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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Israel, Egypt and Abu Mazen have Hamas cornered with Russian help?

I don't like to sole-source DEBKA reports. But for reasons that I will explain below, I believe that there may be some element of truth to this one, which claims that Israel, Egypt and the 'Palestinian Authority' have managed to corner Hamas with Russian help (Hat Tip: Udi S).
Debkafile’s intelligence sources report exclusively that Egyptian President Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas have lined up in a solid phalanx against the Islamist Hamas-Islamic Jihad alliance.
Their lineup, backed from the wings by Saudi King Abdullah and Russian President Vladimir Putin, set itself five objectives:
1.  To confront Hamas with a solid political-security front which is beyond its power to break.
2.  To corner Hamas into accepting the Egyptian ceasefire proposion unchanged and unconditionally.
3.  To compel Hamas to disarm, i.e. dismantle its rockets and tunnels, so pulling the teeth of its military wing, Ezz e-Din al-Qassam.
4.  To distance the Obama administration from the triple bloc’s dealings with the Palestinian Islamist factions.
5.  To keep the Europeans from interfering in those dealings.
The foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany and Italy meeting in Brussels offered Friday to take charge of Gaza’s border crossings and work to prevent illegal arms flows.
Saturday, Cairo, Jerusalem and Ramallah politely informed Brussels that they preferred to handle this situation on their own and no European diplomatic or security assistance was needed.
The quiet shaping of this three-way alliance for resolving the Gaza conflict, by means of a sustainable cessation of hostilities, kept most of Israel’s and world media guessing, says debkafile. In the interests of tight secrecy, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon chose to keep the rest of the cabinet in the dark as well, incurring loud complaints from ministers.
The proposition the three partners have formulated puts Hamas and Jihad on the spot. The Arab world has abandoned them and their only source of funding is Tehran. So their choices are grim: Face an escalated war that Israel will fight until the bitter end, or swallow hard and accept the only proposition on the table which is tantamount to disarmament and capitulation. 
Their isolation is complete. The Egyptian, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have managed to cut Hamas away from any backing in Washington, Qatar and Turkey as well as blocking its path to Moscow. 
To encourage Hamas to choose the right path, the Israel Air Force is cruising around-the-clock over Hamas bases and command centers in the Gaza Strip, ready at a signal to switch to the offensive if the Palestinian fundamentalists make the wrong choice in Cairo. 
Mahmoud Abbas, who appeared to be sitting on the sidelines of the Gaza conflict during Israel’s month-long military operation, finally threw in his lot with Sisi and Netanyahu when it came to the crunch.
Why do I believe that this story might be true.

First, we already have seen Russian cooperation with Israel that effectively counteracts European attempts to punish the Jewish state.

Second, because we know that President Hussein Obama and Secretary of State John FN Kerry favor Hamas, and that Vladimir Putin is an expert at making them look like fools running around in circles.

Third, there's this piece by Amos Harel in Haaretz explaining why the Egyptian cease fire plan is a disaster for Hamas.
In effect, according to one columnist from the Palestinian Authority-affiliated Al-Ayyam newspaper, the proposal offers the same understanding reached after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, with only cosmetic changes. All of the gestures made by Egypt toward the Palestinians, like easing restrictions at border crossings and the gradual elimination of the Israeli buffer zone within the Gaza Strip come with a very heavy price, as far as Hamas is concerned: Renewed, reinforced presence of Palestinian Authority forces in Gaza.

This is a tough pill to swallow for Hamas, as are Egypt’s efforts to bring the Oslo agreements back to the surface through the back door; Hamas reviles Oslo even more than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does. Therefore, it’s not surprising that official Hamas spokespeople criticized the Egyptian proposal on Saturday. What is surprising is the rather moderate reaction by the Islamic Jihad, always considered more extreme than Hamas. It seems that the Islamic Jihad has recently been warming up to Cairo, and perhaps is less committed to the comprehensive demands that Hamas had set when the sequence of humanitarian cease-fires began. Israel, at this point, has yet to issue an official response to the Egyptian proposal, as it was leaked to the Arab media. 
The quandary that Hamas faces is clear: without an achievement to tout, the incredible sacrifice of Gaza’s population – roughly 2,000 dead, hundreds of thousands of refugees, thousands of homes as well as infrastructure destroyed – will seem for naught. On the other hand, the long series of cease-fires might make it hard for the organization to keep fighting. The humanitarian disaster in Gaza, along with electricity and potable water shortages, has forced Gaza residents to focus on rebuilding. The more hawkish approach, favored by Khaled Mehsal in Qatar, would mean renewed suffering for the Gazan population. 

Fourth, the members of Israel's security cabinet have in fact complained that Netanyahu left them in the dark as reported by DEBKA.

And most importantly, there's this.
Tzipi Livni may no longer be Israel’s foreign minister but she still has a capacity to cause diplomatic tremors. Last weekend she did just this by declaring that there was an agreement between Israel and Egypt to strangle Hamas. Since there was no official affirmation or denial from Cairo, despite calls from Hamas to do so, Livni’s remarks evoked a flood of commentary. Few doubted that there is indeed an Israeli-Arab axis, spearheaded by Egypt, whose immediate aim is to dismantle Hamas’ control over the Gaza Strip. Ultimately, it also seeks to eradicate from the region all structures of what they call political Islam.
[A]n item posted by the military spokesman Lt. Col. Muhammad Samir on his Facebook page the day after Livni made her declaration did highlight to some measure the current level of collaboration between Egypt and Israel. He noted that the Egyptian army had destroyed a total of 1,659 tunnels in the border area between Gaza and Egypt; a feat which the Israelis themselves could not have pulled off from their position on the northern and eastern borders of Gaza.
What the officer did not concede, however, was that this was largely due to American assistance. Since 2008 the US had given the Egyptian army equipment worth $23 million to identify and destroy the tunnels, which for the past eight years have been the lifeline for Gaza’s population.
Furthermore, in one year since the overthrow of Egypt’s civilian President Mohamed Morsi the regime in Cairo have closed the Rafah crossing for a total of 320 days. The reason, they claim, is to counter security threats in the Sinai.
Apart from the tunnels and Rafah crossing, the Egyptian authorities had yet another lethal weapon in its arsenal. That was the state-backed media, which during the same period revelled in an orgy of anti-Hamas vitriol that reached its climax with their wholehearted support for the latest Israeli onslaught on Gaza. In a country where press freedom has long been dead and buried, such ranting could not take place without official approval and support.

In case you're wondering, the Egyptian newspaper al-Shorouk published what it claims is the text of the Egyptian proposal on Friday. You can find an English translation here

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