The big news in Palestinian politics is reconciliation: the leaders of Fatah and Hamas are meeting in Cairo this weekend to discuss the supervision of upcoming elections for the Palestinian National Council and the formation of a unity government.
But preventing Fatah-Hamas reconciliation was the agenda in Congress last Wednesday— at a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing titled, The Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation: Threatening Peace Prospects. Middle East Subcommittee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen set the pro-Israel tone in her opening statement (video 2:04):
We are witnessing Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority] and Hamas seeking to unify their mutual hatred toward the democratic state of Israel.
The subsequent testimonies of three Israel lobbyists— the only witnesses invited to address the panel– sought to buttress this claim. The analysis provided by Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (transcript here) was based on Israeli government sources, notably Shin Bet, the Israeli government Security Agency, and the Israeli army blog. Yes, the Israeli army blog: “IDF & ISA [Shin Bet intelligence] Uncover Hamas Terrorist Assets in Hebron.”
Do we really need expert witnesses before Congress pipelining Israeli military propaganda to thwart Palestinian political movement? WINEP was founded by the Israel lobby organization AIPAC; and Levitt often sounded like a mouthpiece for the Israeli government in his testimony about the terrorist threat Hamas supposedly poses in the West Bank, and Israel’s crackdown on Hamas:
At the end of January, the IDF and Israel Security Agency (ISA, or Shin Bet) arrested twenty known Hamas members in Hebron (West Bank). They are known as Hamas members because they had served prison sentences in Israel previously for terrorist activity. They were planning on carrying out kidnapping plots and had more than ten guns of various types. The investigation revealed that the terror cell maintained contact with high-ranking Hamas officials to receive assistance, directions, and funding. The cell’s primary contact was Husam Badran, a former prisoner who was part of the exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Badran was released from prison in October 2011 and exiled to Qatar. The terrorist cell has been indicted on charges of weapons possession, contacting a hostile organization, and conspiracy to kidnap an IDF soldier.7 The IDF also noted that the “terrorists’ primary goal was to execute a kidnapping attack in order to bargain for the release of prisoners.” 8
The timing of the congressional hearing, right on the heels of a big Israeli push against Hamas, and right ahead of the reconciliation talks in Cairo, is certainly convenient for Israel and its friends in the U.S. Xinhua:
The Israeli army arrested [last] Monday 21 Hamas members in the West Bank, including three lawmakers, during pre-dawn raids, well-informed Palestinian sources said, while the Israeli military said more arrests are underway.
Most of the arrests were taken place in Nablus city, targeting nine senior members of the Islamic movement, said Hurriyat Center for Prisoners Rights in a statement.
Meanwhile, a Israeli military spokeswoman said that 25 Palestinians wanted for questioning by security forces were arrested, the majority of them are Hamas sympathizers.
AlJazeera: Israel arrests Hamas lawmakers in West Bank
“Twenty-five Palestinians were arrested, 23 of them belonged to Hamas,” she said.
Hanan Ashrawi, a senior Palestinian official in the West Bank, condemned the arrests, describing them as “deliberate Israeli plans to destabilise the internal situation, interfere in Palestinian institutions… and deal a blow to national reconciliation,” according to the AFP news agency.
Hamas has 74 members in the 132-seat Palestinian Authority Legislative Council, which is based in Ramallah. ….Security sources have told AFP that Israel plans to step up arrests of suspected militants in the West Bank to prevent a rising tide of low-intensity conflict and civil unrest from turning into an uprising.
How does arresting elected lawmakers prevent an uprising? It doesn’t. But the sad fact is that the Israelis can count on political cover in Washington from the congressional subcommittee hearing, warning about the dangers of Hamas to the so-called peace process.
That Israel military blog that Levitt cited in his testimony is crowing that on Jan 27, Israeli soldiers “thwarted a significant terror attack on an Israeli community” — i.e., an illegal Israeli settlement. And the blog published a letter supposedly laying out the terrorist plan.
When IDF soldiers arrested two Palestinians after they hurled firebombs at an IDF post in Judea and Samaria, they discovered this letter on the scene. It was written by the Al-Aqsa Brigade, which declared intent to carry out a terror attack in Alon Moreh, a nearby Israeli community:
The blog offers this translation of the Arabic text:
“The al-Aqsa Brigade takes full responsibility for the terror attack in the Alon Moreh community. The al-Aqsa Brigade is announcing the operation before its implementation. If the operation has failed, it will be repeated additional times in a wider manner — every minute, every hour, every moment — starting today.”
– Al-Aqsa Brigade, Arrows of Freedom Group
What luck! Israelis intercept a hand-written communique with intent to carry out a terror attack at the scene of some Palestinians hurling firebombs. That doesn’t explain why Israelis are arresting Hamas legislators though; Israel now detains 15 Palestinian MPs according to the Palestinian Parliament.
Nor does it begin to explain why the US Congress is serving as a pipeline for Israeli military intelligence, at a time when Palestinian leaders are trying to reconcile their differences.