Throughout the Israeli terrorist attack on Gaza, the question I have been asked repeatedly has been “What next for Palestine”? I have resisted committing to an answer or at least to expressing a view because it is a very complicated situation to understand, analyse and then gaze through a crystal ball and see beyond the here and now.
At the time of writing, over 2,100 Palestinians were murdered by Israel, over 10,000 injured, tens of thousands of homes destroyed and the infrastructure of Gaza has been almost reduced to rubble. On the Israeli side less than one hundred have been killed including only four civilians, some minor damage to infrastructure, air raid sirens have sounded regularly and flights in and out of Ben Gurion airport has been disrupted.
Both sides have claimed a victory of of sorts. It seems to me that if measured by death and destruction, Israel has one. However, if measured by resilience and disruption to everyday life, the Palestinain resistance has own hands down. As I said in a previous blog Netanyahu has looked and sounded less convincing both to his people and to the world. In contrast, Hamas in particular has sounded more believable and reliable in its media campaign.
I am not a military person and have no access to assessments of the military capabilities of the resistance groups but if Israel’s strategic objective was to halt the firing of rockets then it has failed. On day 50 of the attack, over one hundred rockets were fired, reaching as far north as Tel Aviv. The main success Israel can really claim I terms of degrading the capabilities of the resistance groups are a number of assassinations of key military leaders. However, history shows, military leaders are replaced seamlessly and the resistance groups were at the start of the attack stronger than ever.
I am naturally very sad that so many Palestinians have lost loved ones, so many are injured and so many have been displaced and in many cases have no homes to return to. I had hoped that the ceasefire, which held until the 18th of August could have morphed into. Permenant ceasefire, but Israel preferred to continue its terror campaign. It’s targeting of family homes is simply immoral and counterproductive. It simply raises hatred towards Israelis that will take a major effort over many years to subdue. How can child that has lost a mother, father and brothers and sisters and knows it was Israel that ‘did it’ forgive?
How long might the fighting go on for?
All the signs point to a continuation of the fighting. Although Egypt has invited the Palestinian and Israeli delegations back, there has not been a rush to Cairo. It seems the resistance and the people of Gaza -as far as I can detect- are united of wanting as a minimum a complete lifting of the siege and the Permenant opening of the Rafah crossing. Demands for reconstruction of the airport and seaport seem to have been out off for a future discussion. Israel wants the Gaza’disarmed’.
Pressure on Israel is mounting from settlers in the settlements nearest to Gaza, particularly as the new school year approaches. They have lost patience with Netanyahu’s leadership and Ya’lon’s empty promises for Permenant quiet. I would argue that the recent return of the Israeli negotiating team from Cairo, followed by the assassination of three senior Hamas leaders, led directly to the renewed firing of rockets that have impacted on their lives. Therefore Netanyahu is directly to blame for their predicament. They also saw senior politicians and military leaders cancel trips to their settlements for ‘security fears’ despite asking them to return.
I think however, that their pressure more than any other factor, could have the most significant impact on the situation. If anything is going to force Israel to return to the negotiating table, it is this pressure. I therefore call on the settlers to be even more vocal!
There seems to be less pressure from Palestinians on the resistance groups to concede on any of their demands for the complete lifting of the siege, despite the heavy human and economic cost.
If pushed then I would say that I expect the negotiating teams to return to Cairo in the middle of next week and for a renewed ceasefire to be agreed towards the end of the week. This would allow both Palestinain and Israeli children to return to school and it would become difficult for both sides to renew the fighting on e that pattern has been established.
I may have to eat my words!
what about the political situation?
Once the dust has settled, which is an unfortunate phrase in the context of Gaza, the Palestinains will have to decide what steps to take next to reach their goals of independence and freedom. PLO Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, gave an indication in a recent interview that because Israel does not want to see a Palestinain state based on the 1967 border, he will be putting forward and alternative within the next week or so. He would not elaborate but importantly thought the Americans would not like it. His Foreign Minister, Riyadh Almalki would not be drawn either on a different channel on what this proposal might entail.
Pressure is mounting on the Palestinain Authority to sign the Rome Statutes in order to start the process of bringing Israeli war criminals to justice for their war crimes. Abbas had asked all factions to agree before signing the request as they would need to weigh up the implications for them. I understand that all but Islamic Jihad have now agreed to this step and therefore we could soon see Abbas’s signature on the request to join the Rome statutes.
Once that step is taken, the doors of legal hell will open on Israeli leaders and rightly so. Even since Palestine was recognised as anon-member state of the UN, in 2012, Israel has committed sufficient war crimes through military attacks and settlement building to fill the ICC’s calendar for years. The ICC will be assisted by the UN Human Rights Council Investigative Committee into the current attack in Gaza, which will add volumes of evidence to war crimes.
This of course will not pass without incident. The US and European allies of Israel will do everything in their power to dissuade the Palestinians from this step. They will use economic blackmail on the PA and Israel may simply lay a siege to the West Bank. It is already stopping many Palestinians from leaving via Jordan for their normal business and can strengthen birth internal barriers between cities and towns and stop all travel.
Thought the current attack in Gaza Palestinians from all factions have insisted that the previous divisions that existed before the Government of National Agreement was announced are largely behind them. The Cairo negotiating team was made up of all the factions and this has held up well to pressure. This augurs well for the future, although there are still major hurdles to overcome, especially in terms of security arrangements and absorption of PA workers from both Fatah and Hamas into the Government of Gaza . I would even predict that Mahmoud Abbas himself will visit Gaza within three months.
Israel to face more isolation
Israel’s attack on Gaza this time has surpassed all its previous violent, callus attacks both on Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2008/9. It’s reputation and standing in use World are in tatters. If it wasn’t for the strength of the pro-Israel Lobby in the US and parts of Europe, it would have been isolated and faced sanctions. But the level of disgust among ordinary citizens of these countries with its actions has reached a new high. Social media has provided them with accurate information about this terrorist campaign and Israel lost the PR war, despite its influence in traditional media.
Israel will become rapidly more isolated and boycotts of its products both by Palestinians and the escalating international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement will have a growing economic and cultural impact. It is of course possible that Israeli society will simply choose to ignore this and carry on as if there is no problem. They are in what I described as a moral coma and do not seem to be waking up from it. But this will come.
Will the two state solution survive the 2014 Gaza war?
In my view, the two-state solution, based on Israel leaving the occupied territories any time soon is dead. Most senior Israel leaders have told us as much but the PA and interestingly, the US and other supporters of Israel have refused to prepare its coffin. Does anyone think that Netanyahu, Bennett, Lieberman, Livni or Lapid really want it? No they do jot. They simply have different ways of articulating its death.
This leaves the Palestinians with no option but to call for equal rights for all that live in historic Palestine in one state. After all those that live in western style democracies should be calling for this as the fair democratic right of all human beings. They will of course make an exception here because they have been told by Israel that Israel is a state for Jews. But since they have failed to persuade Israel to leave the occupied territories, it say to them only come back and suggest a two-state solution when Israel says it accepts it and negotiates simply a schedule for leaving the illegal settlements, starting with Hebron and leaving East Jerusalem.
Peace or security?
Israel wants a ‘quiet occupation’ which guarantees security. It does not have that. Only yesterday (23/8/2014), it faced rockets from Gaza, Lebanon and Syria. It is time Israelis understood that security comes hand in hand with a just peace and not a moment before it.
Pressure will now mount on Netanyahu to end the attack on Gaza and bring quiet. Support for his violent campaign is plummeting. See below
In the Palestinian camp leaks suggest “Abbas to turn to international community with deadline for Israel”. The idea would be to require a deadline for the end of the occupation. If this failed then it is suggested he could dissolve the Palestinian Authority. The next step would I believe be yo ask for equal rights. Will Abbas ask for a vote for the Knesset?