Monday, August 15, 2011

Mideast Media Sampler 08/15/2011

From DG:
1) Funding Hamas again

Hamas stopped insisting on auditing aid organizations and the United States has restored funding to Gaza based organizations.

The United States has restored funding to aid groups in the Gaza Strip, after the ruling Islamist group Hamas retracted its demand to scrutinize confidential documents about the groups' work.
In related news, it has been reported the Palestinian Authority has uppped the amount it provides to jailed terrorists and families of "martyrs."

This is despite recent claims of poverty by the PA.

2) Smuggling in the open

The New York Times has caught up to a story that was noted a few weeks ago. The lack of police has allowed smugglers to operate openly in the northern Sinai. The New York Times reports: 

Cars are driven from the chaos in Libya to this small patch of sand amid the fig trees in the North Sinai desert, where Palestinians can pick out their model and haggle over the price. Then they wait in Gaza for delivery through tunnels snaking beneath the border. 
The police have all but disappeared from the northern Sinai since the Egyptian revolution, and the smuggling business has grown so exponentially that Hamas, the militant group controlling Gaza, recently decided to limit the car imports to 30 a week for fear of pollution and traffic congestion in the narrow Mediterranean enclave, smugglers say. 
The article also frames peace between Israel and Egypt as being against reform:

And now the withdrawal of his security forces has unleashed not only a smuggling bonanza but also a more violent backlash against his Israel policy. Six unexplained bombing attacks (the first one failed to go off) have repeatedly shut down a pipeline that delivers natural gas to Israel under a Mubarak-era contract that is wildly unpopular because of its association with both Israel and corruption. The interruption of the gas supply has done as much as any formal policy change to strain relations between the two allies. No one has been arrested in any of the attacks. 
Now it was Egyptian hostility towards Israel that led to the reduced security. So to argue that the interruption was the source of the strain between Egypt and Israel is to obfuscate. Also the reporter associates the gas deal with Israel with corruption. But it is also an obligation of Egypt towards Israel. After all the Sinai was the largest "sacrifice for peace" Israel made land wise. That isn't even acknowledged.

3) Stop digging

Jackson Diehl writes about the diplomatic "hole" Mahmoud Abbas has dug for himself:
First, let’s describe the hole. Back in April, frustrated with the Obama administration’s failure to deliver the concessions it had sought from Israel, the 76-year-old Abbas decided to pursue an entirely different strategy. He would arrange a reconciliation with the Gaza-based Hamas movement, then seek recognition of a Palestinian state at the United Nations.
In the following weeks it slowly became clear that Abbas and his aides had failed to think through their idea. U.N. statehood recognition can be blocked by the United States. A vote by the General Assembly for recognition as a “nonmember state” would pass but might draw damaging negative votes from Washington and much of Europe. Either the U.N. initiative or the formation of a joint government with Hamas would probably prompt Congress to cut off U.S. aid, which amounted to $500 million this year. That will trigger an instant economic crisis in a West Bank that has been enjoying a rare burst of prosperity.
In contrast to the New York Times (and others) who portray an American veto as "isolating" Israel and the United States, this portrays the unilateral declaration as a non-winning strategy.

The consequences are:
Worst of all, the grand statehood initiative is likely to produce nothing tangible for average Palestinians, other than the loss of their jobs. There will be no Israeli withdrawal, no stop even to the expansion of West Bank Jewish settlements. No wonder that resistance to the Abbas plan has been steadily growing: Not just the Obama administration but the Jordanian government, Hamas and Abbas’s own prime minister have made it clear that they regard his initiative as foolhardy.
I'm not happy that Diehl links to an item about building in Jerusalem as his example of settlements, but the larger point is correct.

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