Escalation expected in Palestine

Haitham Ahmed , Thursday 9 May 2019

Palestinian analysts believe Israel’s recent escalation and the response of the resistance was a natural and expected outcome of Israel’s policy of intentional killing

Beit Lahia, Palestine
Palestinians hold a funeral at a mosque in Beit Lahia for some of those killed in by Israeli bombing (Photo: AFP)

The Israeli attacks Saturday and Sunday killed 27 people, including three women, two unborn babies, two infants and one child, and injured 177 Palestinians, including 42 children and 46 women, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

A statement by the ministry condemned Israel’s targeting of pregnant women as “a hostile and criminal act against life” that must be met with a clear and firm response by UN groups concerned with women and pregnant mothers.

The Palestinian Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Gaza said Monday that a preliminary survey revealed that Israeli air strikes entirely demolished 130 residential units and partially destroyed 700 others. Residents fled their homes in several parts of Gaza due to Israeli bombing.

Adnan Abu Amer, a Gaza resident, said it is obvious that the Israeli government — and at its helm Binyamin Netanyahu — only wants to manage but not resolve the living crisis in Gaza, so it remains in limbo. “No life, no death; keeping Palestinians barely above water so they don’t drown.”

Abu Amer said Palestinians were concerned about this scenario ever since they agreed to the October understandings, and as matters progressed these worries were revealed as true, such as obstructing the expansion of fishing zones and dragging their feet on major economic projects that would reduce unprecedented and rampant unemployment in the Gaza Strip.

Abu Amer said the Israelis succeeded in holding elections with the least tension, and as a result Netanyahu will now form his fifth cabinet even though Gaza could have caused him to lose.

“Was it right that Netanyahu was granted a lull, then tricked us again? Or should he have lost the elections for procrastinating with the Palestinians and using them as a bridge to achieve his electoral goals?” he asked.

Abu Amer added that continued stalling and procrastination is the other face of military attacks. “Palestinians don’t have to choose between dying of hunger or dying by bombings,” he said. “They want to live because they love life.”

Talal Okal, a writer, believes the escalation is part of a calculated round between the two sides. Netanyahu wanted to have the upper hand again, be the strongman who puts security ahead of all other priorities, and rewrite the formula of dealing with the Gaza Strip so it is “calm in return for calm.”

The calm Israel wants is for Palestinians to stop March of Return activities, not just aggressive action, and also to pre-empt the anniversary of Al-Nakba.

Okal continued that Netanyahu’s timing was bad since Israel needs calm while preparing for the Eurovision Song Contest, an event that requires a secure climate for hundreds of thousands of tourists to visit Israel.

This event made the resistance believe they can pressure Israel since the latter does not want an escalation with Gaza. He said the response of the resistance to Israeli strikes was strong and continuous, in the hope that Netanyahu will be forced to return to previous understandings.

Okal explained that both sides are in limbo now; Israel does not want to return to previous agreements because it will look like it submitted to the resistance, and does not want to expand hostilities.

The resistance, meanwhile, no longer accepts Netanyahu imposing the calm-for-calm formula, but also does not want to escalate.

Abdel-Majid Sweilam, a political analyst, said the recent escalation was preceded by indirect declarations by the Israeli radical right about new “conditions” for another truce.

As a result, fishing zones suddenly diminished and there was talk about “soldiers” held captive by Hamas. Sweilam said Netanyahu wants to reach a ceasefire to give Hamas final “designated” control in Gaza, on the condition they cooperate with him and implicitly accept separating Gaza from the West Bank.

Netanyahu is also working on creating an entity that is “separate and independent” from any “other project” which can “realistically” be the “official entity of Palestinians and the pivotal point of the Palestinian condition”.

Hamas cannot achieve this until it sells the idea that Israel is acquiescing to its demands after it “failed” to subjugate the “resistance”. It is already noticeable that Kushner is speaking less about the future of the Gaza Strip, which implies that it remains ambiguous in the US’s vision, and Netanyahu himself has not entirely revealed how and when he will use Hamas.

This theory is confirmed by Netanyahu’s main rival in the elections, Benny Gantz, who is critical of Netanyahu’s ambiguous policies in Gaza since they burden the army.

All Netanyahu wants right now, is a coalition that will protect him from prosecution, according to Nazir Mejali, researcher and renowned writer on Israeli affairs.

The present escalation cannot become all-out confrontation or actual war that could lead to changing the rules of the game. Netanyahu would not do that, nor would the Palestinian factions embroil the Gaza Strip in a war that would be very harsh on the people.

Minister of Culture Atef Abu Seif said that any serious attempt to find a political solution must begin by easing the current plight of Gaza and restoring national unity. Protecting the interests of the people is the start of protecting supreme national interests, Abu Seif argued.

“This is the only way to avoid the scourge of occupation, division and subsequent tragedy,” he said, adding that it’s important to understand what is happening and how Israel is taking advantage of every attack to boost its interests. “This should make us stop and see into a dark future, especially since Israel’s attacks on Gaza primarily aim to confirm that division will become deeper,” he said.

Palestinians understand how heated this summer will be, beginning in May which marks the Nakba of 1948 and the US embassy moving from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem after Washington recognised the holy city as the capital of Israel.

are many other painful events in Palestinian history, and they know that more awaits them after the US unveils its proposal after Ramadan.

They vow to block its approval by all means, no matter what pressure they come under. They may overturn the table even if that leads to igniting the entire situation.

This summer will be very heated for Palestinians, but this mainly depends on their ability to end differences and close ranks in the face of a plot to terminate their cause once and for all.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 May, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Escalation expected

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