Ask an Israeli and he will tell you that Israel is attacking Gaza because Hamas’s rocket attacks pose a security threat to Israel and its settlements. Israeli sources claim that Hamas has obtained sophisticated weapons which were smuggled all the way from Libya. In step with these accounts, some western officials have declared their support for Israel’s right to defend itself, while others have been appealing to both Israel and Hamas to exercise restraint and agree to a cease fire.
The west’s posturing is to be both condemned and lamented. The claim that Hamas threatens Israel’s security is almost comical. Anyone who is familiar with the conflict is well aware that the Israel’s military might far outweighs not only that of Hamas but of the entire Arab world.
Watching Israel’s attack on Gaza is tantamount to watching a hulking, chemically-enhanced bully savagely beat a frail man and attempt to justify it by saying that the frail man threatened to kill him and he fears for his life! Thus it is difficult for us to believe Israel’s overtures that it is a lamb subjected to the threats of a fearsome wolf, and that all of these military actions are merely a legitimate act of self-defence with no other ulterior motive.
Another interpretation of the Israeli onslaught claims that Israel is doing this in order to send a clear message to the new Egyptian administration in response to Morsy’s posturing. Previously Morsy had given the impression that Egyptian policy towards Israel would change in favour of one more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight, although he said would honour the existing peace agreements between Israel and Egypt.
Following the logic of this argument, Israel’s military campaign, which the new Egyptian administration is incapable of stopping or even containing, will embarrass Egypt’s leaders and increase its many burdens. Moreover Israel’s aggression could permanently derail the Egyptian revolution, or at the very minimum, make post-revolution Egypt more moderate and less hostile towards Israel from the Israeli point of view.
A third reading of the events reckons that the Israelis timed their strike on Gaza so as to derail the Palestinian Authority’s bid to obtain UN membership, and all of the legitimating mechanisms that go along with it that would help the Palestinian people build an independent state. The narrative supported by the west that the Israeli aggression is justified by Hamas’s threats may prevent some nations from approving the Palestinian bid, citing that the Palestinians are terrorists.
The attack could potentially focus everyone’s attention on the suffering in Gaza and compel them to stand firm by Gaza’s side, to the extent that Arabs and even Palestinians, in good faith or bad, will deem Mahmoud Abbas’s bid of no value in times like these when Gaza is in dire need of support.
This could quickly lead to this group shouting out most embarrassingly, “After witnessing the international collusion that enabled the assault on Gaza, UN membership would be an embarrassment!” Thus the Israeli aggression has created an atmosphere in which Palestinian membership to the UN will be met with hostility.
Some quarters, particularly in the west, will reject it based on the claim that the Palestinians have not forsaken terrorism. Others in the Palestinian liberation camp will reject it having deemed it a step backwards on the path of resistance, and against Palestinian national interests.
A fourth interpretation of the motives behind the attack is to transform the Palestinian issue from one characterised by a people living in occupied lands – or in diaspora struggling for the liberation of their lands, and the establishment of an independent state – into an issue of lifting the siege and providing material support to Gaza. It is intriguing that nearly all discussions in the media and international posturing do not address Palestine or the Palestinian people, but only Gaza.
Of course Gaza is part of Palestine, but there is a difference between the oft-stated sentiment, “We condemn the aggression against Gaza,” and the infrequently stated one, “We condemn the aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza.” Transforming the issue into one of aiding Gaza and lifting the siege takes on important dimensions when one considers how Israel allowed Sheikh Hamad and Egyptian officials to visit Gaza with Israeli assurances that they would come and go safely.
Moreover one must keep in mind the intensity of the calls emanating from all corners of the globe demanding Egypt open the crossing and support Gaza. Simultaneously the voices in Israel demanding resettling the Gazans to the Sinai grew louder, never once mentioning that between Gaza and Israel six crossings can be found, and no one is demanding that Israel open the crossings.
Israel therefore will push things to the point that at some moment in the negotiations it will become clear that the only acceptable solution regarding Gaza will involve Egypt taking responsibility for Hamas’s behaviour towards Israel, in exchange for a cease in Israeli military operations.
They most likely will not demand outright that Egypt resettle Palestinians in the Sinai, but rather they will demand terms that will lead to placing Gaza under Egyptian administration, which means in practice that Egypt will bear the burden of managing Gaza and perhaps not only resettling Palestinians in the Sinai, but in all of Egypt.
Israel’s penetration of jihadist groups well-known to Hamas, which disrupted security in the Sinai, and now the aggression on Gaza are all steps towards settling the Palestinian question. Every Arab action, whatever the intention, has helped deepen the divisions in Palestine. In the end even dealing with Hamas as the legitimate ruler of Gaza helps to ensure that Netanyahu’s ideal scenario is achieved at the expense of building an independent Palestinian state.
I believe that each interpretation has some credence, but some are more valid than others. Israel might truly desire to limit the power of Hamas’s military, but that is merely one reason among many. In my opinion the real reasons are connected with scuppering the PA’s UN membership bid, and making a Palestinian state impossible so as to force Egypt to absorb Gaza.
Lastly we should emphasise here that material and political support for the Palestinian people of Gaza is the duty of every Egyptian authority. In order for this support to contribute towards the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we must avoid anything that would widen the divide amongst Palestinians or recognise any Israeli-imposed division on historic Palestine between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Real pressure must be placed on the European countries which have not honoured the four treaties of the Geneva Convention and human rights agreements regarding the attack on unarmed civilians, which cannot be justified in any way.