SELECTED INSIGHTS ON ISRAEL, WAR, AND THE PLO

BLOG 319 September 19, 2016

The latest from Syria seems to suggest that the fragile four day cease-fire is holding. Fighting did erupt east of Damascus and around the besieged northern city of Aleppo. Rebel forces sparred with Syrian troops over territory around Jabra in the Ghouta area. However, American and Russian diplomats agreed not to let the agreement expire. An usual bit of good news indeed!

Some what of a surprise for the Middle East, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry publically stated that Israel’s actions again Palestinians do not constitute terrorism. He noted there is no evidence to connect Israel to any terrorist organization. Because of the struggles throughout their history, Israel must tighten control their territory as well as border crossings.

Of course, this comment from an Arab government did not sit well with the Hamas terrorist group. Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesperson, said, “He who does not see the crimes of the Zionist occupation as terrorism is blind.” No surprise in that response.

Shoukry’s comments indicate a growing willingness in Egypt for a stronger relationship with Israel.

In the West Bank, politics is starting to heat up. Eighty-one-year old PLO President Mahmoud Abbas has been in office 11 years (in a four-year presidential term) following the death of Yasser Arafat. Because he has judiciously avoided naming a successor, the stage is now set for intense competition for his office and may end in all out violence. Reporting from Ramallah, the West Bank, Ben Lynfield reports that Abbas is widely criticized in Palestinian society for being too accommodating to Israel. On the other hand, Abbas is leading what would be a bankrupt government if it would not for outside financial support. One of the main contenders for office is Marwan Barghouti who is currently serving in Israel five life sentence for murder. Shehadeh Dahlan is another possible contender in a crowded field of hopefuls, including Fatah leader Saeb Erekat. All names worth remembering.

The lack of an election is an outgrowth of the struggle of Fatah with Hamas over the seizure of the Gaza Strip in 2007. Because Abbas won’t name a successor, the possibility of a free for all battle looms on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Hezbollah now centered in Lebanon is having money troubles. Tightening US sanctions have put the squeeze on their finances. The United States passed a law requiring banks not to do business with the Shi’ite political group. Promoted by President Obama and called “The Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015,” it has caused banks all over the world to retreat from the terrorist group. U.S. acting under secretary Adam Szubin of the U.S. Treasury Department said, “the group is in its worst financial shape in decades.” Lebanese banks will not even open accounts to members of parliament and members of Hezbollah families. The screws are tightening.

Is it possible that the pressures for war are lessening? Let’s hope so.

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