Archive for the ‘Hamas’ Category


Let me be clear up front. Hamas is a fundamentalist and repressive group. Their ideology is dangerous and whatever one thinks of their armed resistance, the targeting of civilians is illegal, immoral and reprehensible.
But that doesn’t mean that they should be looked at through a simplistic lens. They have shown a side of their structure that can be pragmatic and flexible. And the reliance of others on their charter is just stupid.
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In this week’s column at Souciant, I do a rundown of the winners and losers in the so-called “Operation Pillar of Defense.” I examine a number of different actors, not just Israel and Hamas, as well as some of the regional implications. Hope you find it interesting.

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In my latest piece for Souciant, I look at Benjamin Netanyahu’s ineffectual “threat” to cut off the negotiations to nowhere with the Palestinian Authority if they reunify with Hamas.

Bibi clearly wants a situation where the US will back an Israeli refusal to continue negotiations, and Hamas joining a unity government gives him that. But in the longer run, that strategy might well backfire and, ironically, offer the best hope we have left for a peaceful resolution that both sides can live with.

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I’ve pasted below the full text of what is, according to the Palestinian National Initiative (Mustafa Barghouti’s organization), the new Palestinian unity agreement. My thanks go to independent journalist Jared Malsin for alerting me to this translation, and to Ma’an News’reporter and English Editor George Hale for the list of signatory organizations.

Palestinians clearly want unity, but will this text bring it?

The translation is rough in some places, and there is a distinct lack of clarity in some areas, making me wonder if the former hasn’t led to some of the latter. But on the whole, this agreement doesn’t say much that hasn’t been reported already. I’ll just make a couple of points.

There is a good deal here about healing the rift that has developed between Gaza and the West Bank. It’s unclear how that can be accomplished while Israel lies between the two territories, and is not likely to be disposed to allowing passage between them. Elections could be a problem as well, although Israel did allow Hamas to campaign in 2005. Still, given that experience, it’s hard to count on such “largesse” again.

There are two passages that seem to be key, but are very vague in their wording.

Section 2 seems to indicate that Hamas is agreeing to allow the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) to continue to be the representative of the Palestinian people in negotiations, primarily of course, with Israel. We should recall that, despite a blurring of the line between the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, the two are different, albeit overlapping, bodies, and the PLO is still the only recognized representative of the Palestinian people (so recognized by Israel, the US and the international community, and at one time by the Palestinian people. Whether this remains true for Palestinians is problematic at best). This is what allows Hamas to straddle the line between dealing with Israel and its refusal to recognize the “Zionist entity.” It would seem this reaffirms Hamas’ stated position of years past that they would abide by an agreement negotiated by Abbas is it was approved by a popular referendum. (more…)

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Many things are going to be overshadowed at least for a few days by the big news of Osama bin Laden’s death. One of them, though in the headlines in Israel, was already getting less attention than it deserved.

The scandalous announcement by Israel’s Minister of Finance, Yuval Steinitz (Likud) that Israel was going to stop payment of taxes levied on behalf of the Palestinians as punishment for the Fatah-Hamas unity dealis nothing short of grand larceny.

Israeli Minister of Finance Yuval Steinitz

On the surface, it might seem to make sense, even if one disagrees with it as a tactic. The argument would be that the PA now encompasses a terrorist organization and Israel would be within its rights to block the funds flowing to that government as they might be diverted for militant uses. After all, doesn’t the US freeze assets of terrorist groups? What’s the difference?

Well, there’s a big difference.

The funds that Israel is withholding are comprised of Value Added Taxes (VAT) and other levies which Israel collects on behalf of the PA, under the Oslo Accords. Sounds like Israel is doing the Palestinians a favor, doesn’t it?

But when you think about how this state of affairs came to be, a different picture emerges.

When Israel took over the West Bank in 1967, it obviously assumed responsibility for basic services in that area. No one was praising the job they did, to be sure, but services were delivered throughout the Occupied Territories. That was the case until 1994.

In that year, the Palestinian National Authority was formed, and the West Bank was divided into four sections: Areas A, B and C and East Jerusalem. Basic civil services in Areas A and B as well as in Gaza were handled by the Palestinian Authority, and this is true to this day.

But the PA’s ability to collect taxes is severely limited. The VAT on imports to the West Bank is collected at Israeli ports. Israel is also supposed to send back the value-added tax that Palestinians pay for Israeli goods, as well as any excise taxes that Palestinians have to pay for fuel, cigarettes, and alcohol. (more…)

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