Wednesday, May 02, 2007
by Hillel Frisch - Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies
Since the US invasion of Iraq, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran has taken on the behavior of a regional hegemon. Indeed, Ahmadinejad speaks and acts as if he is the new leader of the Third World. Iran is setting itself up as the leader of a Mideast "axis of evil" with radical proxies and allies. An important aspect of the new Iranian "hegemonic" reach is Teheran's growing alliance with Hamas. The marriage between the two dates back to January 2006, when both Iran and the Palestinian Authority (PA) held elections. Under Ahmadinejad, Iran has become an active revisionist state guided by radical religious conviction, while Hamas has captured almost complete control of the PA. This paper analyzes the implications of a radical religious coalition between Iran and Hamas.
Development of Iran-Hamas Ties
Iranian-Hamas relations went through three stages. In the late 1980s, relations between the two were only marginal, principally because Iran's attention was focused elsewhere. Iran's interests were in mobilizing Shiites in the Gulf, in supporting international terror, and in building up Hizballah with a sectarian-flavored radicalism. These actions grated on Hamas – a radical Sunni movement. Hamas also viewed Iranian support for the Jihad al-Islami, a different Palestinian faction, as a threat to its standing in the domestic Palestinian arena.
The second stage began with the invasion of Iraq in 1991 and its subsequent containment. Though US policy spoke of dual containment, the containment policy was imposed far more harshly on Iraq. Iran began to view itself as a potential regional hegemon, if not the leader of the Third World. It was the only regional power that was endowed with both a large population and plentiful natural resources. Even Turkey could not compete with that combination at a time when Egypt, the regional power in the 1960s and 1970s and Iran's natural foe, continued its relative decline under Mubarak. Iran began focusing on increasing state power and control over states guided by radical and fanatical conviction.
This change in Iranian self-perception from a religious Bolshevik revolution into a radical state power, or a Stalinization of Iranian politics, ushered in a new era of a warmer Iran-Hamas relationship. Hamas was invited to Teheran for major events. Iran began supporting the organization financially and Hizballah trained some of the 415 Hamas members, expelled by Israel in 1995 to Marj al-Zuhur, in the art of terrorism. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin repeated the egregious mistake of allowing the repatriation of terrorists, which ushered in a new era of terrorism. New heights of lethalness arose: the advent of the suicide bomber.
Yet even in the 1990s, Hamas was still a minor world player – a movement with an estimated 50 million dollar budget. The PLO-controlled Palestinian Authority stole the international limelight. Hamas' star, increasingly luminous before Oslo, began to dim as the PA took root. Hamas was forced to reduce terrorism significantly in the latter half of the 1990s, culminating in its expulsion from Jordan in 1999 and its bifurcation. Part of the organization was located in relatively distant Damascus (a fate that the PLO had also experienced); while the other branch operated in the West Bank and especially in the Gaza Strip.
During this period (1993 to 2000), Hamas also suffered from limited public support. Palestinian pollsters consistently found that a mere 14-18 percent of the respondents supported Hamas, while double the percentage of respondents supported Fatah. For this reason, Hamas refrained from participating in the Palestinian elections of 1996.
Iran found it far more worthwhile to invest in Hizballah, located in post-Taif agreement Lebanon, rather than Hamas. If it adroitly played its cards right, Iran could possibly dominate a state bordering Israel.
The Transformation of the Iran-Hamas Relationship
Changes on the world stage in the new century transformed the Iran-Hamas relationship for a third time. The 2003 invasion of Iraq, coupled with Palestinian violence since 2000, culminated in an electoral victory for Hamas in January 2006. Palestinian violence, but more critically the death of Arafat and Hamas' realization that it had been beaten by Israeli counterterrorism, caused the group to take the political realist route.
The election victory demonstrated that Hamas, in capturing a quasi-state, could help Iran become the power behind the proxies in its quest for regional hegemony. The new Hamas-led government increasingly gravitated towards Iran, as Iran increasingly cooperated with Hamas.
A Prognosis for the Alliance
Hamas, because it is in a more vulnerable position, is playing a more cautious game. Hamas appreciates the importance of Egypt as a lifeline to Gaza, and is being careful not to overly antagonize Cairo. Thus far, Egypt is cooperating with Hamas despite its alliance with Iran, because Egypt still regards Israel as a major threat, in a classical balance of threat calculation. This relationship could change, however, if Iran's power and Palestinian ties to al Qaeda terrorism in the Sinai, increase. The abduction of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston by groups possibly linked to al Qaeda in March 2007, and their involvement in numerous bombings of internet cafes and Christian centers in Gaza, might result in a change of attitude in Egypt towards the Islamic threat in general and towards Hamas in particular.
Hamas cannot disregard the implications of a potential moderate Sunni state alliance between Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. As Palestinian political analyst Abdullah Hourani recently noted in an issue of Majallat al-Dirasat al-Filastiniyya, Hamas hardly expressed enthusiasm for the Hizballah victory – partially because the triad between Iran, Hizballah and Hamas is characterized by jealousy, as is the case between most power–proxy relationships. The latter usually vie for the attention and benefits that the power has to offer. It is interesting to note that Iranian-Hizballah involvement in terrorism usually occurred with renegade Fatah groups rather than with Hamas.
Hamas also appreciates the value of its unity government with Fatah. Hamas faced the hostility of the nationalist and more secular Palestinian camp (Abbas and Fatah) combined with the opposition of the US, Jordan and Israel – a formidable array of foes. For these reasons, Hamas is wisely keeping open the exit option from the Iranian-Syrian alliance by avoiding the harming of US citizens and interests in Gaza, by refraining from international terror, and by refraining openly from identifying with al Qaeda.
Iran, by contrast, is heading towards disaster as it treads the same road taken by Muhammad Ali in the first half of the nineteenth century, Jamal Abd al-Nasser a century later, and Saddam Hussein in the 1990s. While Iran might have the motivation, it lacks the capabilities necessary to challenge a vastly uneven international playing field, in which power at the center in the past two centuries has only rotated between "northern" players rather than having diversified or spread more evenly. If the Soviet Union caved in to the United States, albeit after a long challenge, Iran, which is both less endowed with human and natural resources, can hardly challenge this basic fact of international life.
What Can Hamas Do?
Sooner or later, Iran will face the brute power of the United States – under either a Republican or Democratic administration, or before or after Teheran acquires the bomb – and the outcome will be all too apparent. By that time, Hamas might decide it better to join the West in negotiating peace, rather than being part of the attempt to beat it, and suffer defeat in return.
To achieve that peace requires a change in Hamas mindset, from a pan-Islamism and pan-Arabism of conquest, to a pan-Arabism of creative opportunity. The basis of this new pan-Arabism might be some form of Jordanian-Palestinian federation which will allow the Palestinians access to the opportunities they could derive from a more friendly relationship with moderate Jordan and the wealthy Gulf States.
At the present moment, the emergence of a more benign, "creative pan-Arabist" Palestinian orientation appears far-fetched. However, after the failures of successive Fatah-dominated governments, a Hamas-dominated government, and the present unity government, coupled with failures on the terror front, Palestinians, including Hamas, might reconsider a different approach, even though this change is hardly inevitable.
Dr. Hillel Frisch, a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and a senior lecturer in political science at Bar-Ilan University, focuses on Palestinian and Arab politics.
Hundreds Graduate From Officers Course
By Amir Kidon, IDF Spokesperson
Hundreds of officers in training, accompanied by their families, filled the IDF Officers School Training Base 1 Parade Field in southern Israel.
The assembly was held in honor of the completion of the Officer Orientation Course and was attended by the Chief Adjutancy Officer, Brigadier General Orna Barbebai, and the Base Commander, Colonel Nadav Paden.
For years, the cadets of the military training base have carried their unit's banner with pride, shoulders erect, head held high, all walking towards the sign proudly reading "Emulate Me." The officers in training read the immortal saying and internalize its significant meaning. "The Officer School prepares its students for the long journey ahead. The magnitude of that journey greatly motivates and guides us. Although, you, the graduates, are leaving the IDF Officer School Training Base 1 today, the school will always remain within your hearts", said the Base Commander, Colonel Paden, to the cadets during the conference.
"I always say that the most talented Israeli youth are found here, in this parade field," said Chief Warrant Officer Yitzchak Taito who is perhaps the figure most identified with the IDF Officers School and who has overseen the education of tens of thousands of officers over forty years time. Although already attending the course's graduation ceremony for many years, Chief Warrant Officer Taito still holds strong feelings for this annual ceremony. "Each officers training course has its specific participants and its specific merit. I still get excited before each and every ceremony. If I didn't, I would start to worry." When asked by a journalist looking for a scoop when he plans on leaving the Officers School, the Major answered with a smile, "That's classified."
Following the ceremony the cadets will be sent to a specialty course where they will learn subjects pertaining to the units in which they will eventually command. This course will last a number of months and upon completion the cadets will receive their officer's ranks.
During the night IDF forces arrested 6 wanted Palestinians in the region of Judea and Samaria, 4 of them are Islamic Jihad terror operatives. Palestinians hurled several explosive devices and opened fire twice at an IDF force operatng in the Jenin R.C. No injuries or damage reported
Wanted "Tanzim" terrorist involved in shooting attacks arrested
A wanted "Tanzim" terrorist, who was involved in numerous shooting attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces in recent years in the area of Ramallah, was arrested this afternoon in a joint IDF, ISA and special Police force operation in the city of Ramallah.
The wanted terrorist is Naji Jamal Nazmi Arar, a 26 year-old resident of the village of Qarawat Bani Zeid, north of Ramallah.
Naji Arar has been hiding out from Israeli forces in several official Palestinian Authority facilities in Ramallah and has been receiving their support and assistance.
An AK-47 assault rifle was uncovered in Arar's vehicle by the force today.
The Israeli security forces will continue to operate in order to arrest
wanted terrorists involved in terrorist activity wherever they are located
at any time.
Source: Security Sources & IDF
A total of some 98 wanted terrorists were arrested this past week in joint operations of the IDF and ISA.
The arrests come as the IDF and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories prepare for the upcoming Christian holidays which take place during the
month of May, St. Joseph the Workman Day, the Ascension and the Pentecost
During this period thousands of Christians from the Judea and Samaria region are expected to visit Holy sites throughout Israel such as Jerusalem, Nazareth, Haifa and Tiberias in order to participate in the various religious ceremonies.
Every effort is being made in order to allow quick, comfortable and efficient passage through the checkpoints for the celebrating Christian population.
* Six wanted Islamic Jihad terrorists were detained by the IDF in the Gaza Strip.
* Seven men suspected of terrorist activity (Islamic Jihad and Tanzim) were arrested at the Jenin refugee camp. During the mission, IDF soldiers were fired upon and explosive devices were hurled in their direction.
* One arrest was made in Kalkilya and another 14 in Shchem where IDF troops found a bomb ready to be sent into an Israeli city. The explosive device was destroyed safely in a controlled explosion by IDF sappers.
* In Ramallah, a number of Hamas and Fatah terrorists were nabbed and in Bethlehem two Islamic Jihad members were caught, three Hamas members and two unafilliated
* Hebron - 23 fugitives were apprehended.
Source: IDF & Security Services
On Monday, April 30, 2007 the Israeli Air Force (IAF) held a massive training exercise in the skies above the country.
The exercise concluded on Tuesday, May 1st 2007.
During the exercise, IAF aircraft were seen flying low, aircraft noise and warning sirens were heard and large numbers of rescue vehicles were seen on the roads near IDF bases. Citizens in affected areas were prepared for the events with notices to prevent panic.
As a part of the implementation of the lessons learned following the second
Lebanon war, the IDF has defined the year 2007 as the year of preparedness
and readiness. As a part of this year's work plan, a series of IDF exercises
are being held, for the purpose of raising the IDF's preparedness and
training the forces for any possible scenario.
The 'Homat Al-Aqsa' ('Al-Aqsa Protectors'); the 'Al-Liwaa As-Saroukhi' ('Missiles brigade'); the Martyr Hassan Al-Madhoun brigade; and the 'As-Sa'iqa Al-Wataniya' ('Homeland Strike Force'), who are all part of the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa brigades, announced in a press conference the formation of a joint operation room in order to respond to the expected Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in a coordinated and forceful fashion. They also declared a state of high and comprehensive alert in all areas.
Many female members of the Al-Aqsa brigades also declared in the press conference their readiness to die for the Palestinian cause. "We will be human bombs and we will explode in the face of the occupation," they warned.
The various armed groups also warned Israel that their retaliation will be "harsh," saying that they "will turn the Strip into a cemetery for the Israeli soldiers if they invade." The factions also said that "there is no truce with the Israeli enemy who only knows the language of rifles."
Jerusalem - Ma'an - Fatah has won the student council elections in Al-Quds University, in Abu Dis east of Jerusalem, on Monday. The Fatah movement won 30 seats in the student council; Hamas won 22 seats; the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) won four; Islamic Jihad won two; the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) two; and the Palestinian National Initiative (PNI) one.
In spite of clashes that erupted between students on Sunday in advance of the elections, in which many students were injured, the university went ahead with the elections.
Fatah spokesman Fahmi Za'arir said that the result of the university elections was evidence that Palestinian students support Fatah's policy.
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The European Union is to pay €21 million (~US $28.5m) in social allowances to Palestinian civilian public service providers through the Temporary International Mechanism (TIM).
The TIM was set up by the European Union in May 2006 to enable donors to continue to present funds to the Palestinian people while bypassing the Palestinian government, which was internationally boycotted following the election victory of Hamas in January 2006. The TIM allowances have been paid to Palestinians since July of last year.
According to a press release from the European Commission office in Jerusalem, more than 77,000 Palestinians will receive NIS 1500 (€270; ~US$367) directly into their bank accounts in this latest allowance. Over a million Palestinians benefit from TIM social allowances, the press release adds.
The press release describes the TIM allowances as "a safety net which enables people to carry on working during the current socio-economic crisis."
The TIM also delivers fuel supplies to hospitals, clinics, waste water and desalination plants, the press release adds.
So far, more than €300 million (~US $407m) have been made available through the TIM. In 2006, EU member states together with the European Commission allocated a total of €700 million (~US $951m) to the Palestinian people.
Hebron – Ma'an – The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the main armed group affiliated to the Fatah movement on Saturday ambushed two cars belonging to Israeli settlers near Mount Hebron in the southern West Bank.
In a statement received by Ma'an, the brigades announced that their resistance fighters targeted the settlers' cars, “and came back safely after injuring and killing settlers”. The statement declared that the operation was in retaliation to Israeli assaults against Palestinian people, “specifically the attempts to transform the Al-Aqsa mosque into a purely Jewish site”.
Ramallah - Ma'an - The European Union has agreed on Friday to contribute €66 million (~US $90m) to UNRWA’s General Fund for 2007.
At a ceremony in Qalandia refugee camp, close to the West Bank city of Ramallah, the head of the European Commission Technical Assistance Office for the West Bank and Gaza Strip (ECTAO), Mr. John Kjaer, and the Deputy Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), Mr. Filippo Grandi, signed the agreement for €66 million in EU funds. This was an increase of €1.5 million compared to the previous year.
According to a press release from the European Union office in Jerusalem, this figure represents the first instalment in an agreement made between the EU and UNRWA in which the EU pledged €264 million (~US $360m) to support UNRWA's General Fund 2007-2010.
The press release says that these funds will pay salaries for UNRWA’s teachers, doctors and social workers, "enabling UNRWA to maintain delivery of essential services to Palestine refugees."
Speaking at the signing, Mr. Kjaer said: “The EU is highly sensitive to the plight of Palestine's refugees. We recognise that they are amongst the most vulnerable at this time of social and economic crisis. UNRWA has been at the forefront of efforts to help alleviate the daily hardships facing Palestine's refugees, and the EU is proud to support UNRWA's work through this increased contribution. “
Representing UNRWA, Mr. Grandi thanked the EU, saying: “UNRWA’s efforts would not be possible without the on-going support of generous and committed donors. Therefore I would like to extend special appreciation to the European Community. The past year has been a period of great need throughout the Palestine refugee community, and the support you have shown today is a symbol of your interest and concern.”
The press release adds that the financial support of the European Union, as a bloc and from individual member states, represents more than half of UNRWA's total budget.
Nablus - Ma'an - The French government has signed an agreement to provide the Palestinian health ministry with €2.74 million (~US $3.72m) to support psychological healthcare in four cities in the occupied West Bank.
These cities are Nablus, Jenin and Hebron and Ramallah.
According to information from the French consulate general in Jerusalem, this project involves renovation and rehabilitation work to existing centres in Nablus and Jenin. In Hebron, the funds will go towards the creation of a "pilot centre" focusing on the mental health of children and adolescents. In Ramallah, an information centre regarding mental healthcare will be built.
At the signing ceremony in the West Bank city of Nablus, Dr. Anan Al-Masri, the undersecretary of the Palestinian ministry of health, thanked the French government for its efforts in helping the Palestinian people.
He added that he hopes that the French aid will continue, especially in developing the Palestinian hospitals. He mentioned in particular his wish for greater support for the field of psychological healthcare in the cities of Bethlehem and Gaza, where there are already two psychiatric hospitals.
The French consul general, Alain Rémy, assured that his country did not stop providing aid to the Palestinians even if its quality changed recently. He mentioned that the French government sent a number of French doctors to train Palestinian medical crews in treating cancer and in psychological healthcare.
The consul promised to study all the Palestinian needs in the health sector.
The agreement was signed in the Palestinian ministry of health office in Nablus, in the north the occupied West Bank, between the French consul general, Alain Rémy, and Dr Anan Al-Masri, from the Palestinian health ministry.
Jenin - Ma'an – The Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Brigades announced responsibility for a roadside bomb attack on an Israeli bulldozer.
The brigades announced that they detonated a roadside bomb when an Israeli bulldozer was passing Jenin refugee camp.
In a telephone interview with Ma'an, the brigades claimed responsibility for the bomb attack, which took place when Israeli forces were attempting to invade the refugee camp on Friday evening.
The brigades added that the bulldozer was directly hit.
Tulkarem - Ma'an - The anti-narcotics police arrested on Wednesday evening a citizen in the Tulkarem governorate in possession a quantity of marijuana and hashish.
Our correspondent in Tulkarem reported quoting security sources that the arrest operation was part of a campaign launched by the anti-narcotics squad in the occupied West Bank under the banner "Operation Rolling Snowball," which aims to 'cleanse' the Palestinian cities and villages in the West Bank from these substances.
Qalqilia – Ma'an – A Palestinian citizen was shot late on Saturday night in Qalqilia, in the West Bank.
27-year-old Mamdouh Abu Shihab was injured when unknown gunmen shot at him while he was in his shop in the Naqqar neighborhood, in the west of the city.
Security sources reported that the man was injured in the stomach and was transported to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) hospital where he is in a stable condition.
Jericho - Ma'an - An armed Palestinian group affiliated to Fatah's military wing, the Al-Aqsa brigades, has claimed responsibility for opening fire at a group of Israeli settlers on the road between Qalqilya and 'Azzun, in the north west of the occupied West Bank, on Tuesday.
The group, who call themselves 'Fursan Al-Aqsa', which means 'Knights of Al-Aqsa', are reported to be from the West Bank city of Jericho.
The Al-Aqsa brigades said in a statement for Ma'an that the Fursan Al-Aqsa group shot at some Israeli settlers travelling in a car near 'Azzun two days ago. The settlers were injured according to the statement.
The Al-Aqsa brigades said that this operation was in response to the Israeli crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Source: Maan News Agency
Regional Bureaus of Arab Boycott of Israel Conference Starts Deliberations
Monday, April 23, 2007 - 02:55 PM
DAMASCUS,(SANA)- The Damascus-based Arab Office for Boycott of Israel (OABI) focused in its Monday's 78th Conference on the important role of such offices which is considered one of the corner stones in the Arab struggle against the Israeli occupation and its daily crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people.
Assistant Secretary General of the Arab League, Mohammad Soboh explained dangers of Israel on the just and comprehensive peace based on the international legitimacy resolutions and the Arab peace initiative approved in Beirut 2002 summit and reaffirmed in Riyadh recent summit.
He praised Syria's important role in defending the Arab rights and embracing and sponsoring the boycott offices due to her keenness to activate role of such offices in resisting the occupation.
General Commissioner of OABI Mohammad al-Tayyeb Bosalla'a reviewed the big challenges and successive threats that the Arab nation exposed to aiming at changing its political, cultural and demographic face and remapping it in a way that serves strategy and interests of some foreign powers particularly Israel.
"Work of the boycott offices constitutes one kind of the existing cooperation between the offices and the Islamic organization to achieve the joint goals in boycotting Israel, "General Commissioner of the Islamic Boycott Office Salem al-Haoni said.
For his part, Director of the Syrian Office for the Boycott of Israel Mohammad al-Ajami said that the boycott constitutes a powerful weapon which has influential effect on the Israeli economy, and is considered a demand by Arab masses in reaction to Israel's policies and its rejection to establish the sought-for just and comprehensive peace in the region.
"The Arab boycott of Israel will remain an influential tool and strong backer to the Palestinian people till the establishment of their independent state with Jerusalem as capital and the restoration of all the occupied Arab territories." He added.
The 4-day conference is attended by Heads and Liaison Officers representing regional offices from 14 Arab states as well as representatives from the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
Source: SANA - Syrian Arab News Agency http://www.sana.org/eng/21/2007/04/23/114675.htm
Myth and Fact: The Arab Boycott of Israel and the Peace Process
By Dr. Mitchell Bard
"The Arab world's commitment to peace is reflected by its abandonment of the boycott against Israel."
The Arab League declared a boycott against the Jews before Israel was established, and most of its members have pursued a diplomatic and economic embargo against the Jewish State since its establishment. The boycott's influence waned after Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel, the Palestinians became engaged in peace negotiations, and several Gulf states started ignoring the blacklist, but it was never abandoned, and several nations, most notably Saudi Arabia, have energetically enforced it for decades.
To give an indication of how entrenched the boycott is within the Arab world, the Bureau for Boycotting Israel held its 72nd conference in April 2004. Representatives from 19 Arab countries met in Syria to discuss tightening the boycott, and blacklisting new companies that do business with the Jewish state.69
To their credit, Mauritania, Egypt and Jordan, which have diplomatic ties with Israel, stayed away from the meeting. The Palestinians, however, did participate, and the head of their delegation, Ali Abo al-Hawa, asked the conference to respond to the Arab public's call for boycotting Israel, particularly in commercial relations. This was a violation of the PLO promise to oppose the boycott made in the September 28, 1995, Joint Declaration of the Washington Summit. It also contradicts the commitment made by Ahmed Korei (now the Palestinian Authority's Prime Minister) in an October 17, 1996, letter to then U.S. Trade. Representative Mickey Kantor: "The PLO and the Palestinian Authority and its successors will support all efforts to end the boycott of Israel and will not enforce any elements of the boycott within the West Bank and Gaza Strip."
Delegates to the conference also wanted to take measures to prevent Israeli companies from trying to penetrate the Iraqi market, but removed the issue from the agenda after the Iraqi delegate, Sabah al-Imam, assured the group, "there is no Israeli activity in Iraq" approved by Iraqi authorities.
The continued effort by most of the Arab world to isolate Israel economically and diplomatically demonstrates that most Arab states are still unwilling to recognize Israel. Until the boycott is terminated, and the Arab League members accept the existence of Israel, the prospects for regional peace will remain dim.
For more on this topic please see Dr. Bard's full article at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Arab_boycott.html
The Galilee Institute is proud to present 50 ways is which you too can combat this boycott by showing your support for Israel: