Excerpted from Arlene Kushner’s blog, Jun. 14, 2017
Intentions may be good, but it’s not always smooth going.
Take this situation, for example:
Israel has been supplying a solid percentage (over 50%) of the electricity that was being used by the people of Gaza. Some additional electrical power was secured via one generator located in Gaza.
And a small additional percentage was provided (rather erratically) by Egypt.
With all of this, Gaza was not receiving electricity 24/7: there were substantial blackout periods.
Until very recently, in accordance with agreements reached when Hamas overthrew Fatah in Gaza in 2007, the Palestinian Authority continued to honor certain responsibilities for what goes on in Gaza. This included payment to Israel for the electricity provided – which is supposed to be taken out of the tax revenues collected by Israel for the PA.
Now the PA has begun doing battle with Hamas over control in Gaza. To that end, Mahmoud Abbas is attempting to substantially weaken Hamas.
About two months ago, the PA began to levy heavy taxes on the fuel it delivered to Hamas for Gaza’s electric generator. Subsequently, Hamas, saying the cost was prohibitive, shut it down. That reduced electricity to four hours a day.
Following this, the PA informed Israel that it was going to cut back by 40% on payments for the electricity supplied by Israel. The PA then specifically requested that Israel cut back on the electricity it delivered by a commensurate amount.
This past Sunday, the Security Cabinet discussed the issue and decided that electric power would be cut back by 40%. This would mean that electric service would be provided to Gaza only some two to three hours a day. It is not clear how this cutback was to proceed – all at once, or in stages.
There are several reasons why the cutback may not be a good idea, but the most compelling is the fact that Abbas is using Israel for his own political ends. We should not be in the middle of a PA-Hamas power play.
I am keenly aware that Abbas is considered the “good guy” here, relatively speaking. But I don’t think there is a “good guy,” even relatively speaking. Abbas is an inciter and promoter of terrorism (more on this below).
Hamas officials have put out a statement saying that the cutback would be “catastrophic and dangerous because it harms all ways of life in Gaza. It will accelerate the deterioration of conditions and cause an explosion in Gaza.”
Some analysts are saying that Abbas is trying to cause the collapse of Hamas, that he hopes the people will finally have had enough.
But Hamas leaders are not the type to tolerate a popular protest. In any event, Hamas will sidestep blame by telling the people that it’s Israel’s fault.
In fact, a representative of the PA, which requested the cutback, is also blaming it on Israel. They certainly don’t wish to be accused of causing suffering to fellow Palestinian Arabs. Said PA spokesperson Youssef Mahmoud:
“The reason behind [the crisis]…is the existence of the Israeli occupation and the siege [of Gaza] that has stricken the Gaza Strip for 10 years. Furthermore, the disastrous [Hamas] coup would not have happened were it not for the existence of the occupation, the siege, and the dismemberment of Palestinian lands.”
There is nothing to do with such statements except shrug them off. But they do provide a signal lesson on what care must be taken in “negotiations” with the Palestinian Arabs. For there is zero integrity.
The real concern is that this whole situation ratchets up the possibility of war with Hamas.
In my last post, writing about the Saudi pressure on Qatar to break with Hamas, I noted that this is likely to make Hamas – which will feel isolated – more volatile. Qatar has been a primary funder of Hamas.
Our defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, declared – after assuming his position in 2016 – that if there were to be another war with Hamas, “this time we’d finish them.” He was contemptuous of the policy of his predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon, who sought to simply contain Hamas, and put together a plan for defeating Hamas.
It is a sure thing, that Abbas is mindful of this.
How convenient for Abbas, then, to promote a situation that might result in Israel fighting his battles for him. If Hamas attacked and we then took Hamas down, he would claim Gaza. Olso had originally allocated this area to the PA.
From that vantage point, he would have greater world prestige, greater leverage in several quarters. He would proclaim that the Palestinian people were now united in one state.
On the back of our war sacrifice.
There are undoubtedly many reasons to take down Hamas, but this, my friends, is not one of them.