Abducted citizens or unity government? Israeli motives for aggression on Palestinians

Bassem Aly , Tuesday 1 Jul 2014

Israel vows to continue crackdown on Hamas after bodies of three abducted Israeli teens are discovered in the West Bank north of Hebron

An Israeli soldier patrols near the area where the bodies of three Israeli teenagers were found, in the village of Halhul, near the West Bank city of Hebron, Tuesday,1 July , 2014.(Photo: AP)

Israel has confirmed that it has found the bodies of its three missing nationals. Is that an end to the story? Definitely not.

On 12 June, Israeli forces began searching for Gil-Ad Shaer and US-Israeli national Naftali Fraenkel, both 16, and Eyal Yifrah, 19, claiming that the Islamist Hamas movement had abducted them.

Palestinian-Israeli relations saw lately a bundle of deadlocks on different levels, including failed peace talks and a Fatah-Hamas reconciliation embodied in a unity government - along with the teens' kidnapping.

The last factor, according to Palestinian commentators, carries a large portion of the whole matter, making the ongoing Israeli aggression on Palestinians not only a result of the three teens’ crisis.

A ‘one-sided’ war

For roughly 18 days, Israel launched operations against Palestinians in the West Bank in the search for the lost teens.

Several media reports mentioned that such an approach comprised raiding Palestinian towns and villages, detaining Hamas members and closing the organisation’s headquarters.

According to Joe Catron, a Gaza-based US activist, Israel’s current military offensive has become a “one-sided war.”

Catron, who works in support of the anti-Israeli global campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), said many in the West Bank say the escalation there exceeds any they have seen since the second Intifada.

In a Twitter statement, the Israeli army announced on Monday its discovery of three bodies near the West Bank city of Hebron, noting the causes of death are still unclear.

Public radio stated that the bodies were discovered in a field near Halhul, a town north of Hebron, about ten minutes from the roadside in the south of the West Bank.

A special session was held by the Israeli cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with top-level Israeli officials vowing to resume the government’s military crackdown on Hamas.

For instance, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said there could be no “forgiveness for the killers of children and those who sent them... Now is the time to act.”

Catron, speaking to Ahram Online before the bodies were located, argued that Israel was facing an increasing global opposition to its latest waves of attacks, sieges, raids, detentions and killings.

“With little to show for them, and having produced absolutely no proof of the claims it used to defend them, I suspect it will not find its current level of aggression politically sustainable for much longer,” he pointed out.

Unification of Palestinian governance

Israeli, as well as American, dissatisfaction with the new Palestinian unity government was not an undisclosed piece of information by all means.

Fatah and Hamas, the major two blocs in Palestinian politics, finally managed on 2 June to finalise a new government following seven years of enmity and failed attempts at compromise.

Throughout the last seven years, Hamas had imposed full grip over the Gaza Strip, while Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader, ruled the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank.

Such a new government - mostly formed out of technocrats - will reunite Gaza and the West Bank under a sole political body for the first time since 2007 when Hamas took control of Gaza following its 2006 electoral victory in the Palestinian legislative election.

On the same day of the swearing-in ceremony in the West Bank’s Ramallah, Netanyahu warned against any international rush to recognise a Palestinian government constituted on the basis of a unity pact between Hamas and Fatah.

Kamel Hawwash, a British-Palestinian Professor at the University of Birmingham, said Israel is against a single Palestinian government.

“It’s the most obvious symbol,” he asserted. Hawwash indicated that Israel needs a strong Palestinian Authority (PA) to maintain security control over the West Bank, but specifically wants to weaken Hamas.

All rounds of peace talks witnessed the exclusion of Hamas – described by Netanyahu as a terrorist organisation – which has no official dealings with either Israel or the West.

When Abbas declared the unity deal on 23 April, Israel decided to freeze peace negotiations with the PA.

US Secretary of State John Kerry - who administered such stalled talks - expressed concern about Hamas’ role in any government and the importance that the new government commits to the principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements with it.

For Abbas, he assured that he would abide by these principles despite the continuation of Hamas’ refusal to recognise the existence of the Israeli state.  

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