Certainly Khaled Mashaal would not have been the most militant or anti-Israel of candidates for the leadership of Hamas, but this is precisely the problem for the Netanyahu government. Mashaal is a pragmatist who enjoys broad international support. He could make it more difficult for Israel to continue to block the path to a ‘two-state solution’. Moreover, he is well placed to build a unity government with his Palestinian rivals in Fatah.
His choice of Qatar as a base for operations is curious! Qatar has emerged as the avenue through which troops and guns are being channeled into Syria to aid the rebellion! Mashaal’s support for the Syrian rebels is well known, but such support compromises his relationship with regional super-power Iran, and one might have expected him to be a little more covert in his loyalties.
Hamas re-elects Khaled Mashaal
Qatar-based Palestinian leader wins four-year term capping a year of internal elections spread over several countries
The Islamic militant group Hamas on Monday re-elected longtime leader Khaled Mashaal, according to officials, choosing a relative pragmatist who has sparred with movement hardliners in the past over his attempt to reconcile with western-backed Palestinian rivals.
The secretive group did not issue an announcement, but Mashaal’s re-election was confirmed by two Hamas officials. The vote late on Monday capped a year of internal elections spread over several countries and shrouded in mystery.
Qatar-based Mashaal, 56, has led Hamas since 1996 and now has another four-year term. He ran unopposed and won the support of a majority in Hamas’s shura council, which has about 60 members, said the two Hamas officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to discuss the secret election with reporters.
Mashaal enjoys the backing of Turkey, Egypt and Qatar, countries where Hamas’s parent movement, the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood, is influential.
It is not clear if his re-election will give him enough clout to pursue reconciliation or if hardliners, particularly those based in the Gaza Strip, will be able to veto a deal.
Hamas wrested Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas, the internationally backed Palestinian president, in 2007, leaving him with only parts of the West Bank. The rivals have established separate governments that have become increasingly entrenched in their respective territories.
Last year, Mashaal and Abbas, who have cordial relations, reached a deal whereby Abbas would head an interim government of technocrats in the West Bank and Gaza. This would have paved the way for general elections.
However, the deal never got off the ground because of opposition from Hamas leaders in Gaza and senior figures in Abbas’s Fatah movement. Hamas leaders in Gaza were particularly vehement in their objections, apparently fearing a deal would give Abbas a foothold in Gaza and weaken Hamas’s grip on the territory.
Last week, the emir of Qatar proposed holding a reconciliation conference in Egypt in coming weeks to set up a timetable for forming the interim government and holding elections.
Mashaal’s re-election could further distance Hamas from long-time patron Iran, which has supplied cash and weapons to the Hamas government in Gaza. Hamas broke with another long-time ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad, more than a year ago, over Assad’s brutal crackdown on a popular revolt that turned into an armed insurgency.
Mashaal’s relations with Iran cooled after he refused to back Assad, an Iranian ally, and Mashaal last visited Tehran in November 2011.
Other senior Hamas figures continue to visit Tehran and ties have not broken off, but Mashaal has found a new home in Qatar, one of Iran’s regional rivals.
Hamas was founded in Gaza in 1987, as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. It has four components: activists in Gaza, in the West Bank, in exile and those imprisoned by Israel. In the internal elections, each of the four groups chose local leaders as well as delegates to the shura council.
This council selects a decision-making political bureau and the head of that body – the stage that was wrapped up in Cairo on Monday. Details about the composition of the political bureau were not available Monday.
Mashaal is seen as a member of the more pragmatic wing of Hamas, in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He and others in Hamas insist the movement will not recognize Israel and renounce violence – Western conditions for dealing with Hamas.
Mashaal has suggested he could accept a Palestinian state alongside Israel, though he has not said if such a state would end the conflict, or be an interim step to an Islamic state in all of historic Palestine, including what is now Israel.
Mashaal has also come out in support of so-called popular resistance against Israeli occupation, a term Palestinians use for marches and stone-throwing protests. In previous rounds of conflict, Hamas gunmen and suicide bombers have killed hundreds of Israelis in attacks.
This is an insightful article by Huffinton Posts’ Robert Naiman. One can put a positive spin on Obama’s visit and speeches. While he didn’t promise to do anything to help the ‘peace process’ along, he didn’t seem to want to hinder it either – something that the Israeli government has relied on the US to do through successive administrations!
Indeed Obama would be doing the world a great service if he allowed some of Israel’s Arab and international neighbors to take a more intentional role in solving the Israel/Palestine debacle, and we all know that he has no personal desire to prop up Benjamin Netanyahu!
Flotilla 3.0: Redeeming Obama’s Palestine Speech With Gaza’s Ark
There’s a half-empty way and a half-full way of looking at President Obama’s Jerusalem speech about the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
The half-empty way of looking at it is: this was Obama’s white flag of surrender. To everyone around the world who for decades has been assuming that at the end of the day, the president of the United States would lead the way to resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, Obama was saying:
Don’t look at me. Just because the United States is the principal military, diplomatic, and economic protector of the Israeli government, doesn’t mean that I, as the president of the United States, will do anything about the military occupation of millions of Palestinian human beings. Bibi doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, Bibi’s government doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, AIPAC doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state, and Congress — which defers to AIPAC — doesn’t want an independent Palestinian state. Of course, many of them mouth the words — not Bibi’s government, they don’t even do that — but those who mouth the words oppose any practical measure that would help bring an independent Palestinian state into existence. They’re “two state fakers.” Settlement freeze? Impossible. UN membership for Palestine? Can’t be done. No, according to the two state fakers, the only option on the menu in the restaurant for the Palestinians is to return to negotiations without a settlement freeze, negotiations that for 20 years have brought more land confiscation, more settlements, more restrictions on Palestinian movement and commerce, more oppression. And so, Obama was saying, my hands are tied. Don’t look at me.
The half-full way of looking at it is this: it was a great speech. If you “price in,” as the markets say, acceptance that the U.S. government isn’t going to lead on this, it was a great motivational speech. President Obama made a very compelling case that someone else should do something.
The interesting thing is that whether you see it as a great motivational speech or a white flag of surrender, the practical consequences for the public are largely the same: the initiative for justice is going to have to come from somewhere else. The best that we can probably expect from Obama is that if the initiative for justice comes from somewhere else, he won’t get in the way, or won’t get in the way very much. While that is much less than we are entitled to expect, it is much more than the Netanyahu government and its supporters want. They demand that President Obama do everything he can to get in the way of justice. So, if he doesn’t get in the way of justice, or only does so halfheartedly, he’ll be helping us more than they want.
Some people look to Europe. If Europe got serious about curtailing imports from Israel if the occupation doesn’t end, that’s something the Israeli business elite would take seriously, and they would put pressure on the Israeli government to compromise, rather than lose their export income. It’s striking to contrast how Europe is treating its trade with Israel to how it is treating its trade with Iran. In the case of Israel, Europe is toying with the idea of seriously curtailing imports from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In the case of Iran, Europe has shut down virtually all trade, including trade in lifesaving medicines, in violation of international humanitarian law. Giving Israel a little more of the Iran treatment could go a long way. In addition, Europe could support membership for Palestine at the International Criminal Court, and then could support legal action against the settlements and land confiscation at the ICC. So, Europe certainly has a lot of room to get serious about ending the occupation.
Some people look to the Arab Spring. Since 1979, the Camp David Treaty as implemented has been a pillar of the occupation. As many Egyptians see it, it wasn’t supposed to be like that. Under the treaty, the Israeli military was supposed to withdraw from the West Bank. But of course, that never happened. What happened instead is that for 30 years the Mubarak regime traded compliance with Israeli policy towards the Palestinians for U.S. agreement to look the other way while the Egyptian government beat the Egyptian people. Now Egypt has a democratically-elected government. What if that government made ending the occupation a political and diplomatic priority?
read the rest of this article here
What follows is a press release from Gush Shalom – the Israeli ‘Peace Bloc ‘ publisehd on March 19, 2013
All that our leaders avoided saying throughout the elections campaign, Obama said – and got a prolonged applause from the representatives of Israel’s young generation
It is a badge of shame to almost all political leaders in Israel . The President of the United States had to come to Jerusalem and say all the things which our politicians avoided saying with all their force. President Obama said it clearly and unequivocally – and won a standing ovation and prolonged applause from the representatives of Israel’s younger generation.
For years “peace” had become a dirty word in the Israeli discourse. It fell to President Obama to remind us that peace is possible and necessary, that we do have a partner for peace, that the Palestinians are here and cannot be ignored and that Israel must end the occupation, for reasons of morality and justice but also and especially for the the sake of Israel’s own future.
It’s a shame for those who thought it possible to establish a government in Israel focusing on an “internal civilian agenda” - on recruiting the Ultra-Orthodox to the IDF, as if this is the existential issue facing us, and to forget the occupation and the settlements, peace and the Palestinians. The best which these “new politics” could produce is empty chatter of “negotiations” whose failure is assured in advance and therefore would not break up the present government coalition. With the challenges directly ahead, this would prove a meaningless folly.
Contact: Adam Keller , Gush Shalom Spokesperson +972-(0)54-2340749
The following recording is of an address given by Barghouti in February, 2013. In it he both explains and highlights the progress of the worldwide ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign against Israel.
I found particularly insightful Barghouti’s point that people who say that the BDS is anti-Semitic are themselves being anti-Semitic! His logic is as follows: By claiming that the BDS is a crime against all Jews he is equating the State of Israel with all Jewish people. By lumping together all Jewish people and claiming (falsely) that they are all the same in their political stance regarding the Jewish State he is making a racist slur. As he says, “only Nazis and Zionists believe that all Jews are the same”!
Omar Barghouti is a leading Palestinian activist and is a founding committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).
The following sketch was developed for popular US TV show ‘Saturday Night Live’. It satirizes the interrogation of would-be US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, over his alleged lack of allegiance to Israel.
The sketch never aired but it was posted on the Internet where it (predictably) attracted the wrath of Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, who said that it “reinforces the pernicious notion of Jewish control over this government”.
In truth, it doesn’t really require sketches like this to reinforce the Foxman’s ‘pernicious notion’. The 29 standing ovations given to Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, by the US Congress in 2011 were more than sufficient.