In the last hours, it has become tragically clear that at the moment, the Israeli government and Hamas are not interested in the mediation of international actors to reach a ceasefire.
After years of silence about a conflict that seemed forgotten, everyone has woken up and are sounding the warning (as if they’d just realized it!) that the occupation is not an acceptable everyday reality and it hides an explosive core. Issues long concealed or forgotten factors have blown up once again, and again the price to be paid will be bloodshed from both peoples.
The post-Trump United States—led by Joe Biden—the European Union, Israel and the Arab countries all say they are “surprised.” Among the Israelis, the question is being asked: “How could they tell us that Hamas was not interested in armed confrontation?”
The truth is that both Netanyahu and Hamas’s leaders—who were waiting for more dollars to arrive from Qatar—were pursuing a line that led nowhere but ensured a relatively advantageous status quo. There had been several outbreaks of violence, lasting a day or so, with subsequent ceasefires brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the U.N. envoy.
But what happened this time? There was a convergence of elements: Israel was carrying out a harsh and violent occupation aimed at reducing the Palestinian presence in the territories occupied in 1967, expropriating Palestinian land and favoring the colonies of settlers. Now, public opinion in Israel is in shock. On Monday, Hamas launched rockets towards Jerusalem, and on Tuesday hundreds of rockets hit an unexpected nerve center: Tel Aviv and the central region of the country, to such an extent that the international airport was shut down.
But there is also another piece of news: the fruits of the discriminatory law on nationality are coming into view with protests breaking out in the mixed cities of Israel—with a strong Arab-Palestinian presence—such as Lod, Aco and Ramble, where heavy clashes are taking place as we write.
The dangerous Israeli escalation has lasted almost a month. Prime Minister Netanyahu is probably coming to the end of his long stint in power and is trying to do anything to prevent the formation of an alternative coalition. He has gone from violent and racist incitement against Palestinian Arabs, who are citizens of Israel, to overtures that led an Islamist faction to leave the United Arab List in the name of “effective pragmatism,” aiming to work with him, which then clashed with the strong opposition of the racist-extremist religious party that Netanyahu himself gave shape to.
The premier, usually little inclined to venture into wars that are not entirely controllable, was dragged in this direction by an Interior Minister, as violence occurred during the delicate period of Ramadan while demonstrators and a Jewish deputy of the United Arab List were protesting against the expropriation of Palestinian houses in Sheikh Jarrah. Then, the police violently raided the al-Aqsa mosque, a very important and serious matter for the Palestinians, for Jordan and for the entire Islamic world.
At the last moment, the premier managed to stop the ultranationalist march which every year invariably led to provocations and racist attacks against Palestinians in the Old City. But it was too late. Hamas rode the wave of excitement of the last few weeks. Setting itself up as the defender of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa, it thought it could win the electoral contest that Mahmoud Abbas was forced to cancel in order to avoid coming out defeated. Hamas launched an ultimatum that Israel could not accept and, like clockwork, the rockets began to fall around Jerusalem at 6 pm.
It was an enormous political triumph for the Islamists, who have positioned themselves as the concrete answer to the occupation and defenders of the sacred places of Islam.
The response was inevitable, but the reaction of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad has acquired a surprising extent and dimension. More than 800 rockets have reportedly been fired already, Israeli deaths so far number six or seven, and the political effect of Wednesday’s massive attack is an enormous one. As was to be expected, the fury and frustration of the Israeli elite is translating into violent air strikes: Palestinian casualties are reported to be at 56 in Gaza already, in addition to the usual destruction of homes and businesses, with three more dead in the Occupied Territories.
The Palestinians are beginning to feel the effects of the attack and appear interested in mediation, but in Israel there is a different stance. Not only from Netanyahu, who is planning to exploit these days to destroy the possible alliance of the opposition in the name of “patriotism and national unity in this tragic hour,” etc.; but also from an Israeli military leadership anxious to save its reputation, diminished by the “surprise” factor and the Palestinian offensive.
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