accepted the two-state solution.

SPIEGEL: In a speech at Bar-Ilan University in June 2009, Netanyahu said: "If the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state, we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state."

ABBAS: You see, he's the one who is setting preconditions. He declares Jerusalem as the "undivided and eternal capital of the State of Israel." He refuses to discuss the question of Palestinian refugees. And he insists that we accept Israel in advance as a Jewish state.

SPIEGEL: But the principle of the two-state solution must mean that the one state is for the Palestinians and the other is for the Jews. Why do you have a problem with recognizing Israel as a Jewish state?

ABBAS: We recognized the State of Israel within the 1967 borders. Whether it defines itself as a Jewish state, a Hebrew state or a Zionist state is its business. As far as I'm concerned, it can call itself what it pleases. But he cannot force me to agree with this definition.

SPIEGEL: Israel wouldn't be Israel without a Jewish majority.

ABBAS: It is a fact that the majority of the citizens of the State of Israel are Jews. But it isn't within my power to define Israel's character.

SPIEGEL: But with such remarks, you create the suspicion among Israelis that you actually hope to eventually overcome this Jewish majority, particularly when you continue to insist that all Palestinians expelled in 1948 have the right of return.

ABBAS: I understand these concerns. Today, there are 5 million Palestinian refugees. I'm not saying that they all have to return, but we need a fair solution. United Nations Resolution 194 ...

SPIEGEL: ... of Dec. 11, 1948 ...

ABBAS: ... states that those who relinquish their right of return must receive appropriate financial compensation for doing so. In other words, the solution has been on the table for 60 years, so what's the problem?

SPIEGEL: Netanyahu's predecessor Ehud Olmert made you the best offer: The establishment of a Palestinian state on far more than 90 percent of the West Bank, a division of Jerusalem and the return of a few thousand refugees to Israel. Why did you reject it?

ABBAS: I didn't reject it. Olmert resigned from office because of his personal problems.

SPIEGEL: You waited too long. If you had accepted, most Israelis would probably have been willing to ignore the corruption charges against Olmert. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban once said that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity ...

ABBAS: ... to miss an opportunity. Yes, I'm familiar with the quote. But we did seize the opportunity when Olmert was in office. We negotiated very seriously with him. We exchanged maps showing the locations of the borders. Then he left office. His successor Tzipi Livni lost the subsequent election. So where is the opportunity that we missed?

SPIEGEL: If you had accepted Olmert's offer early enough, it would have strengthened those who support the peace process. Instead, you now have to make do with Messrs. Netanyahu and Lieberman.

ABBAS: That's right. We were in a race against time to reach a solution. But I wasn't the one who thwarted an agreement. Olmert resigned from office shortly before the finish line.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, the Palestinian camp is deeply divided. Your Fatah movement was unable to prevent Hamas's violent takeover in the Gaza Strip in 2007. How do you intend to guarantee that the same thing won't happen in the West Bank?

ABBAS: We have complete control over the security apparatus in the West Bank. The situation is 100 percent stabile. We will not allow the same thing to happen in the West Bank that happened in Gaza.

SPIEGEL: As long as Hamas controls Gaza, Israel will never agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

ABBAS: We spent two-and-a-half years conducting a dialogue sponsored by Egypt to seek reconciliation. It culminated in a document that we, representing Fatah, signed on Oct. 15, 2009. To this day, Hamas refuses to sign this document.

SPIEGEL: How can reconciliation be possible between the secular outlook of your Fatah movement and the Islamist worldview of Hamas?

ABBAS: We are a people with different religious and political sentiments. Some are extremely religious, some are strictly secular and others are moderate. But we have been accustomed to living together for the past 60 years. All of these movements exist within the PLO.

SPIEGEL: Would Marwan Barghuti, the hero of the second Intifada, who is imprisoned in Israel, be someone who could bring about reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas?

ABBAS: Marwan Barghuti is part of the leadership of Fatah. He is a member of the central committee of our movement. If he were released, it would be very advantageous for us. But not even Barghuti will be able to bring about reconciliation on his own. There is an external reason why Hamas isn't signing the document.

SPIEGEL: You are referring to Iran.

ABBAS: That's what you said.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, you have announced that you will not run again for the office of president of the Autonomous Authority. Is this an admission that you will no longer be able to make the Palestinian dream of a sovereign state a reality?

ABBAS: That's absolutely correct. The road to a political solution is blocked. For that reason, I see no purpose in remaining president of the Autonomous Authority. And I also have a warning for the world: Do not drive the Palestinians to the point of total hopelessness.
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