Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Israel, Gaza, and Presidential Politics

 

Here we go again: rockets fired into Israel from Gaza; Israel retaliates; and the story continues. But it is a different and more ominous story, and we should all be concerned.

At the moment, there is a ceasefire between Gaza and Israel, facilitated by Egypt. It is sure to be violated, and will probably collapse. In one sense, this story is an old one. But the aggressors have changed, and Israel will not sit back and be victimized by the new guns in town: Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

This is one description of the current violence:

Over the past three days, our closest ally in the Middle East has endured a barrage of rockets from its Islamic jihadist neighbors in Gaza, resulting in the closing of Tel Aviv schools for the first time since 1990. In the early hours of Tuesday morning in Shajaiyah in Gaza City, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) assassinated Baha Abu al-Ata, a top commander of the Gaza terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a strike which has resulted in violent retaliatory measures against Israel on the part of the PIJ.

Though Hamas is the terrorist organization currently exercising political control over Gaza, their absolute hold over the region has been more tenuous in recent years. And the Iran-backed PIJ has capitalized on this weakening of power, rising to fill the resulting power vacuum from Hamas’ decline.

This latest foray began in May 2019, when PIJ stepped up its attacks. Although Hamas has governed Gaza, PIJ is challenging its authority. PIJ has a significantly larger arsenal and is backed by Iran. Hamas claims that they are not responsible for PIJ’s actions; we don’t know, however, whether they have no influence over PIJ (which is likely) or whether they are lying about their own role. Either way, Iran continues its support of PIJ and as always, has Israel in its crosshairs. Hamas’ stability as the ruling authority is also threatened.

Hamas and Israel are trying to maintain a delicate balancing act in this situation to offset the growing strength of PIJ:

PIJ wishes to position itself as the ‘authentic’ jihadist organization in the Strip at the expense of Hamas, which unlike PIJ has to balance out its considerations as a government with its commitment to armed conflict and terrorism.

As part of efforts to prevent war, Israel is ensuring that 600 to 700 trucks per day containing international assistance enter the Hamas-run enclave.

Hamas’s nightmare scenario is a popular revolt by Gazans who lose patience with their regime’s dead-end policies and economic failures. Unrest in Lebanon and Iraq could fuel such protests at any time. As a result, Hamas is holding out for the results of negotiations it is holding with Egypt and the United Nations aimed at preventing an economic collapse in the coastal enclave.

The prospect of PIJ emerging as a powerhouse with the backing of Iran jeopardizes the shaky balance of power in that part of the world.

While this disruption is unfolding in the Middle East, the Democrat presidential candidates are mostly silent:

Yet, despite the hundreds of rockets launched at civilian centers throughout the southern part of Israel, only four of the top 10 2020 Democratic contenders bothered to comment—former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (who commented only when approached), Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Notably absent were frontrunners Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT). The irony of this silence from top primary contenders such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA., is that they have no problem rustling up commentary on Israel when it is to lecture Israel on its immigration policy or to challenge Israel’s understanding of its own territorial claims.

The current conditions should set off alarm bells at an international level. Iran continues to violate the current nuclear agreement as it also expands its power bases, including in Gaza. PIJ is not only ramping up its attacks but is enlisting the more radical, impatient actors of Hamas. PIJ is likely to improve its ability to attack civilians in Israel with Iran’s support. The Iron Dome has a high success rate, but 10 percent of the Israeli population is at risk. And Democrat support in our own government is lukewarm and disintegrating over time.

My heart, of course, is with Israel. With PIJ, Fatah (in the West Bank), Hamas and Iran all focused on Israel’s destruction, we need to watch carefully how events unfold.

We also need to let Israel know that we earnestly back them up against these evil forces.

Published in Foreign Policy
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There are 20 comments.

  1. Rodin Member

    Trump/Pence has Israel’s back. Pray they are not too distracted.

    • #1
    • November 17, 2019, at 9:07 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  2. Manny Member

    I have always and will continue to back Israel to the fullest. Thanks for the info on the situation. I probably wouldn’t have read up on the current situation. With any luck Hamas and PIJ will turn their guns on each other. Either way Israel needs to defend herself in any way reasonable. 

    • #2
    • November 17, 2019, at 9:31 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. James Gawron Thatcher

    Susan Quinn: PIJ has a significantly larger arsenal and is backed by Iran. Hamas claims that they are not responsible for PIJ’s actions

    Susan,

    This is the reality. Isreal, the Saudis, the Egyptians, and anyone in the world who isn’t a fool is at war with the Iranians. They are more than just sponsors of terror, they are an aggressive state looking to blackmail other nations. Their control of the Strait of Hormuz is their long-time source of blackmail. If they can promote the Houthi jihadists in Yemen (less than 1/4th of the population) taking over Yemen they will use it to extort both the Saudis and the shipping in the Suez canal.

    I wouldn’t doubt that Hamas has no control at this point. I once pointed out that the way they win an election in Gaza is the group that runs out of ammunition first loses. With Iranian backing, I’m sure that PIJ is in the driver’s seat.

    In a strange way, PIJ makes it simpler. We are at war with Iran and should gauge every step taken as a part of the ongoing war with Iran. Sooner or later Iran will be taken down if there is no self regime change. I think Trump & Pompeo are looking to put together a huge coalition to do it. Yes, the USA could do it alone but that isn’t prudent for the end game. If Iran is taken down it should be subdivided into zones like Germany was after WWII. The more allies taking a zone the more it will be immune to propaganda and jihadist insurgency. This would give a safe breathing space for a real democratic government in Iran to form and take hold.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #3
    • November 17, 2019, at 9:50 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: PIJ has a significantly larger arsenal and is backed by Iran. Hamas claims that they are not responsible for PIJ’s actions

    Susan,

    This is the reality. Isreal, the Saudis, the Egyptians, and anyone in the world who isn’t a fool is at war with the Iranians. They are more than just sponsors of terror, they are an aggressive state looking to blackmail other nations. Their control of the Strait of Hormuz is their long-time source of blackmail. If they can promote the Houthi jihadists in Yemen (less than 1/4th of the population) taking over Yemen they will use it to extort both the Saudis and the shipping in the Suez canal.

    I wouldn’t doubt that Hamas has no control at this point. I once pointed out that the way they win an election in Gaza is the group that runs out of ammunition first loses. With Iranian backing, I’m sure that PIJ is in the driver’s seat.

    In a strange way, PIJ makes it simpler. We are at war with Iran and should gauge every step taken as a part of the ongoing war with Iran. Sooner or later Iran will be taken down if there is no self regime change. I think Trump & Pompeo are looking to put together a huge coalition to do it. Yes, the USA could do it alone but that isn’t prudent for the end game. If Iran is taken down it should be subdivided into zones like Germany was after WWII. The more allies taking a zone the more it will be immune to propaganda and jihadist insurgency. This would give a safe breathing space for a real democratic government in Iran to form and take hold.

    Regards,

    Jim

    A very thoughtful response, Jim! I don’t know about dividing up Iran, though. That may create more chaos than good. But it is a fascinating idea!

    • #4
    • November 17, 2019, at 9:58 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Rodin (View Comment):

    Trump/Pence has Israel’s back. Pray they are not too distracted.

    Here’s Pence’s response this month:

    US Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday slammed the rocket fire from Gaza, saying that it was clear that Palestinian terror groups ‘put violence ahead of bettering the lives of the people of Gaza.’

    ‘The United States condemns the barrage of rockets on Israeli civilians. It’s clear Hamas & Palestinian Islamic Jihad put violence ahead of bettering the lives of the people of Gaza. America strongly affirms Israel’s right to defend itself,’ Pence tweeted.

    • #5
    • November 17, 2019, at 10:01 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Trump’s response when the violence began in May:

    ‘Once again, Israel faces a barrage of deadly rocket attacks by terrorist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad. We support Israel 100% in its defense of its citizens,’ Trump tweeted Sunday. ‘To the Gazan people — these terrorist acts against Israel will bring you nothing but more misery. END the violence and work towards peace – it can happen!’

    We haven’t heard from him since May, but he’s been kind of busy . . .

    • #6
    • November 17, 2019, at 10:04 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. James Gawron Thatcher

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    A very thoughtful response, Jim! I don’t know about dividing up Iran, though. That may create more chaos than good. But it is a fascinating idea!

    Susan,

    This would innoculate the USA from what happened in Iraq. Meanwhile, the population of Iran is far more educated than the Iraqis and has twice gone to the streets in mass protest looking for democracy and prosperity. It could be a success story on the model of West Germany after WWII.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #7
    • November 17, 2019, at 10:24 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  8. James Gawron Thatcher

    Susan,

    The first time it was a corrupt election. The second time it was the price of food. This time it’s the price gasoline.

    If we weren’t tied up wasting our time with phony Trump Russia collusion garbage and phony Trump Ukraine quid pro quo garbage, we’d be bearing down on the Iranians. Either the Iranian Islamic government goes down internally or a coalition takes them down externally.

    The Democrats are good at two things. First, completely psychotic & destructive policy ideas. Second, obstructing the United States government from carrying out rational policy by an endless series of false accusations. The Democratic Party resembles not so much a political point of view as a political disease.

    Regards,

    Jim

     

    • #8
    • November 17, 2019, at 11:42 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    Susan,

    The first time it was a corrupt election. The second time it was the price of food. This time it’s the price gasoline.

    If we weren’t tied up wasting our time with phony Trump Russia collusion garbage and phony Trump Ukraine quid pro quo garbage, we’d be bearing down on the Iranians. Either the Iranian Islamic government goes down internally or a coalition takes them down externally.

    The Democrats are good at two things. First, completely psychotic & destructive policy ideas. Second, obstructing the United States government from carrying out rational policy by an endless series of false accusations. The Democratic Party resembles not so much a political point of view as a political disease.

    Regards,

    Jim

     

    Very helpful information, Jim. I also don’t blame the people for protesting Iran’s providing help to their proxies in other countries. Financially, something has got to give. Thanks.

    • #9
    • November 17, 2019, at 11:55 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  10. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    Once Trump has been removed and Warren is in Israel time will be interesting.

    • #10
    • November 17, 2019, at 6:41 PM PST
    • Like
  11. Zafar Member

    Susan Quinn: Iran continues to violate the current nuclear agreement as it also expands its power bases, including in Gaza.

    Bit late to reference the nuclear deal. The agreement was perhaps fatally weakened when the US withdrew from it – not least because that established a precedent.

    • #11
    • November 18, 2019, at 1:02 AM PST
    • Like
  12. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: Iran continues to violate the current nuclear agreement as it also expands its power bases, including in Gaza.

    Bit late to reference the nuclear deal. The agreement was perhaps fatally weakened when the US withdrew from it – not least because that established a precedent.

    @zafar, Iran was violating the agreement before it was ever signed. And it was a ridiculous agreement–it didn’t stop Iran from developing weapons; it just supposedly slowed them down. Since the IAEA is feckless, they don’t know what Iran was doing, and they didn’t want to know. If Trump was guilty of anything, he just sped up the inevitable.

    I notice you don’t comment on Iran’s funding of proxies, spending millions on terrorist activities, while its own people are deprived.

    • #12
    • November 18, 2019, at 5:24 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. Zafar Member

    Susan, opinions on the nuclear deal are not that one sided. I think it was hasty (and possibly politically driven) for the US to withdraw from it. But the eggs for that omelet seem to be broken – the only benefit from looking at it with clear eyes is to hopefully inform better decision making next time. I don’t think invading Iran, or supporting a coup in Iran, or even US driven regime change in Iran are at this point realistic options, leave aside whether they would bear good fruit or not. (I suspect not.)

    • #13
    • November 18, 2019, at 5:46 AM PST
    • 1 like
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Susan, opinions on the nuclear deal are not that one sided. I think it was hasty (and possibly politically driven) for the US to withdraw from it. But the eggs for that omelet seem to be broken – the only benefit from looking at it with clear eyes is to hopefully inform better decision making next time. I don’t think invading Iran, or supporting a coup in Iran, or even US driven regime change in Iran are at this point realistic options, leave aside whether they would bear good fruit or not. (I suspect not.)

    Actually I agree with nearly everything you say, @zafar. I don’t know what the best timing would have been to withdraw–I don’t think, even if it was politically driven, that the timing made much difference. I think everyone can learn from that process and decision. I agree with your points that I put in bold. Although in some ways it would be devastating to the country (although it’s already a disaster there), I hope the forces are there to drive out the regime. Thanks for your comment.

    • #14
    • November 18, 2019, at 6:01 AM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Manny Member

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Susan, opinions on the nuclear deal are not that one sided. I think it was hasty (and possibly politically driven) for the US to withdraw from it. But the eggs for that omelet seem to be broken – the only benefit from looking at it with clear eyes is to hopefully inform better decision making next time. I don’t think invading Iran, or supporting a coup in Iran, or even US driven regime change in Iran are at this point realistic options, leave aside whether they would bear good fruit or not. (I suspect not.)

    It was flawed from the beginning. Giving Iran (especially with the Mullahs) a path to nuclear weapons was unacceptable from the beginning. Period. Only an Obama oriented foreign policy could anyone have imagined such a concept. Kudos for Donald Trump to kill at first opportunity.

    • #15
    • November 18, 2019, at 10:44 AM PST
    • 1 like
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    In case you missed it, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo just announced revoking the US policy that supported the EU’s policy to condemn contested settlements in Israel. He said that an international body shouldn’t be making that ruling, but that the Israel courts should decide (as they have been). This is a great decision. It takes one more boot (or maybe a slipper) off Israel’s neck. Someone also asked Pompeo if the two-state solution is out and we would prefer one- state. He dodged the question, only saying that the former hasn’t worked, has it?

    Indeed.

    • #16
    • November 18, 2019, at 12:20 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  17. Manny Member

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    In case you missed it, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo just announced revoking the US policy that supported the EU’s policy to condemn contested settlements in Israel. He said that an international body shouldn’t be making that ruling, but that the Israel courts should decide (as they have been). This is a great decision. It takes one more boot (or maybe a slipper) off Israel’s neck. Someone also asked Pompeo if the two-state solution is out and we would prefer one- state. He dodged the question, only saying that the former hasn’t worked, has it?

    Indeed.

    Wonderful. And to think there were conservatives that would have preferred Hillary be elected. Trump foreign policy superior to not just Obama’s (that’s easy) but Bush’s foreign policy too. Bush would never have killed the Iran deal.

    • #17
    • November 18, 2019, at 12:51 PM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn Post author

    Manny (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    In case you missed it, Sec. of State Mike Pompeo just announced revoking the US policy that supported the EU’s policy to condemn contested settlements in Israel. He said that an international body shouldn’t be making that ruling, but that the Israel courts should decide (as they have been). This is a great decision. It takes one more boot (or maybe a slipper) off Israel’s neck. Someone also asked Pompeo if the two-state solution is out and we would prefer one- state. He dodged the question, only saying that the former hasn’t worked, has it?

    Indeed.

    Wonderful. And to think there were conservatives that would have preferred Hillary be elected. Trump foreign policy superior to not just Obama’s (that’s easy) but Bush’s foreign policy too. Bush would never have killed the Iran deal.

    This is a case where Trump’s fearlessness (backed by Pompeo’s) makes a huge difference. Gradually we are clarifying our relationship with Israel, and small steps are fine.

    • #18
    • November 18, 2019, at 1:11 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  19. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Iran is easy enough to fix – arm the defenseless civilians by dropping small arms and ammunition across the country. 

    And bravo to Trump for the stance on people being accepted as living in the homes they bought!

    • #19
    • November 18, 2019, at 3:41 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  20. iWe Reagan
    iWe

    Iran is easy enough to fix – arm the defenseless civilians by dropping small arms and ammunition across the country.

    And bravo to Trump for the stance on people being accepted as living in the homes they bought!

    • #20
    • November 18, 2019, at 7:10 PM PST
    • 1 like