Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dimly-Lit Neighbourhood

"The decision of the occupation to reduce the electricity to Gaza at the request of PA President Mahmoud Abbas is catastrophic and dangerous."
"It will accelerate the deterioration and explode the situation in the Strip. Those who will bear the consequences of this decision are the Israeli enemy, who is besieging the Gaza Strip, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas."
Hamas spokesperson Abdel Latif al-Qanua
Palestinians in Gaza face serious electricity shortages as a result of the conflict between Hamas and the PA. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
"In the short term, Hamas is not on solid ground to launch yet another war." 
"The situation as it is unfolding in the Middle East represents] a perilous time for Hamas."
"The PA smells an opportunity here, Israel also sees an opportunity here. Hamas is getting squeezed in Qatar and this means that it is looking for another headquarters abroad."
Jonathan Schanzer, Middle East expert, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Washington, DC
Qatar stepped into the breach when Iran stopped funding Hamas. Although Hamas is Sunni and Iran Shiite, their common bond was the compact they shared to destroy the State of Israel, enabling each to bypass the sectarian disagreements over the usefulness of collusion in a greater purpose; the perceived need of Islamic to eradicate a Jewish State from land in the Middle East consecrated to Islam, where the presence of Judaism was seen to be incalculably offensive.

Qatar, a Sunni state, supports groups that other Arab League nations do not, like the Muslim Brotherhood, dramatically out of favour with Egypt and Saudi Arabia -- and Aryan Shiite Iran, both of which are also supported by Turkey. It is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's competition with  the Islamic Republic of Iran, both vying for the position of ultimate authority in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia as custodian of the two most holy sites of Islam, Mecca and Medina, that represents a proxy war.

That proxy war is playing out in Syria, with Iran and Lebanon through Hezbollah, and Iraq, with its majority Shia population, both countries, Syria and Iraq, wracked with the presence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, reaching its tentacles into Libya, and the war in Yemen where Iran has incited the Houthis to unseat the Sunni-led Yemenite government into exile, that has the two combatants at scimitars-drawn. Under pretext of an insult from Qatar's emir to Saudi's ruler, the gloves have come off.

Much of the Arab League has agreed to isolate Qatar, citing its support for terrorism as their focal point in shutting Qatar out of their air space, land routes, trade, the Al-Jazeera news agency and diplomacy. This, following a visit to Saudi Arabia by U.S. President Donald Trump where the American president made it clear that defeating Islamist terror is first on the agenda of items to be dealt with. Qatar is the odd-country-out even though the target is Iran.

Enter the Palestinian Authority into this convoluted Byzantine and sinister mash-up that represents the Middle East on any given day in any given year; urgently wishing to recover its authority over the Gaza Strip, from Hamas whose mandate is the destruction of Israel. To that end, Hamas has engaged the Israel Defence Forces in a series of 'wars', interrupted by a series of rest periods to regain strength of numbers and weaponry.

Massive amounts of building materials, cement and electricity, paid for by international donors and meant to be used for the reconstruction of war-ravaged Gaza have all been sidelined for Hamas use in constructing underground passages, sophisticated tunnelling serving as headquarters for Hamas and as passages to enable Hamas fighters to surreptitiously enter Israeli territory underground, for surprise assaults. If all that material and electricity is illicitly used for conflict, there is nothing left for domestic construction.

Smuggling routes from Gaza into Israel and Egypt is just too critical to carry on Hamas's agenda to allow precious resources to be used for civilian infrastructure. Storing weapons in schools and hospitals and other public arenas, including mosques, works to a degree but massive storage sites are required, and some of the tunnels are designated for that purpose. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank uses the funding of international donors to pay for electricity sourced through Israel for both the West Bank and Gaza.

But PA President Mahmoud Abbas who alternates between peace overtures to Gaza, and enmity with Hamas has now decided he will no longer pay for electricity to go to Gaza. He has yet to decide to stop paying handsome sums to families of suicide bombers, but they are critical to his long-range plans, and obviously Hamas is not, for Hamas is not Fatah and the two groups despise one another.  Having informed Israel that it intends to cut power to Gaza by refusing to pay for it, Israel is left with a conundrum.

The unlikely prospect of providing electricity to a citizenry ruled by a terrorist group whose sole purpose for existence is destruction of the Jewish State, is an absurdity in and of itself. On the other hand, it will not be the Palestinian Authority or Hamas who will be held responsible, but Israel, if and when ordinary Gazans, already in a state of penury and difficult existence with only four hours of electricity daily, find themselves cut back even further.

The Palestinian Authority will not get slammed by European Union supporters, but Israel most certainly will be.

Because the Palestinian Authority has requested that Israel cut back the power it provides to Gaza by at least an hour daily, the two million Palestinians resident in Gaza will pay the penalty of acid relations between Hamas and Fatah. Israel will not, understandably, itself pay for the additional electricity it would prefer to supply Gaza with, but it would gladly do so if international donors take up the slack.

It is the Palestinian Authority's determination to force Hamas to return control of Gaza to the PA, that has presented all three parties with this new dilemma.

gaza-power-cuts.jpg
A Palestinian family eats dinner during a power cut on Sunday at their makeshift home at the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip Said Khatib/AFP/Getty

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