I am introducing what I hope will become a regular feature of this blog, a roundup of recent articles or posts on other blogs that I think are worth forwarding. Below are two opinion pieces that outline some potential positive turning points – with a stress on the word “potential.”
1 – Hamas Strategic Shift
This link is a commentary on the recent strategic shift of Hamas, the radical Islamist party that rules the Gaza Strip.
Last week Hamas declared it’s desire to join the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), to replace armed struggle with mass demonstrations (copying the tactics of the Arab Spring), and a willingness to form a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders. This is a seismic shift for Hamas.
The link above from last weekend provides more context and color (personalities, behind the scenes comments, etc.) than I have read anywhere else. This strategic shift challenges the conventional wisdom that Hamas was strengthened by developments last fall, best illustrated by their successful exchange of over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails for one long-captive Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. The reality is Hamas has been weakened by the effects of the Arab Spring, forcing the exiled Hamas leadership to leave Damascus, where they have long been headquartered, in search of a new home. Their strategic change is also a reflection of the decline of Iran’s influence and financial clout in the Arab world due to their continued backing of Assad in Syria and the cumulative effect of economic sanctions.
The shift by Hamas is a process, not a final act yet, and it is unclear where it will ultimately end – and if it reflects evolving perspectives on the part of other Islamic parties in the Arab world that are gaining power. Depending on one’s perspective, the glass is either half-full or half-empty.
Unfortunately, the Israeli government has not responded to this Hamas shift. In fact, senior officers in the IDF (Israel Defense forces) have been threatening a major new military incursion into Gaza. The question is will Netanyahu come to resemble cold warrior Ronald Reagan who, recognizing the strategic shifts coming out of Moscow with Glasnost in the mid-1980’s, encouraged the process – or at least did not impede it – which eventually led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Or will Netanyahu follow the lead of his coalition partners who do not want a two state solution that would threaten the Jewish settlement of Judea and Samaria in the West Bank and, for some of them, is contrary to their God’s commandment to settle the entire Land of Israel. Only time will tell how Netanyahu and his allies navigate these new realities.
2 – A Glimmer of Hope
For those looking for some optimism in 2012, here is an interesting perspective.
To support the view presented in this link, even Netanyahu may have realized that the right-wing oriented Knesset was overreaching in its attacks on the democratic foundations of Israel. Yesterday he froze a bill in the Knesset that would have increased political influence and control over the Israeli Supreme Court and, before that, he postponed deliberation on a bill that would have imposed draconian measures on African refugees in Israel seeking asylum from persecution.