July 27/14

Bible Quotation for today/The Spirit and Human Nature
Galatians 05 /16-26: " What I say is this: let the Spirit direct your lives, and you will not satisfy the desires of the human nature. For what our human nature wants is opposed to what the Spirit wants, and what the Spirit wants is opposed to what our human nature wants. These two are enemies, and this means that you cannot do what you want to do. 18 If the Spirit leads you, then you are not subject to the Law. What human nature does is quite plain. It shows itself in immoral, filthy, and indecent actions; in worship of idols and witchcraft. People become enemies and they fight; they become jealous, angry, and ambitious. They separate into parties and groups; they are envious, get drunk, have orgies, and do other things like these. I warn you now as I have before: those who do these things will not possess the Kingdom of God. But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives. We must not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another."


Faith Treasure

Question: "What is the Gap Theory? Did anything happen between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2?"


Latest analysis, editorials, studies, reports, letters & Releases from miscellaneous sources published on July 27/14

Lebanon up in the air as Hezbollah flexes muscle/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya/July 27/14

The Israeli Army Knew Gaza Was a Ticking Bomb Before War Broke Out/By Neri Zilber/New Republic/July 27/14

Iran Deal Extension: Analyzing the State Department's Media Note/By: Simon Henderson /Washington Institute/July 27/14

Hamas in Arab Eyes: Few Signs of Revival, Except in West Bank/By: David Pollock /Washington Institute/ July 27/14


Lebanese Related News published on July 27/14

Al-Rahi to Hold Expanded Meeting to Address Threat against Christians in Mosul
Salam Asks for France's Help in Identifying Lebanese Victims' Bodies in Algeria Plane Tragedy

Lebanon condemns world inaction in Gaza, Mosul

Nasrallah's nephew killed in Syria: reports

Nasrallah's nephew killed in Syria: reports

Lebanon police uncover six drug networks

Lebanon taps roots for tourism growth
ISF: Qualification, not nepotism governs recruitment

Qahwaji ahead of Army Day: Military Ready to Protect South, Deploy to Confront Israel

Abou Faour: Parliamentary Elections Won't Be Held Any Time soon

Syrian National Arrested, 6 Cars Seized as Troops Raid Brital

Army Fire at Syrian Jet Raiding Border Region, Hizbullah Seizes Control of Hill near Arsal


Miscellaneous Reports And News published on July 27/14

Israel agrees to extend Gaza truce by four hours
Israel's Operation Protective Edge in Gaza

Hamas spokesperson: We did not agree to extension of cease-fire until midnight

Three more Israeli soldiers dead, bringing toll to 40

Hamas renews rocket fire at Israel after Gaza lull

Understanding the Gaza War

Israel’s Media War

Gaza and the Curse of Half-Finished Wars

ISF: Qualification, not nepotism governs recruitment

Iraq jihadists dynamite Shiite shrine in Mosul


Question: "What is the Gap Theory? Did anything happen between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2?"
Answer: Genesis 1:1–2 states, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The gap theory is the view that God created a fully functional earth with all animals, including the dinosaurs and other creatures we know only from the fossil record. Then, the theory goes, something happened to destroy the earth completely—most likely the fall of Satan to earth—so that the planet became without form and void. At this point, God started all over again, recreating the earth in its paradise form as further described in Genesis. The gap theory, which is distinct from theistic evolution and the day-age theory, is also called old-earth creationism, gap creationism, and the ruin-reconstruction theory.
In young-earth creationism, Genesis 1:1 is seen as a summary of the complete chapter 1 in the Hebrew storytelling form. God created the heavens and the earth. Then verse 2 begins a detailed breakdown of the step-by-step process that verse 1 summarizes. However, the statement that “the earth was formless and empty, [and] darkness was over the surface of the deep” (Genesis 1:2) can be puzzling. The idea that God created a useless and shapeless earth is an uncomfortable position for some conservative theologians, and this leads them to the gap theory, or an old-earth perspective.
According to conservative proponents of the gap theory, Genesis 1:1 describes the original creation of God—perfect in every way. Then, between verses 1 and 2, Satan rebelled in heaven and was cast out. Satan’s sin “ruined” the original creation; that is, his rebellion brought about its destruction and eventual death, and the earth was reduced to its “formless and empty” state, ready for the “re-construction.” The length of time involved—the size of the “gap”—is not specified but could have lasted millions of years.
Of course, Satan must have fallen before Adam did; otherwise, there would have been no temptation in the garden. Young-earth creationists say that Satan fell sometime after Genesis 1:31. Gap creationists say that Satan fell between Genesis 1:1 and 2.
One difficulty of the gap theory is that it requires that creation suffer death and destruction before Adam’s fall. Romans 5:12 says, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” The gap theory counters by positing two worlds. Satan’s sin brought death to the original creation, whatever that was like; and Adam’s sin brought death to the re-creation, the realm of mankind. Through Adam’s sin, evil entered our world and the realm of man was cursed. But rebellion already existed outside the realm of mankind (in the spiritual realm), since Satan and his angels had already fallen (Isaiah 14:12–14; Ezekiel 28:12–18). Sin could not enter the realm of man until man chose it. And Satan, via the serpent, successfully tempted man to make that choice.
Objections to the gap theory include the idea that, if something important had occurred between Genesis 1:1 and 2, God would have told us so, rather than leave us to speculate in ignorance. Also, Genesis 1:31 says God declared His creation to be “very good”—a statement difficult to square with the theory that evil already existed because of Satan’s fall in the “gap.”
It is possible to hold to a literal, six-day creation week and still hold to the gap theory—the gap theory does not require evolution to be true, since the gap falls before the events of Day One in Genesis 1:3. And that’s why some conservative scholars do believe the gap theory, although its acceptance has waned since the days of proponents C. I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee.
However, many of those who hold to the gap theory do so in order to reconcile old-earth, evolutionary theories with the book of Genesis. But it seems to be a strained reconciliation. The plain reading of Genesis 1 does not at all intimate a length of time between the first two verses. Genesis 1:1 tells us that God created the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:2 informs us that, when He first created the earth, it was formless, empty, and dark; it was unfinished and uninhabited. The rest of Genesis 1 relates how God completed the formless, empty, and dark earth by filling it with life, beauty, and goodness.
Recommended Resources: The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel and Logos Bible Software.


Al-Rahi to Hold Expanded Meeting to Address Threat against Christians in Mosul
by Naharnet/An expanded meeting aimed at tackling the persecution of Christians in the Iraqi city of Mosul will be held at the summer seat of the Maronite Patriarchate in Diman in August, reported As Safir newspaper on Saturday. Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi will chair the meeting scheduled for August 7, revealed Bishop Boulos Sayyah to the Central News Agency. “Lebanon and the Church are concerned with the situation in Mosul,” he stressed. He also revealed that the patriarchate carried out a series of contacts to hold the meeting, explaining that the delay in staging it was due to some bishops' presence abroad. Hundreds of Christian families fled their homes in Mosul after the jihadist Islamic State threatened them to convert to Islam, pay a special tax or leave.


Hariri hopes Lebanon, region see better days
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri congratulated the Lebanese on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, expressing hope that Lebanon would see better days. “[I hope] that by the next [Eid], Lebanon would have overcome the stage of anxiety and the vacancy in the presidency, and would enjoy more security and stability,” Hariri said in a statement. He also hoped that Lebanese come together for the highest national interest of Lebanon. The Future Movement leader expressed “his utmost sadness because this year’s Eid coincides with the continuing brutal Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, emphasizing his full solidarity with the Palestinian people,” so that they could end the aggression and be able to live in dignity. Hariri also hoped that the suffering of the Syrian people due to the bloody practices of President Bashar Assad would end, that the Iraqi people would be able to overcome their crises and restore their unity based on partnership among all its components, and that security and stability would prevail in all Arab nations


Qahwaji ahead of Army Day: Military Ready to Protect South, Deploy to Confront Israel
Naharnet/Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji stressed on Saturday the military's readiness to protect Lebanon against local and foreign threats. He emphasized ahead of Army Day that the army is prepared to protect Lebanon's southern border and deploy to confront Israel. Army Day falls on August 1.Qahwaji added that the dangerousness of the situation requires diligence in order to preserve the role of the army and protect Lebanon's “unique identity.”He also called on officers to remain “loyal to the nation and avoid getting embroiled in sectarian disputes.”Furthermore, he hailed the implementation of the security plan adopted in April in the northern city of Tripoli, saying that it helped restore calm and stability there. The plan, carried out by the army and security forces, is aimed at cracking down on armed groups and gunmen that have created instability in Tripoli in recent years. Dozens of suspects have been arrested, while others remain at large. A similar plan was adopted in the eastern Bekaa region, while another one will be carried out in Beirut.


Nasrallah's nephew killed in Syria: reports
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Hezbollah Chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah's nephew was killed in Syria during battles with rebel groups, media reports said Saturday. The resistance group issued a statement, saying Hamzah Yassine from the southern town of Abbasieh was killed while performing his "Jihadist duty defending Holy sites."Local media reports including Al-Mustaqbal newspaper said Yassine was the son of Nasrallah's sister. Hezbollah, alongside regime troops, have been engaged in fierce battles with rebel groups including Nusra Front in Syria and along Lebanon's border since May of last year, when the party announced its military role in the war-torn country. On Friday, a Syrian jet strike on the border with Lebanon killed around 20 Syrian rebel fighters, security sources told Reuters. The strike hit just inside Lebanese territory in a barren area east of the town of Arsal. Syrian rebel fighters have frequently crossed into Arsal, a Sunni Muslim town where residents have often been sympathetic to fighters trying to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is from Syria's Alawite minority.


Lebanon police uncover six drug networks
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Police said Saturday that they uncovered six drug trafficking networks specialized in smuggling Captagon pills abroad, arresting seven persons involved. On July 20, Airport security foiled an attempt to smuggle 15 kilograms of Captagon pills -- around 8,200 pills -- into an unspecified Arab country. The pills were stashed in the bag of a 26-year-old Syrian man, identified by his initials as A.D. Interrogation of the detainee lead police to uncover six networks operating in Lebanon that were comprised of 35 people, the Internal Security Forces said in a statement.
Police were also able to identify means used to manufacture and stash the pills, saying the suspects used a “high level of professionalism" to smuggle the drugs. The drugs were placed in either handbags or envelopes set to be transported abroad, the statement said. The detainee told police about the locations of six members of the networks, who security agencies were able to arrest during separate raids. They were identified as five Lebanese and one Syrian. Police confiscated 3.4 kilograms of Captagon pills during the raids on the suspects' locations.
Authorities in Lebanon are coordinating with other countries to identify further members of the networks.

Salam Asks for France's Help in Identifying Lebanese Victims' Bodies in Algeria Plane Tragedy
Naharnet/The cabinet followed-up Saturday on the doomed Algerian plane's tragedy, as Prime Minister Tammam Salam contacted French President Francois Hollande to request help in identifying the bodies of the 19 Lebanese victims. The state-run National News Agency said Salam telephoned Hollande on Saturday to offer his condolences over the death of tens of French nationals in the ill-fated plane. "Salam requested France's help in identifying the bodies of the Lebanese victims before transferring them to Lebanon,” the NNA added.
The French leader also offered his condolences to the Premier, assuring his country's “full readiness to ease” the transfer of Lebanese passengers' bodies.
Hollande noted that victims' bodies will be transferred in the coming days, after the release of the DNA tests' results.Salam also discussed the cabinet's efforts in this regard with Speaker Nabih Berri, and both statesmen agreed on the necessity to speed up the travel process of a Lebanese delegation to Mali, where the Algerian plane crashed, to follow-up on the investigation and launch the required procedures to identify the bodies. Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil, meanwhile, contacted his French counterpart Laurent Fabius and shared with him procedures taken by the ministry in this respect.
Bassil thanked the Malian FM on his country's efforts in facilitating the access of emergency units to the crash site, and telephoned officials in Burkina Faso and Algeria over the matter. Officials assured Bassil that is was unlikely that the crash was caused by a terrorist act, remarking that it might have been due to a technical failure or to a sand storm. Experts had taken DNA samples from the Lebanese victims' families before leaving Beirut, in order to compare them with human remains found at the crash site in Mali. France bore the brunt of the disaster, with some 54 French citizens among the overall death toll of between 116 and 118, according to unexplained conflicting figures given by the carrier and French authorities.Travelers from Burkina Faso, Algeria, Spain, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg also died in the crash.French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said weather conditions appeared to be the most likely cause of the accident -- the worst air tragedy for French nationals since the crash of the Air France A330 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris in June 2009.But Hollande insisted that no potential cause for the accident was being ruled out. The wreckage of the McDonnell Douglas 83 plane, operated by Spanish charter firm Swiftair on behalf of Air Algerie, was located 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the Burkina Faso border in Mali's Gossi region.

Abou Faour: Parliamentary Elections Won't Be Held Any Time soon
Naharnet/Health Minister Wael Abou Faour revealed that discussions are underway over extending the term of parliament for a second time, reported An Nahar daily on Saturday. He told the daily: “It does not seem that the parliamentary elections will be held any time soon.” The Progressive Socialist Party official said however that the party supports holding elections on time, “everyone knows though that there are no possibilities to stage them.”An Nahar noted however that efforts have been underway recently to hold the parliamentary elections. Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq is leaning towards calling the electoral bodies to stage the polls before November 20, it added. In May 2013, parliament voted to extend its term, consequently postponing parliamentary elections that were scheduled for June of that same year. Both pro- and anti-Syrian blocs, except for the Change and Reform bloc, agreed to the 17-month extension, which was prompted by deteriorating security conditions related to Syria's turmoil and lawmakers' failure to agree on a parliamentary electoral law. The decision marked the first time that parliament has had to extend its term since the country's own 15-year civil war ended in 1990 and underlines the growing turmoil in Lebanon spilling over from the conflict in its neighbor.

Lebanon condemns world inaction in Gaza, Mosul
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Lebanese lawmakers Saturday urged the international community to take immediate action to protect Christians in Iraq’s Mosul and put an end to Israel’s brutal aggression against civilians in Gaza, stressing on Arab and Muslim unity in the face of rising extremism.
In a rare session for lawmakers -- who have been at loggerheads over attending Parliament sessions altogether -- Speaker Nabih Berri convened a meeting in the General Assembly to express Lebanon’s solidarity with Gaza and Christians in Iraq.
The exceptional session witnessed brief speeches by lawmakers representing their parliamentary blocs, highlighting engrained divisions among political groups even when they come together for a single cause.
Prime Minister Tammam Salam took advantage of the afternoon session to reflect on his country’s own problems -- primarily its ailing institutions -- calling on lawmakers to end the vacuum in the presidency, “the only Christian, governing post in the region.”
"I call on all political and parliamentary forces to fill the vacuum in the presidency and elect a new president, who is the only Christian president in the Arab world,” he said.
“We are not neutral when it comes to the aggression faced by the Palestinian people and we announced our full solidarity with them ... and we ask the United Nations to end its shortfall and the series of wars on Gaza that contradicts all international resolutions."
"In Lebanon ... we seek sectarian diversity because it is the only thing that characterizes Lebanon with its uniqueness.”
At the end of the two-hour session, the speaker stood and read the final statement, which expressed solidarity with Gaza and its resistance against “Israel crimes that did not even spare women, children and the elderly; a blatant violation against the right of life.”
“The Lebanese Parliament demands the release of Palestinian prisoners, particularly Speaker Aziz Douek and Marwan Barghouti ... and demands quick measures to put Israeli government officials on trial as war criminals.”
“The Parliament also asks for the establishment of a Higher Arab Council to rebuild Gaza and contribute to construction efforts,” the statement read.
While deploring ISIS action against Christians, Berri said Lebanon’s Parliament demanded the U.N. Security Council put an end to this "organized crime," and return those who were forced to flee.
He also called on the Security Council and Muslim religious institutions to swiftly work on curbing the rise of radical groups.
The first to speak was Head of the Change and Reform bloc MP Michel Aoun who questioned the international silence and inaction with regards to discrimination against Christians in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul and events in Gaza, urging the U.N. Security Council to protect the minority group and keep them in their land.
“Where is the Security Council and the powers with their vetoes? Gaza children follow those of Qana and Jerusalem and the sword remains the same,” Aoun said.
“Where are the countries that have held up the slogan of human rights from the forced migration of Christians and the destruction of churches? Will their powerful intelligence tell us who is funding those radical groups killing in the name of religion?”
“We see a conspiracy in this silence. This is a war of eradication and silence is merely a crime against humanity.”
“We ask the U.N. Security Council to establish a safe zone for Iraqi Christians so that they would remain in their land and prevent their migration ... and end the siege on Gaza.”
Future bloc head MP Fouad Siniora also took the podium and called for an “Islamic renaissance” and cooperation between Muslims and Christians in the region to confront the rising phenomenon of extremism. “We should create solidarity between Christians and Muslims to face radicalism regardless of the price and the sacrifices ... such extremism dismantles societies and countries and leaves us hostage to oppressors,” Siniora said.
“We should also work on an Islamic renaissance that would offer a moderate vision and thinking of Islam that would deal a heavy blow to extremist ideologies ... and reestablish religious institutions that could, along with families, play a role in teaching openness.”
The former prime minister also said Arab countries must work to build sound governing systems that would offer their citizens “justice and rule of law,” commending Lebanon’s own National Pact of power-sharing. “We need to end this deadly division between us ... we need to recognize the need to end interference in regional issues in Syria and Iraq, which only involved Lebanese and opened doors of deep disputes.”“Our only salvation lies within the state and its institutions rather than militias.”
Speaking on behalf of Hezbollah, Loyalty to the Resistance MP Ali Fayyad said the Israel remained a threat not only to Palestinians but also to Lebanon, saying the resistance group would remain committed to its role against the Jewish state. “This Israeli threat still exists against Lebanon and Israel can at any time destroy houses and hospitals just like it’s doing in Gaza,” he said, praising the resistance for changing the rules of the engagement in their favor in its conflict with Israel. “We call on all Lebanese and Arab forces to unite in the face of two dangers: Israel and ISIS ... regardless of our differences because our political disputes fade when faced with these two dangers.”“We were and we shall remain, where we can, committed to our role in defending the Arab community ... while we are also committed to partnership with our Christian brethren, the sons of this land and the contributors of its culture and heritage.”


Lebanon up in the air as Hezbollah flexes muscle

By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Al Arabiya
Saturday, 26 July 2014
One of the few mentionable merits of Lebanese politics—compared to the situation in neighboring Arab countries—is that everything is exposed. The Lebanese people have now grown accustomed to believing in conspiracy theories, even when there are no conspiracies. The advances made by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in western and northern Iraq, leading to the occupation of Mosul, the displacement of the Christian population in the area and the declaration of a caliphate, have had remarkable consequences on the political scene in Lebanon.
To begin with, Lebanon has found itself embroiled, against its will, in the conflict Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, is using to serve his project in Syria, which in turn is part of a more dangerous and larger-scale regional project. As the larger project is imposed from above, allowing no room for hesitation or objections, if any exist, a key Lebanese side—Hezbollah—has also become involved in the Syrian conflict. Its public involvement came, as we all remember, under a varied range of pretexts. The first pretext was that it was “defending villages inhabited by Lebanese nationals” on the Syrian side of the northern and northeastern border. When that task was accomplished, the second pretext emerged. This time it was “defending holy Shiite shrines,” and with it the scope of intervention widened to cover towns in Aleppo and Idlib provinces.
‘Holy war’ turns defensive
Next, the “holy” war morphed into a defensive, preemptive and necessary war based on the premise of pushing back against “takfirist” groups that posed a threat to Lebanon’s national security. The scope of operations expanded to include the Qalamoun Mountains in Rif Dimashq province. On the ground, this resulted in what was practically a siege of the Sunni Lebanese town of Arsal and of a few other towns and villages in the northern Beqaa, home to tens of thousands of mainly Sunni Syrian refugees.
“The Syrian conflict has exposed like never before Hezbollah’s true identity, the nature of its allegiances and priorities”
Eyad Abu Shakra
Lebanon’s written constitution enshrines religious and sectarian diversity. The Lebanese, therefore, cannot be content with polite but empty and unreliable slogans regarding “self-distancing” from the Syrian crisis when Hezbollah is publicly fighting alongside Syrian government troops. In my view, the sectarian Assad regime has long claimed, to the point of exhaustion, to be secularist. However, had the Syrian regime really been secular, no popular uprising would have erupted against its injustices in the first place. This is, of course, before the uprising was indeed hijacked by sectarian-minded forces and taken off track. In the process, the entire situation has become a prelude for a long episode of strife that was awaiting the region.
Confronting Hezbollah
Today, the Lebanese authorities are too weak to confront Hezbollah with the truth, at least by means of citing the constitution and international law. Even if we were to accept that Hezbollah’s slogans of “resistance” had noble purposes, many in Lebanon no longer deem the militia to be a legitimate political entity. Regardless of whether the term “resistance” is still valid or not, the Lebanese state has become the weaker partner in an imbalanced domestic equation since Hezbollah’s decision to fight the 2006 war with Israel without the sanction of the government. Moreover, Hezbollah has directed its weapons towards Lebanon with the aim of settling political scores, and is still insisting on keeping its weapons based on a national consensus that no longer exists.
Thus, while Syria is being torn apart, Iraq is bleeding and Israel is keen on destroying and delegitimizing the Palestinian Authority through its new war on Gaza, Lebanon fears that the worst is yet to come. The Syrian conflict has exposed like never before Hezbollah’s true identity, the nature of its allegiances and priorities and the role it was founded to perform—namely, furthering the interests of a project much larger than Lebanon.
Meanwhile, the suspicious pace at which ISIS managed to spread across Iraq and eastern Syria, and then its eviction of Iraqi Christians—a step unprecedented in the Middle East’s modern history—under the guise of bogus Islamic slogans, suggests that the condition of Christians in the region requires further contemplation and analysis.
Today, we are also witnessing a new tragedy unfolding in Gaza, which I presume is not a matter of coincidence. Wars are not fought pointlessly without political purpose. Indeed, the current Israeli leadership has been publicly opposed to the settlement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Thus, undermining the Palestinian Authority is at the crux of Israeli interests. Any long-term truce agreement between Israel and Hamas, which, in turn, would declare a glorious “victory” like the one announced by Hezbollah in 2006, may prove to be a fatal blow to the Palestinian Authority.
Lebanon’s Palestinian refugees
The possible collapse of the Palestinian Authority, along with Hamas’s declaration of “victory,” will also probably be echoed in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps, particularly the Ain Al-Hilweh refugee camp in Sidon, the largest predominantly Sunni city in the Shiite-majority south. The sparks of what happened in Mosul and the surrounding Christian towns in Iraq after the attacks on the Christian towns of Syria, such as Maaloula, will also have a negative impact on the political scene in Lebanon. On top of that, the state of polarization between Sunnis and Shiites in the region has already done its damage as far as the Lebanese scene is concerned, producing radical militancy in the country. This includes the emergence of Sheikh Ahmad Al-Assir in Sidon, the multiple militant groups in Tripoli, the capital of the north, and the possibility of Beirut turning into an Islamist breeding ground.
Ignoring the problem will not solve it, and the time for polite, kind words has long passed. Sunni moderation as represented by the Future Movement, despite its political indecision, needs to be met halfway by the Shiite side. This is particularly important, since I believe some of the Christians who are affiliated with the Tehran–Damascus axis are pressing ahead with their suicidal march into the abyss.
The leader of the Future Movement, Saad al-Hariri, last week launched a road map in which he suggested immunizing Lebanon by electing the President of the Republic. With Hezbollah’s known position, it was its Christian lackeys who rushed to reject the initiative, which they interpreted in accordance with their deep commitment to the anti-Sunni “alliance of minorities.” All the signs indicate that the situation in Lebanon is, once again, up in the air.

Hamas in Arab Eyes: Few Signs of Revival, Except in West Bank
By: David Pollock /Washington Institute
Poll data and other evidence point to potential openings for promoting a ceasefire that will help the Palestinian people, not Hamas. Any assessment of Hamas's current popularity or political power is by nature tentative and anecdotal, given that hard data is rare and the crisis is still ongoing. But the available bits of evidence -- whether from polling, interviews, media coverage, commentary, or official statements -- strongly suggest several revealing trends.The point of departure must be credible polling data. Most such data is from shortly before or at the start of this crisis, and so is not fully up to date. Even so, it shows unequivocally that Hamas was at a very low point among Arabs: in Egypt, in Jordan, in Lebanon, among Israeli Arabs, and especially in Gaza. In all those places, according to a spring Pew poll, a clear majority (except among Lebanese Shiites) had an unfavorable view of Hamas. So too, remarkably, did 80 percent of Turks, despite their prime minister's vociferous backing of the group.
Similarly, according to a credible Palestinian poll taken June 15-17, Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Mashal together received a grand total of 15 percent support among Gazans, while 70 percent wanted the group to maintain a ceasefire with Israel. Some assume that Hamas's current offensive has restored its lost popularity on the Arab street, but there is little evidence to support that claim -- except in the West Bank. In that territory, according to another credible Palestinian poll taken by the Ramallah-based Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) on July 19-21, Hamas popularity has risen substantially -- 85 percent now approve its "role in the current conflict." Some Palestinian and Israeli analysts credit this shift in sentiment for the Palestinian Authority's tone this week, with President Mahmoud Abbas's July 22 speech and an accompanying PA leadership statement both endorsing many Hamas demands. Still, even now, only 31 percent of West Bankers say their overall political affiliation is with Hamas. And more of them support (51 percent) than oppose (44 percent) an immediate ceasefire, contrary to the Hamas position.
Inside Gaza, too, "man on the street" interviews in Arab and Western media predominantly show widespread desire for a ceasefire, with little expressed support for Hamas. Some Gazans are also voting with their feet. According to one openly empathetic Arab correspondent there, writing in al-Monitor on July 15, "Hundreds of families completely ignore calls by the Interior stay in their homes." By now the number seeking shelter in UN facilities is reportedly approaching 100,000. To be sure, the majority of Gazans remain in place, but more likely due to fear, fatalism, or lack of better options than to solidarity with Hamas. More broadly, Arab media commentary is very sympathetic to Palestinian civilians, critical of Israel, and occasionally impressed by Hamas rockets. And such criticism of Israel -- from Arab and international sources alike -- will presumably build the longer the operation continues (read a companion piece surveying Gaza demonstrations around the world). On the whole, however, Arab commentary is not notably supportive of Hamas itself, either as a political movement or as an Islamic organization. Some of this spin reflects the larger Egyptian, Saudi, and Emirati establishment's hostility toward the Muslim Brotherhood and its offshoots. And many Arabs are distracted or preoccupied by other crises closer to home. As prominent Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib told the Financial Times yesterday, "There are problems no less important than Gaza, whether in Syria, Iraq, or Libya...[and] for the first time, Gaza is caught up in a regional power struggle, particularly between Egypt and Qatar."
In the diplomatic arena, the Egyptian, Tunisian, and Saudi ambassadors to the UN, among others, have spoken adamantly in the past few days about Israel's responsibility for the fate of Gaza's civilian population. Yet they did not offer corresponding support to Hamas. And official Arab statements from the Arab League and many individual governments, including the PA, have steadfastly supported an immediate ceasefire -- despite strenuous, albeit apparently weakening, Hamas objections. Some governments, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are offering humanitarian assistance to Gaza -- but again, not directly to Hamas. For U.S. diplomacy, this new center of gravity in Arab politics holds the potential to promote a ceasefire that can help the Palestinian people, but not the Hamas terrorist organization.
**David Pollock is the Kaufman Fellow at The Washington Institute and director of Fikra Forum.

Palestine and Israel – arsenals of swords and words
Saturday, 26 July 2014
Hisham Melhem/Al Arabiya

In wars and armed conflicts, words and metaphors form the other side of the physical arsenal warring parties employ in their battles. Language is one of the most malleable, elastic products ever produced by civilization. And while both the mighty and the weak manipulate words and metaphors, the use and abuse of language in the hands of powerful entities that control various institutions and communication networks can be at times the decisive factor in who wins and who loses
We owe a great debt of gratitude to George Orwell and his intellectual descendants for showing us how the powerful, yet despotic, regimes and totalitarian ideologies and even democratic governments, have used debased language as a formidable weapon in their arsenal.
Arsenals of words and metaphors
Arabs and Israelis have had their own distinctive arsenals of words and metaphors; from the moment Israel was established as a state in historic Palestine, which was Yawm al-Nakba (day of catastrophe) for the Palestinians and the (war of independence) for the Israelis. Every time Arabs and Israelis engaged in fighting they would dust these arsenals off and upgrade them, usually with further debasement of language, in what seems to be an equally tough and endless clash of narratives. In the current conflict, Israelis find themselves struggling to frame a convincing narrative in the face of a sceptic American and international media, unable to stem a tsunami of critical social media that is complimenting, competing and enhancing the old, so-called establishment media. This is the first time, reporters, journalists and photographers working for mainstream American media have used their tweets, hashtags and Facebook posts not only to elaborate, and explain their dispatches and photographs, but also to express their personal views, feelings and impressions about an uneven fight and the horrendous human toll among civilian Palestinians, particularly children.
“Israel is compelled to pay periodic military visits to Gaza to keep the “grass” under control”
Hisham Melhem
It is true that normal life in Israel has been disrupted, and Hamas’ indiscriminate rockets have terrorized Israeli civilians, and the media covered that side as it should, but the coverage also noted that there is no symmetry in shattered lives and dreams, in destroyed homes, and civilians killed. That reality was the core message of the social media, as was reflected in the tweets and instagram posts of American and other international reporters covering the fighting.
The past is not a prologue
In past conflicts, Israelis were more adept at using their linguistic arsenal, particularly when addressing the West. With the conflict shifting from one among states, to a war pitting Israel against the Palestinians (first against the Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], when it was based in Jordan and Lebanon, and later Hamas in Gaza, Israel began to lose its ability to manufacture attractive and convincing metaphors, concepts and myths in its anti-Palestinian propaganda. The Israeli sheen began to fade away in 1982 during the invasion of Lebanon, when “imperial” Israel as then NBC anchor John Chancellor called it, laid siege to Beirut, pulverized parts of the city, and facilitated the massacre of Palestinians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Israel provided the intelligence and the logistics, and its soldiers besieging the camps fired flares at night to help the slaughter.
Stung by international revulsion, Israel began to build an ambitious Public Relations infrastructure, the Hasbara Project, to influence and cultivate international media to ensure good coverage, particularly in the United States. The project included programs to train Israeli diplomats and propagandists on how to use and manipulate language to frame issues in simple and attractive concepts and sound bites. In this clash of narratives, some metaphors, terms and concepts don’t lose their usefulness. One hears echoes of Israeli officials circa 1982 when one listens to senior members in the current Israeli government talking about the imperative of destroying “Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure” in Gaza or accusations of the use of “human shields.” In the past, journalists with thin knowledge of cultural-religious nuances were influenced by the way Israelis framed and conceptualized the issues, where they borrowed uncritically Israeli terms and paradigms. In this Orwellian world, assassinations become “targeted killings” and ethnic cleansing becomes “transfers.” And while Israeli framing of issues is still working with some journalists, columnists and U.S. government officials, this time more than before the agony of Gaza is seen through Palestinian prism.
‘Mowing the grass’
Israel’s repeated military attacks on Gaza is explained by the offensive term “mowing the grass”, that is to insure deterrence; Israel is compelled to pay periodic military visits to Gaza to keep the “grass” under control. Israel, of course does not have a monopoly on offensive language, and Hamas while being subjected to overwhelming force was still able to reach thousands of Israelis through their cell phones to taunt them; “We forced you to hide in shelters like mice”; to which an Israeli video answered back saying “we are killing Gaza” according to a dispatch by the New York Times.
But as reports of Palestinian civilian deaths (at this time of writing are close to 900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 37 Israelis, most of them soldiers) and the enormous physical destruction was seen around the world, many people took to the social media - some to express themselves, others to attack and spread unreliable information or engage in propaganda.
But the heavy use of social media was worrisome to Israel, since much of it was sympathetic to the Palestinians. As of this writing the hashtag #GazaUnderAttack has generated four million Twitter posts, while the hashtag #IsraelUnderAttack has garnered about 200,000 posts only.
Gaza as an internment camp
In general, the coverage of the international media, including American organizations such as the New York Times, CNN International and the other U.S. television networks, particularly NBC gave the world a sense and a feel of life. One of the absurdities of this conflict is equating a powerful state with a sliver of land controlled by a non-state actor that is unable to provide good and effective governance and that is shunned by most states in the region and beyond. Yet, it is Israel that controls the skies and the coastline, and (with Egypt) its land borders.
According to Nathan Thrall, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, the war was not triggered by Hamas, but by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s determination to bring down the Palestinian unity government, that was formed in June “because of Hamas’ desperation and isolation.”
The terms of the unity government were set mostly by the Palestinian Authority, and the cabinet did not include a single Hamas member. According to Thrall the failure of the U.S. and its European and Arab allies to address the two demands of Hamas; payment of the salaries of 43,000 civil servants and opening of the suffocating border crossings led to the current tragic situation. Thrall believes that “Hamas is now seeking through violence what it could not obtain through a peaceful hand over of responsibilities.” Israel’s objective is “a return to the status quo ante, when Gaza had electricity for barely 8 hours a day, water was undrinkable, sewage was dumped in the sea, fuel shortages caused sanitation plants to shut down and waste sometimes floated in the streets.”
‘Telegenically dead Palestinians…’
Some especially tragic moments and searing scenes were captured by some intrepid American and European journalists that helped shape and frame the agony of Gaza in ways that undermined the Israeli narrative. Some tweets are as powerful as graphic photos. One tweet by the correspondent of the Guardian in Gaza Peter Beaumont stood out: “I’ve seen some truly shocking scenes this morning. A man putting the remains of his two year old son into a garbage bag.” There were thousands of retweets.
The killing of four Palestinian preteens by Israeli gunboats moments after they were playing soccer with Journalists, including NBC’s ace reporter Ayman Mohyeldin on the beach, then the bloodiest day, so far when 67 Palestinians were killed in the East Gaza city neighborhood of Shujaiya, followed by the killing of 16 Palestinians at a United Nations shelter. The account by the New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks of the death of the four preteens, plus the reports and tweets of Ayman Mohyeldin, the excellent reports and tweets of the New York Times bureau chief in Lebanon Anne Barnard (who wrote a heart wrenching dispatch about the slow death of a nameless nine-year-old girl) led to the offensive outburst of Netanyahu in an interview with CNN that Hamas uses “telegenically dead Palestinians for their cause.” For Netanyahu, the mangled bodies of hundreds of children have turned suddenly telegenic and capable of generating international sympathy with Hamas.
The case of Ayman Mohyeldin and the power of the social media are instructive in explaining Israel’s predicament and the difficulties of controlling the message in a rapidly changing media landscape. After his report about the killing of the four boys and his tweet that he was playing soccer with them, Mohyeldin was pulled out from Gaza by NBC executives ostensibly for “security” reasons. The move created consternation inside NBC and was interpreted by many as an attempt to assure Israel that its reporting is not too sympathetic to the Palestinians. Immediately, thousands took to the social media with the hashtag #LetAymanReport trending widely on twitter. Shortly after the social media protests, NBC returned Mohyeldin to Gaza. The smart and newly empowered young reporter tweeted “thanks for all the support. I’m returning to #Gaza to report. Proud of NBC’s continued commitment to cover the #Palestinian side of the story.”
‘Israel is under siege by a terrorist organization’
From the beginning of the Israeli attack, U.S. officials from President Obama on down repeated in a ritualistic fashion Israeli claims and terms at time almost verbatim: Israel has the right to defend itself from missiles and rockets fired from outside of its borders, without any hint that the concept of self-defense becomes a bit murky when the party supposedly defending itself is doing so against a besieged and/or occupied party and across a non-recognized border. Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry, a loquacious man created an Orwellian moment followed by an embarrassing moment of candor.
Before an interview on Fox television, Kerry was overheard talking to an aide on the phone expressing his frustration at Israel’s use of disproportionate force and mocking their claim to precision bombing: “It’s a hell of a pinpoint operation..” he said. Moments later on the air, there was a different chastened and loudly pro-Israel Kerry. The Orwellian moment came during an earlier CNN interview when Kerry volunteered that “Israel is under siege by a terrorist organization…” That was the day the irony died in Washington.
A Palestinian-Israeli civil war?
With each conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis, the alienation between the two sides gets deeper and wider, with a growing number of people from both communities willing to engage in demonizing the other. Hamas certainly is not innocent politically and operationally. Even, if one allows (with difficulty) for constraints imposed by the nature of urban warfare, that whatever precautions Hamas takes to insulate the Palestinians will not be enough given the small size of the strip and its dense population, still firing rockets indiscriminately against urban Israeli centers and not building shelters for civilians, and not doing enough to protect Palestinians from inevitable Israeli attacks, is reckless in the extreme. It is worth repeating in this context that the deliberate killing of civilians, any civilians, is morally repugnant and politically indefensible. No cause justifies such actions.
The prospects for a political solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict are bleak for the foreseeable future. The passage of time will harden attitudes, with both peoples moving to the right, or becoming more religiously entrenched. It is very likely, that the struggle will take a different shape and become more communal involving all the Palestinians and Israelis in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, in an open civil war similar to those raging in the neighborhood. Israelis, then will bear most of the moral and historic responsibility for such a disaster for the two peoples.

Iran Deal Extension: Analyzing the State Department's Media Note

Simon Henderson /Washington Institute

The department's latest public statement seems to cast a positive light on the recent nuclear extension, but its omissions paint a cloudier picture.
On July 22, the State Department released a description of what Iran has done with its nuclear program since the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) took force on January 20. Although the text leavens optimism with caution, its clear intention is to spin the case for the four-month extension of talks agreed to earlier this week. Some of its more categorical statements are therefore open to question.
"Iran has halted production of near-20 percent enriched uranium and disabled the configuration of the centrifuge cascades [used] to produce it."
True, but this only applies to declared centrifuge facilities. There are fears that Iran may have other, secret centrifuge sites. "Iran has completed the dilution of half of its near-20 percent enriched uranium stockpile that was in hexafluoride form, and the conversion of the rest to an oxide form not suitable for further enrichment."
True, but the oxides can be reconverted back to hexafluoride through a straightforward process. "Iran has capped its stockpile of 5 percent enriched uranium." True, but it has not yet completed the conversion of excess hexafluoride to oxide form. "Iran has limited its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, so [it] was not able to use the six-month JPOA period to stockpile centrifuges." This is what Iran claims, but it has not been verified. In addition, the JPOA includes no limitations on the manufacture of components for centrifuges.
"Iran did not construct additional enrichment facilities."
This is not verified. "Iran did not go beyond its enrichment R&D practices that were in place at the start of the JPOA."
This is not verified. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has not had access to Iranian centrifuge R&D that does not use or require nuclear material. "Iran did not transfer fuel or heavy water to the Arak reactor site."
True, but heavy water production likely continues at a plant close to the reactor site. "Iran did not build a reconversion line, which is necessary to turn its stockpile of 20 percent uranium oxide back into a form suitable for further enrichment." True, but only verified at locations to which the IAEA has access.
"Under the Joint Plan of Action, Iran's enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow are now subject to daily IAEA inspector access." True, but the daily access is just to each facility's cameras, not to the whole facility.
"Iran also provided managed access at centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and facilities, and uranium mines and mills."True, but "managed access" is not to the entire facilities. In addition, the IAEA has not said what information it received, nor how satisfied it was with this information.
The State Department release makes no mention of "Possible Military Dimensions" (PMD), the phrase used by the IAEA to cover Iranian activities that appear related to the development of a nuclear weapon. It does not mention work on missiles either, even though Iran's possible development of a nuclear warhead is one of the IAEA's longstanding PMD concerns.
"Iran has committed to...make all of its 20 percent oxide into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Twenty-five kilograms of this material will be fabricated into fuel by the end of the extension. Twenty-five kilograms is only a fraction of the oxides...Iran has also committed to convert all of its very low enriched uranium -- enriched up to 2 percent and estimated to be at least three metric tons -- into natural uranium, further reducing its utility in a breakout scenario."
An interesting statement because this material has not been specifically mentioned in IAEA reports.
Although the State Department release was issued with the headline "The JPOA has successfully halted progress on Iran's nuclear program," its closing paragraph -- if its media readers get that far -- is more cautious. It begins by saying, "Our goal remains clear: to negotiate a comprehensive deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." But it ends with: "Over the next four months...we will determine whether there is a solution that gives us sufficient confidence that the Iranian program is exclusively peaceful." The spin is that the glass is half full, but the actual words indicate it might be half empty.
***Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at The Washington Institute. His previous publications include Nuclear Iran: A Glossary of Terms (coauthored with Olli Heinonen), a joint publication of the Institute and the Belfer Center.

The Israeli Army Knew Gaza Was a "Ticking Bomb" Before War Broke Out

By Neri Zilber/New Republic
f all the reasons for the ongoing conflict in Gaza, the most important is arguably the most prosaic: money. Before Hamas started firing over a thousand rockets into Israel, before Israel responded with airstrikes (and now, ground forces), and before the brutal kidnappings and murders of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank and one Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem, there were the Gazan banks.
For six days in early June, Hamas gunmen physically forced the closure of all the banks in the Gaza Strip, due to a dispute over salaries with the West Bank–based Palestinian Authority. Since a violent Hamas coup against the PA in 2007, the Islamist group has been ruling Gaza with, as one former Palestinian official put it, “steel and fire”—a heavy hand. But even a regime of steel and fire requires cash. Over the past year, the Gazan economy—and by extension Hamas—lurched into crisis. The new military-led government in Egypt, which ousted the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is an offshoot), cracked down on the smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza to the Egyptian Sinai. For years, these tunnels, thought to number at least in the high hundreds, brought in everything from fuel, artillery rockets, and other military hardware to daily consumer goods, construction material and even automobiles. By one estimate, two-thirds of all trade into Gaza went through these tunnels.
Life in the coastal enclave continued to function, despite the Israeli blockade in place since the Hamas takeover. The sophistication of the current Hamas arsenal—from long-range rockets to hardened attack tunnels—is one sign of the success of the economy. So, too, is the class of Gazan nouveau riche, many of them connected to Hamas and the tunnel economy, who indulged in things like opulent villas and luxury sports cars. Not only did Hamas tax many of the products moving in, enriching its own coffers, but it also moved out much of its own officials’ personal wealth, primarily to real estate projects in the Egyptian Sinai. The effective shutdown of the tunnels by Egypt, however, marked the beginning of the end.
No longer could Gaza depend on cheap Egyptian gasoline (for cars) and diesel fuel (for its sole power plant). Blackouts now average about eight hours a day, but at one point late last year they were clocked at 18 hours per day. Unemployment began rising due to the slowdown of construction projects related directly or indirectly to the tunnel economy; indeed, the only construction ongoing in Gaza since late last year (when a Hamas attack tunnel built with smuggled cement and steel was uncovered inside Israel) is U.N. projects or, to a lesser degree, Qatari housing projects.
As a result, official figures from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics puts the unemployment rate in Gaza at over 40 percent, with youth unemployment nearly 60 percent. According to U.N. data, just under 40 percent of Gazans live below the poverty line, with nearly two-thirds of the population receiving some form of food or humanitarian assistance. Finally, clean water and overall sanitation in Gaza are, according to foreign aid workers as well as press reports nearing crisis levels. Taken together, as one senior Palestinian official in Ramallah put it to me last month, “Gaza wouldn’t have made it to the end of the year.”
You know the situation inside Gaza was becoming extremely grave when even the Israeli authorities began taking notice, and, in a major policy shift, developed a plan to improve conditions there—well before the recent war, tragically.
In conversations last month with a senior Israeli officer from the office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the army body responsible for the West Bank and Gaza, he freely admitted that Gaza was “in crisis.” The senior officer and his team had begun discussions with both the U.N. and the Quartet to formulate a long-term plan for the “standing-up” of the Gaza Strip (he declined to use the terms “development” or “reconstruction”).
The tentative proposal, confirmed to me independently by officials in Israel at both the U.N. and the Quartet, would see Israel loosening its safeguards on dual-use construction materials and goods entering the Gaza Strip, contingent on a strict U.N. verification process that ensures such items aren’t siphoned off by Hamas or other militant groups. The Israeli army officer ticked off a slew of projects that would be undertaken: desalination plants, power plants, sanitation and waste disposal systems, new hospitals, and even fishing farms off the coast of Gaza. The officer at one point pulled out a map and pointed to the natural gas pipelines that would connect Gaza to Israeli offshore fields, thereby alleviating the territory’s acute energy crisis.
The political obstacles to such a plan would be immense so long as Hamas still ruled Gaza, a point the officer conceded. Yet the risks of inaction were apparently greater. “Gaza,” he said, “is a ticking bomb. It’s our job to convince the [Israeli] politicians.”
What this Israeli officer saw from the outside, the Hamas rulers of Gaza were feeling up close and personally. Not only was the macroeconomy of its little statelet coming apart at the seams, but the group itself was effectively bankrupt—the Hamas government in Gaza actually passed a budget in January which reportedly only covered a quarter of its obligations. By all accounts, Hamas was at its weakest point since its founding over a quarter century ago, ruling over a restive population and looking for a lifeline. After seven years, the Israeli—and now Egyptian—blockade of Gaza had apparently succeeded in undermining “Hamastan.” Hamas in late April signed a “reconciliation” agreement with its arch foes in the Fatah movement, which controls the Palestinian Authority.
The Hamas-Fatah reconciliation deal was, if not flawed from the outset, then critically vague. The agreement signed was a framework deal, which left most of the devilish details regarding true reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, and between the West Bank and Gaza, for future discussions.
It quickly became evident, however, that Fatah was dictating terms to Hamas in these negotiations, and not the other way around. To take the most prominent example, the new “national consensus” government sworn in on June 2 was ostensibly meant to be independent and technocratic, yet all the key posts were filled by pliant confidantes of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
The vagueness of the reconciliation agreement reached a critical state on the issue of payment for Hamas’s public sector workers in Gaza. The group expected that after giving its consent to the new PA government, this new PA government would then pay the wages of the estimated 40,000 government workers in Gaza affiliated with Hamas, who had not drawn a paycheck in nearly six months. Hamas’s demand was given greater insistence by the fact that the PA government continued to pay salaries to the 70,000 Fatah-affiliated public employees in Gaza to essentially stay home and not work (as it has done for the past seven years).
In early June, after the new government was seated and after the salaries arrived in Gaza for only the Fatah workers, Hamas took action. For six days its gunmen forced the shutdown of all the banks in the territory, under the logic that if its people weren’t getting paid, then the Fatah workers wouldn’t be able to access their money either.
It was, as a senior PA finance official in Ramallah responsible for this issue explained to me in the middle of the crisis, “a game of chicken with Hamas.” According to this official, who requested to remain anonymous so he could speak freely, he received a phone call from senior Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk, who threatened that there would be “blood on the streets” if payment wasn’t made.
The only problem was that even if it wanted to, the PA couldn’t pay the Hamas workers in Gaza, a point the PA official relayed not only to Hamas but to Abbas and the new government. The issue wasn’t political, but legal and financial. As upstanding members of the global banking system, Palestinian banks couldn’t simply transfer money to members of a U.S.- and European Union-designated terrorist organization like Hamas. Most of the PA’s international donors who support the already-strained PA budget would also not allow such transfers to happen—according to the senior finance official, both because of Hamas’s terrorist designation as well as long-standing European concerns about the inefficient Palestinian public sector. “We can’t just add 40,000 more employees to the payroll,” he told me, “they’re not needed, and the bureaucracy is already overblown.”
The Hamas-Fatah agreement did in theory provide a mechanism for resolving the impasse, via committees made up of technocrats from several PA ministries that would vet the Hamas public employees. Yet, according to several sources in Ramallah, these committees would only start their work after the elections called for in the reconciliation deal—that is, by the end of the year at the earliest.
In the interim, the only way that the Hamas employees could be paid, according to the senior PA official, would be via suitcases of cash—between $20 to $40 million per month—provided by Hamas’s backers in Qatar, which could only reach Gaza via the Rafah crossing with Egypt. The new Egyptian government has, to date, shown zero interest in facilitating a cash transfer to a group it too considers a terrorist organization.
Confronted with the above realities, Hamas eventually backed down, at least temporarily. After six days of forcing the Gazan banks shut, the Hamas leadership blinked first, and allowed their re-opening so that the 70,000 Fatah employees could access their money (the fear being that having 110,000 Gazans going without pay is far worse than just 40,000). Blood did not run in the streets—at least not then—but Hamas, as the PA finance official put it presciently, “always has the weapon of escalation.”
Unlike the argument put forward in a recent New York Times op-ed, neither the West nor Israel precipitated this latest round of fighting in Gaza. Faced with a growing economic, social, and humanitarian crisis of its own making in the Gaza Strip, Hamas—via the reconciliation agreement with Fatah—attempted to relinquish its financial responsibilities, but not its weapons.
In an interview last month, Sheikh Hassan Youssef, a prominent West Bank Hamas leader, readily admitted that governing had taken a toll on Hamas, and that they were in crisis. “The sovereign loses,” he observed. "We [tell Abbas] 'take.' Hamas is [now] responsible for nothing." While the PA only had, he said, “the option of negotiation, Hamas has many other options,” adding that if Hamas’s demands were not met, there would be an “explosion, and the Israeli authorities will be the target of the explosion.” What we are witnessing now in Gaza is, in many respects, Hamas exercising these “other options.”
“Hamas,” the Times op-ed says, “is now seeking through violence what it couldn’t obtain through a peaceful handover of responsibilities.” There’s another word for such behavior—terrorism. But the bigger lesson from the crisis surrounding the Gazan public sector workers is that such a peaceful handover of responsibilities was never going to be easy so long as Hamas itself refused to abide by the reasonable conditions put to it by the Quartet seven years ago: renunciation of violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Absent such a move, Hamas could not be recognized as a legitimate political actor by the international community; the terrorist designation would remain, and with good reason.
The continued rejection by Hamas of any peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was the original reason for the Israeli blockade around Gaza after the 2007 Hamas coup, and it’s the real reason why the Hamas public sector workers never got paid. Hamas is now trying to violently extort the international community, Egypt, the PA, and Israel to give it what it wants—an easing of the blockade, payment to its people—without offering anything in return. Broke, desperate, and with few remaining friends in the world outside of Turkey and Qatar, the only real leverage Hamas has is the threat of continuing this disastrous war of choice, and heaping more devastation onto the people of Gaza.
**Neri Zilber is a visiting scholar at the Washington Institue for Near East Policy.