Thursday, July 28, 2016

From Ian:

Douglas Murray: When will our politicians accept the reality of Islamic terrorism?
How is your Merkelsommer going? For now, Britain seems to be missing the worst. True, a couple of men of Middle Eastern appearance tried to abduct a soldier near his base in Norfolk for what was unlikely to have been an interfaith dialogue session. But Britain’s geographical good fortune, relative success in limiting weapons and our justified scepticism of the undiscriminating ‘open borders’ brigade mean that we have so far been spared the delights of what Angela Merkel’s growing army of critics refer to as her summer of terror.
It is now a fortnight since Mohammed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and ploughed a truck along the Nice seafront, killing 84 people. The following Monday Mohammed Riyad, who said he was from Afghanistan but almost certainly came from Pakistan, screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’ while hacking with an axe at his fellow passengers on a Bavarian train. The next day another Mohammed, this time Mohamed Boufarkouch, shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ and stabbed a Frenchwoman and her three daughters (aged eight, 12 and 14) near Montpelier. Mixing things up a little, that Friday’s shooter in Munich was a child of Iranians called Ali David Sonboly. Skip forward a couple of days and a ‘-Syrian asylum seeker’ with a machete was hacking a pregnant woman to death in Stuttgart. The next day another ‘Syrian asylum seeker’, Mohammad Daleel, carried out a suicide bombing outside a bar in Ansbach, Bavaria. And a little over 24 hours later two men shouting the name of Isis entered a church in Rouen during Mass, took the nuns and congregation hostage and slaughtered the priest with a knife.
Although the public know what is going on, the media seems loath to find any connection between these events. Indeed, the same papers that blame an exaggerated spike in ‘hate crime’ on everyone who voted for Brexit seem unwilling to put the blame for these real and violent attacks on the individuals carrying them out. ‘Syrian man denied asylum killed in German blast’ was the Reuters headline on the Ansbach story, neatly turning the suicide bomber into the victim and the German asylum system into the perpetrator. As Reuters went on: ‘A 27-year-old Syrian man who had been denied asylum in Germany a year ago died on Sunday when a bomb he was carrying exploded outside a music festival.’ How terrible for him to lose his bomb in such a way.

The Spectator Podcast: Summer of terror
In a week in which both Germany and France have suffered terror attacks, the question of the relationship between Islamic terrorism and Europe’s refugee crisis is once again rearing its head. In his Spectator cover piece, Douglas Murray argues that whilst the public knows that ‘Islamism comes from Islam’, Europe’s political classes are still refusing to tackle the problem at its core. So how can we bridge this gap between what politicians are saying and what the public are thinking? And does Europe have to come to terms with a new reality of domestic terrorism? On this week’s podcast, Douglas Murray speaks to Lara Prendergast. Joining them both to discuss Europe’s summer of terror is Haras Rafiq, Managing Director of the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think tank.
NGO Monitor: The Message Behind B’Tselem’s Fatally Flawed Statistics on the 2014 Gaza War
Rather, as noted in its press release and in social media posts, B’Tselem is pushing the line that its research “casts doubt on Israel’s claim that all the targets were legitimate and that the military adhered to the principle of proportionality during the attacks and took precautions to reduce harm to civilians.” B’Tselem’s campaign asserts that “The Israeli government almost totally shirked its responsibility for the massive harm to civilians in the operation,” and that “the moral and legal responsibility for this massive harm to civilians lies with” Israeli decision makers.
These blatant political statements and the related goals of demonizing Israel and bolstering international investigations are among the main reasons that B’Tselem publishes statistics that are fundamentally flawed and meaningless. The number of civilians allegedly killed has no relevance to war crimes allegations.
In order to evaluate whether a particular IDF strike was a war crime, we must first know the intended target. Was it a combatant, a weapons storage facility, a tunnel, or a military command center? Or was a civilian targeted? B’Tselem cannot possibly know this crucial piece of information. They have no idea (in most cases) of the nature of the target, so it is impossible for them to make judgements on the legitimacy of any attack. Perhaps the civilian casualties, when these occurred, were a result of an errant Hamas missile or secondary explosions from munitions on the ground.
Moreover, B’Tselem does not have access to Israeli military operational and intelligence documents that would provide a more definitive answer to some of these central elements.
Next, B’Tselem identifies Palestinians who “were taking part in the hostilities at the time of their death, or held a continuous combat function in an armed group in the Gaza Strip,” and labels all others civilians.
This is problematic in two respects. One, as already noted by the blogger Elder of Ziyon, B’Tselem ignores evidence of the militant affiliations of some individuals it labels as “civilian.”

Chief Palestinian Peace Negotiator Condemns ‘Criminal’ Killing of Hamas Terrorist Who Murdered Israeli Father-of-Ten in Cold Blood
The Palestinian Authority’s chief peace negotiator condemned Israel for the death of the Hamas terrorist who killed a prominent rabbi earlier this month, the Hebrew news site nrg reported on Wednesday.
According to the report, Saeb Erekat called the IDF’s raid, in which 29-year-old Muhammad Fakia lost his life resisting arrest, a “crime.”
Fakia – whom Hamas referred to as the “hero of the Otniel attack” – shot and killed Rabbi Michael (Miki) Mark, as he drove his wife and two of his 10 children to a Shabbat dinner.
In spite of Erekat’s response, a member of Fakia’s family accused the PA’s security forces of providing Israel with the information on the terrorist’s whereabouts, which led to his death.
In Fakia’s hometown of Dura in southern Hebron, a general strike was declared in his honor.
Honest Reporting: Terrorists Are NOT Victims
Yesterday, a number of newspapers absurdly managed to turn a terrorist into a victim, and the Israeli forces who were trying to arrest him, into attackers. It was a true feat of verbal gymnastics.
And it’s just plain wrong.
What actually happened?
Israeli security forces tracked down Mohamed al Fakih, the terrorist who murdered Rabbi Miki Mark earlier this month. The arrest raid turned into a shootout when Fakih, along with an entire armed cell of terrorists, opened fire on the IDF. Fakih had turned his home into an armed base.
The soldiers returned fire, and after a lengthy shootout, Fakih died in the very gun battle he started.
How did the BBC report this?
How did others report this?
The Daily Mail and International Business Times published almost identical stories with similarly misleading headlines.
While their headlines were slightly better than the BBC, they nonetheless cover up that 1. Fakih was a terrorist not merely a “gunman,” or a “militant,” and 2. he was shot only after opening fire at Israeli forces.

NGO Monitor: HRW‘s “Child Detention” Report: Ignoring Inconvenient Truths
On July 28, 2016 Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report entitled “Extreme Measures: Abuses against Children Detained as National Security Threats,” which claims to document the abuse of minors by security forces in Afghanistan, the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), Iraq, Israel/Palestine, Nigeria, Syria and the United States.
The inclusion of a section on “Israel/Palestine” in this document clearly reflects the primacy of HRW’s political agenda over methodological rigor and due diligence. This section is based on a number of false or unverified allegations.
For example, HRW claims that, “The military courts do not provide for specialized juvenile justice, with specially trained judges, prosecutors, and attorneys.” This statement is completely false. A special Juvenile Military Court was established in 2009, and according to the Israeli Ministry of Justice only “judges that have received relevant professional training, similar to the training offered to justices of the Youth Courts in Israel, are qualified to serve as juvenile judges.” (Most of the Palestinian minors held by Israeli security officials are encouraged to attack civilian vehicles, and these attacks have led to fatalities. In some cases, minors have been involved in stabbing attacks.)
This Israeli document is publicly available on the Ministry of Justice website, and the HRW statement is indicative of a lack of substantive research, as well as the NGO’s recurrent bias against Israel. This bias has been systematically documented by a number of sources.
Edgar Davidson: LBC's Nick Ferrari: shooting terrorists in France and Germany is right. Shooting them in Israel is a war crime

Had to laugh at LBC Radio's Facebook posting earlier today boasting about how Nick Ferrari ridiculed a caller for daring to say it was wrong for police to shoot to kill the terrorists in France and Germany.
That would be the very same hypocritical jerk Nick Ferrari who spent over 30 minutes (on 25 September 2015) demonizing Israel for daring to shoot a female Muslim terrorist who was in the act of stabbing a soldier, and then for saying he 'mourned' the death of another terrorist (who had slaughtered passengers on a bus in central Jerusalem on 13 October 2015).
And, incidentally, I actually believe that Nick Ferrari is far and away the best and most objective of all LBC's regular hosts (which is why he needs to be called out when he gets it so wrong).
MEMRI: Egyptian Columnist Muhammad Amin: U.S., Britain Behind Terror Attack in Nice
In his July 15, 2016 column in the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Yawm, in the wake of the Nice terror attack, Muhammad Amin wrote that terrorism is a creation of the U.S. and the U.K. and averred that the U.S. is using the Islamic State (ISIS) to fight proxy wars. Amin, who is also the newspaper's newly appointed Board of Trustees chairman, suggested that the U.S. had used ISIS to carry out the Bastille Day attack in Nice so as to punish France for its support of Egypt. Throughout his piece, he alludes to Britain's "harboring" of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB); like many pro-regime Egyptian commentators, Amin considers the MB terrorists as well.
Following are translated excerpts from the article:
"They Gave Him A Truck And Told Him: We'll See You In Paradise, Hero"
"The terrorist Mohamed Bouhlel imagined that he would enter Paradise and that he would be a martyr. They gave him a truck and told him: We'll see you in Paradise, hero. He went and ran over everyone he encountered in Nice, killing and injuring more than 100 people. So, how will he enter Paradise? Who said that [the terrorists] would enter Paradise by killing, bloodshed, and running people over? The one who ran over the French on their holiday did not just run over them, he ran over the entire world, under the wheels of his insane truck. He is not a human and he is not a Muslim, and savages and murderers will not enter Paradise!...
"The saddening thing is that there are those who celebrated this massacre and congratulated themselves, and perhaps even performed two prostrations in prayer after the attack. What are you happy about? Why are you praying? Why France, and not Britain? Every time there is a new terror incident – who plots them? Who funds them? In particular, what is the relation between America and England and what happened in Nice?"
Gold: Palestinian Authority Balfour lawsuit 'contradiction of peace process’
While some may have ridiculed the Palestinian Authority’s recent call to sue Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Jerusalem is taking it seriously and holding this threat up as proof that the Palestinians are not interested in peace.
“This is the statement they are making,” Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold told The Jerusalem Post, when asked whether there was real concern in Jerusalem that the Palestinians would carry out their threat. “This is a declaration of policy. If I made a declaration of policy of that nature, which seems to contradict the whole spirit of the peace process, they would be all over us.”
PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, speaking Monday on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas at an Arab League summit in Mauritania, called on the league to help him sue the British government for issuing the Balfour Declaration in November 1917.
The Balfour Declaration pledged British support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine. The 100th anniversary of the declaration, made in the form of a letter from then-foreign secretary Arthur James Balfour to Lord Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community at the time, is to be marked next year.
“There is significance to what Abbas is saying, because we have been saying that the Palestinian leadership has to enter negotiations and recognize the right of the Jewish people to a nation state,” Gold said. “This statement from Abbas that the Arab League should help sue the British government is just a resounding no to Israel’s request.”
Ya'alon: Palestinians See All of Israel as "Occupied"
Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Wednesday that Palestinians view the entire State of Israel as a settlement.
Speaking at a conference at Bar-Ilan University, he said, "When the Palestinians talk about the occupation, they are referring to the entire territory of the land of Israel, not just Judea and Samaria.
"'Hamastan' and the Palestinian Authority refuse to recognize Israel, and we receive rockets in exchange for land."
He added that "the division between Right and Left is meaningless -- the Arab leadership does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
"For the Palestinians, the biggest settlement is Tel Aviv. ... Fatah could have established state infrastructure a long time ago -- before the state [of Israel] was established, during the period of Jordanian rule over the West Bank and during the Oslo Accords in '94."
Ya'alon went on to say that "the desire to separate from the Palestinians is an illusion. They are dependent on us financially and security-wise. Without the IDF, the Fatah regime would not survive. We disengaged from Gaza and we still provide them with electricity and water. They would die if we got out of the West Bank. Rockets would fall in Israel and the kingdom in Jordan would fall. Arab countries understand this. They pushed the Palestinian issue to the end of the line."
Settlement ‘expansion' fails to even match natural growth
Israeli housing construction in the West Bank is back in the news again, and once again major global political figures - who are presumably well briefed on the issue and should know better - have been blowing the issue out of proportion and misrepresenting the reality on the ground.
While media reports often make it seem as if Israeli settlement activity is constantly accelerating, new research by AIJAC proves that Israel has been exercising great restraint in regard to such construction for years.
The fact is, since Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu took office in 2009, on average, demand for housing in settlements for natural growth - i.e. births and marriages - has exceeded supply of new housing, even in settlement blocs Israel is expected to keep in any potential peace agreement. Far from "massively expanding", settlements are barely treading water.
These statistics are available to anyone, yet diplomats continue to overemphasise the settlements issue - a counterproductive exercise which stands to diminish prospects for peace between Israel and the Palestinians - not because of the settlement reality but by propagating the myth of exaggerated Israeli settlement activity.
Such examples of this overemphasis on settlements are commonplace and routine. On July 12, Gerard van Bohemen, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, told the Security Council:
UN: Israel policies forcing Palestinians to leave Area C of the West Bank
Israel has created conditions on the ground that force Palestinians to leave Area C of the West Bank, which is tantamount to a creeping annexation of the area, warned the United Nations on Wednesday.
The country’s “policies and practices have created a highly coercive environment in Area C that forces people [Palestinians] to leave,” said Natalie Grove, who is a representative of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
She spoke as part of an unusual conference in the Knesset that was organized by left-wing politicians, including Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh, to highlight Israeli actions against Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli military and civil control.
“Forcible [population] transfer is a great breach of the Geneva Convention,” Grove said.
“Israel creates humanitarian need in a place where it should be addressing it. When the humanitarian community seeks to address these needs, Israel tries to prevent it,” she said.
Grove and Odeh charged that Israel was taking such actions to put in place a policy of creeping annexation.
State Department blasts 'corrosive' Israeli construction
The U.S. State Department on Wednesday blasted Israeli plans to build new homes in Jerusalem, describing them as “corrosive” to peace.
The condemnation came following Monday’s announcement of plans for 770 new housing units in the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.
“We are deeply concerned by reports today that the Government of Israel has published tenders for 323 units in East Jerusalem settlements,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.
“We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace. These steps by Israeli authorities are the latest examples of what appears to be a steady acceleration of settlement activity that is systematically undermining the prospects for a two- state solution,” he added.
“In just the past few weeks, we have seen reports of the advancement of plans for 531 units in Maale Adumim, 19 in Har Homa, 120 in Ramot, and 30 in Pisgat Ze’ev; the advancement of a plan to retroactively legalize an outpost near Ramallah; and the issuance of tenders for 42 units in Kiryat Arba,” said Kirby.
'Obama increased aid to Arab countries, but not to Israel'
South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham blasted President Obama this week, condemning his refusal to increase American aid to Israel, as well as his efforts to bar Israel from spending the aid money within the Jewish state.
Speaking to Haaretz, Graham revealed that Israel had previously requested an increased aid package from the White House, with $4 billion a year for regular military funding, plus $600 million towards Israel’s missile defense network.
But, Graham said, the administration rejected the request, despite similar increases to Arab states, such as Jordan.
“I made a decision, given the deterioration in the region, that Israel needs more funding,” said Graham. “In the last three years, we increased funding to Jordan by $275 million outside of the MoU, because Jordan was under siege.”
“The administration didn’t object to that increase, but they are objecting to the increase to Israel for 2017.”
In 2015 the White House announced plans to raise the amount of aid to Jordan by more than 50%, topping $1 billion per year.
Group of Senators Call on US to Increase Funding for Israeli Missile Defense
A bipartisan group of senators led by Sens. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is urging that an additional $320 million for Israeli missile defense be added to a defense bill.
“Amid growing rocket and missile threats in the Middle East, it is prudent for the United States and Israel to advance and accelerate bilateral cooperation on missile defense technologies,” the senators said in a letter to the Armed Services Committee chairmen that was first obtained by The Hill.
Why Does Obama Continue to Support the UN Human Rights Council?
Reforming United Nations institutions is often a fool’s errand. Yet, the Obama administration chooses to draw no lessons from its attempt to improve the UN Human Rights Council, which just concluded its 10th anniversary session this month.
Ten years ago, the Human Rights Council was formed to replace its corrupt and discredited predecessor, the Human Rights Commission. Then-UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described the Commission as having “cast a shadow on the reputation of the United Nations system as a whole” due to its biased selectivity, politicization, and corrupt efforts to shield its members from due scrutiny.
It’s easy to see why. At its end, the Commission included six of the most politically repressive regimes in the world: China, Cuba, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Vietnam.
A genocide in Darfur was being perpetrated by Sudan, which had been elected a member of the Commission. The Syrian regime that has murdered tens of thousands of its own citizens was proposing to investigate US war crimes in Iraq. And the US itself had been kicked off the Commission.
A satirist could scarcely conceive so perverse a record. But has its successor been an improvement?
Report: Assad and Putin held secret meeting, discussed Israel
Syrian President Bashar Assad secretly visited Russian President Valdimar Putin in Moscow, just days before the latter met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in June, Lebanese newspaper Al-Joumhouria reported Thursday.
Putin and Assad discussed the crisis in Syria as well as the possibility of a comprehensive agreement with Israel, including the Golan Heights, Al-Joumhouria reported, however the Kremlin denied the report.
The Lebanese paper also reported that the American government was involved in the secret meeting.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will reportedly be part of the process on an overall regional plan when it is presented to him during an upcoming visit to Moscow on August 9.
Syrian news agency SANA also reported Thursday that Assad has issued a decree granting amnesty to all rebels who turn in their weapons to Syrian authorities.
"Assad called on the rebels to lay down their arms and return to the homeland," SANA reported.
Assad also called on all Syrians to stand together as one alongside the Syrian army and to eradicate the roots of terrorism.
"Striking Israel will bring destruction upon Hamas
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu participated on Thursday afternoon in a ceremony celebrating the completion of a defense project for housing in the communities of the Gaza belt. While there, he emphasized achievements in deterrence as a result of Operation Protective Edge, and threatened a powerful reaction if the current quiet is disturbed.
"The Operation gave us the quietest two years of the past decade," he said. "Look, we don't have the ability to shape the strategic environment in which we live, but we do have the ability to achieve deterrence against our enemies and, when needed, strike terror infrastructure in a significant way."
According to the Prime Minister, the policy now is to react with determination against any disturbance of calm - even the slightest - "and to convey to the enemy that the rules of the game have changed. If we have quiet, Gaza will have quiet, striking us will bring destruction upon Hamas, and Jihad, and anybody that tries to hurt us from the other side of the fence. We will react powerfully to any attempt to hurt our communities and our citizens."
'IDF special forces, US Marines train for combating ISIS in Negev drill'
IDF special forces units teamed up with US Marines last week for a joint military exercise in the Negev Desert in part aimed at coordinating techniques for combating terrorist activities such as that of Islamic State, Channel 2 revealed Thursday morning.
The drill dubbed 'Noble Shirley,' which was kept under wraps until now, reportedly involved special units from the Israeli Air Force, Navy and ground forces.
Channel 2 reported that the IDF forces relayed their experience in combating regional terrorism threats to the US forces, which can apply the training to America's fight against ISIS in the Middle East.
During the exercise, the troops took part in drills simulating helicopter landings behind enemy lines, urban warfare above and below ground along with close-range combat and military takeover techniques.
Additional exercises also reportedly concentrated on medical responses to injured troops in enemy territory and the coordination of Israeli and US medical networks.
The drill was said to have been conducted during day and nighttime hours.
Analysis: How Israel undermined the tunnel threat
Nowadays the IDF is running a three-layer defense shield to detect and find tunnels.
The first one is the simplest one. Heavy equipment was brought to dig along the Gaza border and unveiled tunnels based on accurate intelligence or at random.
The second method employed is to dig holes every dozen or so meters and insert rods with geophysics sensors that detect digging noise and indicate the estimated direction and distance. In ministry parlance, this measure is called a “seismic underground fence.”
Elbit Systems, one of Israel’s leading defense contractors, won the tender worth hundreds of millions of shekels to build it. However, according to Langotsky, “10 years ago I suggested that the state-owned Geophysics Institute would be assigned to the task, to be completed within two years for only NIS 20m.
The third line of defense against the tunnels is the idea to build a deep underground fortified wall. The government has yet to find the budget for the project, estimated at probably more then NIS 2 billion and to take three years.
But the indefatigable Langotsky warns: “The wall is an ambitious idea which still has to be tested for a long period before being proved operational, otherwise it will turn into a ‘white elephant.’”
Furthermore, he believes that the defense establishment has to appoint a project manager to coordinate all the involved parties – and there are too many. His ideal example to be adopted is the Manhattan Project – the creation in the Second World War of the US atomic bomb.
That project, led and managed by Prof. Robert Oppenheimer, who was appointed the project “czar” with overall authority and responsibility.
Israel: Hamas digs 6 miles of tunnels each month
Hamas is digging more than six miles of tunnels each month toward Israel, which has no guaranteed techniques for detecting them, Israeli officials said Wednesday.
Amid an ongoing argument among politicians and bereaved Israeli families over whether the Netanyahu government dealt with the Hamas tunnel threat appropriately and effectively before and during the 2014 war in Gaza, the unnamed Israeli defense and diplomatic officials were quoted by Channel 2 news as saying that Israel knows that Hamas is constantly extending its underground network.
“We have no perfect solution” to the threat, the officials were quoted as saying, “and neither does any other country.”
Israel located and destroyed two Hamas attack tunnels in April and May. Both were discovered in the southern Gaza Strip and ran into Israeli territory.
The tunnels were the first discovered inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. During that operation, dubbed in Israel Operation Protective Edge, at least 34 tunnels were discovered and destroyed by Israeli forces, many of them leading into Israeli territory.
Bill seeks to strip terrorists of disability benefits, pensions
The Knesset on Wednesday approved a bill seeking to strip terrorists of disability benefits and pensions. Fifty-seven MKs voted in favor of the legislation proposal, while 13 MKs voted against it.
The bill, introduced by Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri, was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday. The committee decided to promote it through a rapid legislation process, effectively excusing it from the mandatory preliminary reading to which all private bills are subjected.
While Perry is an opposition MKs, the coalition backed the bill as well.
According to Shin Bet security agency data, 73% of the Palestinian assailants involved in the current wave of terrorism had Israeli IDs, making them eligible for various social security benefits.
"We shouldn't be wary of revoking financial benefits from those who are clearly not wary of taking Israeli lives," Perry said.
Also on Wednesday, the a bill seeking to offer the victims of terrorism double insurance or social security compensation passed its preliminary reading.
Fatah, Hamas to hold talks in renewed bid to bury hatchet
Fatah and Hamas, the two leading Palestinian factions, are to hold another round of reconciliation talks in the coming weeks in a bid to mend fences after nearly a decade of hostility, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday.
In an interview with a Sudanese television station, Abbas said the two parties will hold a new round of negotiations to discuss measures for general elections to select a president and members of parliament, and the establishment of a unity government.
“We are in need of national reconciliation as soon as possible, because without unity between the land and people of the West Bank and Gaza, there will not be a Palestinian state,” Abbas said, according to the Palestinian news site Shasha.
Palestinian parliamentary elections were last held in 2006, in the aftermath of which Hamas violently ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip. Abbas’s Fatah party controls the West Bank, where it has fended off Hamas attempts to increase influence.
Presidential elections last took place in 2005 and Abbas has held onto the presidency since then.
Hamas ready to pounce on weak Fatah in local elections, experts say
The Hamas terror group in control of the Gaza Strip is poised to make a power play using one of its most potent weapons — the ballot box.
In 2012, the hardline Islamist group boycotted municipal elections over allegations of intimidation and corruption in the West Bank by its political rival Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority. Since then, the two major Palestinian parties have remained in a state of cold war.
Despite these ongoing tensions, Hamas surprised many by agreeing recently to participate in municipal elections across the Palestinian territories slated for October 8.
Experts told The Times of Israel that Hamas likely ended its boycott of the vote because the group sees an opportunity to gain legitimacy by beating a weak opponent — the aging and unpopular Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his divided Fatah party.
Hamas is also in a state of political isolation after losing the support of its important Sunni state backers, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and to some extent Turkey after Ankara and Jerusalem recently mended relations. The ballot box, one Israeli expert argued, is a way the group can take control of its own destiny, while a well-known Palestinian scholar hypothesized secret and unprecedented coordination between the Islamists and Fatah.

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