Here is a snapshot review of the Israeli-Palestinian situation; PM Netanyahu of Israel gets the red carpet in India, where deals worth billions of dollars are about to be signed in the next few days, and while he is there, the Israeli air force demolished another Hamas tunnel, and Chairman Abbas gave a speech which sounded like a final requiem to a peace process with Israel. These are the headlines, behind which there are harsh realities, which put the actual Palestinian-Arab-Israeli conflict in a proper context.
To start with, the India visit of Netanyahu gives us more than a clue about what are the priorities of Palestinians and Israelis. The former went amok after President Trump’s announcement about recognizing Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel. They ran immediately to their safe heaven, the UN General Assembly, where they had a reduced majority more than usual, to the ritual, meaningless anti Israel resolution. India voted with them, eliciting public anger in Israel, while behind closed doors explaining to Netanyahu, that this was an empty gesture towards the Muslim public opinion in India, exactly because the visit of Netanyahu is going to be THE real thing. So, as it happens, the Palestinians are left with some symbolic satisfaction, and Israel will be left with billions of bucks. Not a bad deal for Israel, not a real deal for the Palestinians. Let us put it all in perspective remembering, that until some years ago, India was in the forefront of the ‘’non-aligned’’ anti Israel campaign. Then there is the Hamas tunnel. The Israeli army had a bitter strategic surprise in the 2014 campaign, when the Hamas terror tunnels were an unknown and caused damage, both military, but even more so, psychological. Since then, the IDF has found a technological and intelligence solution to the problem, and tunnels are being destroyed one after the other, depriving Hamas of their presumed strategic weapon. The latest tunnel to be destroyed two days ago gives us a better than ever perspective of the Hamas intentions and how they backfire on them. This tunnel was dug underneath Kerem Shalom, the checkpoint between Israel and Gaza. Just few days before its destruction, the regular convoy of supplies from Israel to Gaza crossed this point on its way to help the needy people of Gaza, and needy they are. 334 trucks carried nearly 10000 tons of civilian supplies to the people of Gaza. So much for ‘’Israel’s siege’’ of Gaza. Yet, the Hamas terrorists were ready to endanger it all, and did it in complete disregard to the real needs of their people. Moreover, what makes it an even crazier decision on their part, was the fact, that the tunnel ended up in the Egyptian side of Rafah, something which infuriated the Egyptian authorities, which has tried recently to be a go-between Hamas and Israel, in order to prevent precisely the possibility of an eruption between the two sides. There are clear signs, that Hamas will pay a heavy political price, as the Egyptians feel cheated by them. Ruling Gaza has become impossible for Hamas, not because of any imagined ‘’siege’’, just the opposite of it. There is no ‘’siege’’, but the terrorists invested most of what they get from the outside world on preparations for another military round with Israel, instead of improving the welfare of their people. Many residents of Gaza are fully aware of that. Finally, we heard the latest speech of Mahmoud Abbas, saying goodbye to the Oslo process, claiming that Jerusalem has been Palestinian for the past 6000 years, that the Israelis are not Jews and so on and so forth, including personal slurs directed at President Trump in colloquial Arabic. The kind of speech, which begs for an answer relating to the mental state of the speaker, or to his sense of total despair about the actual situation that he has to deal with. Maybe there is no real contradiction between the two options, but I, for one, tend to think, that Abbas and his advisers simply realize some unfortunate new realities. The Obama friendly administration is no more, the Trump administration means business when they talk about stopping financial assistance to families of murderers of Jews, the Jerusalem announcement did not set the entire Muslim world on fire, and last, but not least, Egypt and Saudi Arabia pay lip service to the Palestinians, but do business with Israel. They have other issues on top of their agenda, Iran, for example, and poor Mahmoud Abbas is far from being on top of the list.
This Samson- like speech of Abbas can signal a sense of total despair, hence agreement to resorting to another Intifada, though he needs the Palestinian masses to go along, and the signs are, that they do not show much enthusiasm. It may be the political will of a failing leader, something along the lines of, ‘’I tried...but’’, and it may be a last minute call to his Arab and Muslim ‘’brothers’’ to do for him what they have not done until now. He will be disappointed again. Erdoghan has Syria and the Kurds on his hands, Iran has its protesting people, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have their own problems. What surely is not going to happen, is a grand gesture from Benjamin Netanyahu, whose followers in Israel already cry out loud ‘’we told you so’’ about Abbas. Yes, they can celebrate a political victory, but they need to be advised not to use the current juncture, in order to initiate actions and legislation which will close the door completely on any chance of future negotiations. For example, let many more Palestinians work in Israel. Increase, rather than decrease the civilian supplies to Gaza, continue to coordinate with Egypt about the situation there, and sure enough, destroy all the death tunnels of Hamas.
This has already been one of the longest conflicts of our times, a long, multi-round boxing battle, in which the clear advantage now is for the Israeli side, but keep it in points, not in knock-out. An interesting challenge to the leadership in Jerusalem.