Israel: Palestinians Inspired, Confused And Divided By Syria

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June 17, 2013: Hamas, despite Iran cutting off aid (about $2 million a month), is still trying to maintain friendly relations with Iranian backed Shia militia Hezbollah in Lebanon. Most Palestinians (who tend to be Sunni and Christian) have come out in favor of the Syrian rebels. This has caused problems for the Palestinians in Gaza. There Hamas was unable to be pro-Assad or at least neutral about Syria. This caused major problems with Iran, who used to be a major financial backer. Most of that money has dried up in the last year because of Hamas supporting the Sunni rebels in Syria (who are trying to overthrow a pro-Iran Shia minority government). Hamas has run Gaza since 2007, and Hezbollah has been a major factor in Lebanon for over 25 years. Despite the Iranian connections, both Hamas and Hezbollah are Arabs and both exist mainly to destroy Israel. Iran is being discreet about this could not afford to ignore Hamas support for the Syrian rebels (who are now fighting Hezbollah gunmen along the Lebanese border). Hamas also admits that a few of its members have unofficially joined Hezbollah inside Syria. Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank tend to back the rebels. But nearly a million Palestinians in Lebanon and Syria are split, with nearly half of them backing the Assad government in Syria. This has also upset Iran, which has generously supported Palestinians for decades.

There is growing Palestinian violence in the West Bank against Israelis. This is a side-effect of the rebellion in Syria and the “Arab Spring” in general. While some Palestinian leaders call for another uprising (intifada), most Palestinians, especially the older ones (over 30), fear the economic consequences of that and warn the pro-intifada radicals that there would not be a lot of popular support for another round of violence. Israel has shown they know how to handle this at little cost to themselves and great cost to the Palestinians.

Hamas has still not been able to work out a peace deal with its political rival Fatah (which controls the West Bank). Hamas is unwilling to risk another election because it knows that its Islamic conservatism and radicalism has made it so unpopular that even the corrupt (and nearly as unpopular) Fatah would win.

One reason Hamas is making nice about the Syrian rebels is that a lot of foreign aid from Arab charities has declined (by up to half) because of Hamas connections (now largely severed) with Iran. The Arab world (at least the Sunni majority) is very much behind the Syrian rebels (mostly Sunni) and against Iran (almost entirely Shia). The entry of Hezbollah gunmen into Syria in the last week has been a big boost for the Assads, who were, until then, steadily losing. Now, with Hezbollah, the Assad forces are taking back some territory. NATO countries have, in the last week, agreed to send more weapons to the rebels but still refuse to provide air support.

Israeli F-16s are increasingly seen over southern Lebanon and Gaza, training for operations if Hezbollah gets orders from Iran to attack Israel. This makes little sense, but Iran is desperate to keep the Assads in power and seem willing to try anything that will help with that.  

June 16, 2013: Israelis note that the newly elected Iranian president Hasan Rowhani is less openly anti-Semitic than the current president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) but that Rowhani was only allowed to run because the senior clerics considered him loyal to the religious leadership and not as likely to go overboard in his “Israel must be destroyed” pronouncements. Rowhani also wants Israel gone, but is more discreet when talking about it. A relative “moderate” like Rowhani was allowed to run because the religious leadership (which has veto power over all government decisions) wants someone who can get the international sanctions lifted without threatening the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

June 14, 2013: Egypt has decided to cut diplomatic relations with the Assad government in Syria and back the rebels. Egypt also called for a no-fly zone over Syria, meaning NATO aircraft taking on the Syrian Air Force, with some token help from Arab air forces. Egypt also condemned Hezbollah for actively joining with Assad troops to attack rebels. Egypt is still in a perilous state, with the government and courts fighting each other over the validity of the last national elections and the legality of new government laws. The Egyptian economy is still depressed and people are unhappy with their new, post-revolution government.

June 7, 2013: The UN has rejected the Russian offer to replace Austrian peacekeepers (recently withdrawn from the Golan Heights because of growing rebel attacks). The UN is trying to obtain replacements from Fiji who are tough but not as partisan (when it comes to the Assad government) as the Russians.

June 6, 2013: Syrian rebels attacked UN checkpoints in the Golan Heights (on the Israeli border) and Austria ordered its 377 peacekeepers stationed there to withdraw. 

 

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