Monday, June 24, 2013

Rockets Fired From Gaza Highlight The Problems With Kerry's Middle East Peace Process

Jonathan S. Tobin describes how Gaza Illustrates Palestinian Statehood, as Israel somehow becomes the focal point in the battle between Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza:
[T]he Islamic Jihad group fired half a dozen rockets at southern Israel from Gaza. Israel responded with air strikes on the terrorists and the upshot was that for the first time in six months the fragile cease-fire between the Hamas rulers of the strip and Israel seemed in danger. But as the Times of Israel pointed out [In upside-down Gaza, rockets fired at Israel actually aim to hurt Hamas], the rockets were not so much aimed at Israelis (though if some Jews had been killed that would have been considered a welcome bonus by the shooters) as they were at Hamas.

That sounds confusing, but it actually makes perfect sense. Hamas and Islamic Jihad share a commitment to violence against Israel and imposing Islamist law on Palestinians. But the two have different patrons. Islamic Jihad is now backed by Iran, which used to supply Hamas with weapons, while Hamas now is tight with Turkey, which is opposing the Iranians in Syria. But with Hamas worried about starting another round of fighting with Israel just at the time when it wants to keep pressure up on its real rival—Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank—support for Islamic Jihad is apparently starting to grow. That has led to a crackdown of sorts by Hamas on Islamic Jihad. Hence, the rockets fly as the Palestinians maneuver against each other by shooting at Jews.
Islamic Jihad weapons
Weapons removed from Achmad Saliman Fried Radaad, a high ranking operative
in Islamic Jihad. Credit: Wiki Commons

The controlled chaos in Gaza is a reminder of the just how problematic Kerry's single- (if not simple-) minded determination to focus on Middle East talks actually is. Considering how the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza resulted in the current mess there, it is not too difficult to imagine the further complications possible as a result of Israel concessions in Judea and Samaria (West Bank).

Going a step further, the recent rocket fire from Gaza also illustrates the fact that the Israel-Arab conflict is not the central issue in the Middle East and the key to stability.

As The Tower notes, Rockets Slam Into Israel as Syrian Conflict Spills Over Into Gaza Strip:
Under the surface, the attack against Israel was most probably ordered by Iran, with Tehran exploiting divisions among Palestinians that have taken hold as the Syrian conflict heightens sectarian tensions across the region. Sunni organizations, including the PLO and elements in Hamas, support the Syrian rebels. They oppose the Alawite regime of Syria President Bashar al-Assad, which is backed by Shiite Iran and its Lebanese Hezbollah client. Tensions with the Shiite bloc have led to Hamas members being expelled or forced to leave Damascus and, more recently, Lebanon. The old alliance between Hamas and Iran, which lasted for more than a decade, is in shambles. [emphasis added]
Of course, the main source of the divisions is not actually Syria, but rather Iran. But it is easier -- or at least it seemed at one point -- to deal with Syria and defang the Iranian threat, than to tackle Iran head-on.

As Michael Rubin points out in answering the question, If Iran Is the Problem, Why Focus on Syria?:
Alas, in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now in Syria, American strategists advocate extinguishing the fire rather than addressing the arsonist. Certainly, it is an American strategic interest not to allow Iran to prevail in Syria, although it is doubtful whether the opposition as it is now composed would pose any less of a threat to U.S. interests. Those to whom the Syrian quagmire is predominantly a human rights concern may also counsel intervention, but certainly it is also true that the Iranian leadership cares little if its “export of revolution” kills tens of thousands not only in Syria, but also in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Gaza, or elsewhere.

Simply put, the chief impediment to peace and stability in the Middle East is Iran, and it’s long past time the United States begins to realize that there will be no breakthrough on any issue of concern to U.S. national security until the Islamic Republic no longer exists. It should be the policy of the United States to hasten that day.
But it is clear that the Obama administration simply does not have the wherewithal to take on such a goal. And it is becoming increasingly clear to US allies and enemies that the Obama administration can be ignored with greater and greater impunity.

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