Israel/ Palestine: The end of the Oslo Peace Agreement and the next round of a coming showdown

Israel/ Palestine: The end of the Oslo Peace Agreement and the next round of a coming showdown

The underlying conflict between Israel and the Palestians is quite obvious. The Oslo Peace agreement is dead and both sides are preparing for a showdown for the aftermath. While the PLO sticked to the conditions of the Oslo agreement, acknowleged Israel´s right to exist, abolished its former terrorism and called for a two state solution, Hamas and the Netanjahu government rejected the idea of a two state solution and did everything to undermine it.Israel used the Oslo Peace agreement to expand its number of settlers in the Westbank from 110000 in the 90s to now 750 000 at present and maybe more in the future, same pattern in Jerusalem. With the support of the Trump administration and US Evangelicals and the decision to establish an US embassy in the Holy City of Jerusalem and not in secular Tel Aviv as well as the support for the annexation of the Golan Heights the Israeli efforts and land grabbing accelerated. On the other side, the Islamist Hamas also tried everything to undermine a two state solution, didn´t reject terrorism , doesn´t acknowledge Israel´s right to exist and wants to reconquer Jerusalem and Israel with support of Iran and Hisbollah by setting up a rocket ring of fire around Israel which now becomes operational. Abbas and the PLO also canceled the planned elections in the Westbank as they feared that Hamas would become the winner, suppress and imprison the secular PLO and make the West bank a second Islamist front and rocket base after it seized power in the Gaza due to Isael´s withdrawal under the Sharon government. But it is not just the fault of Israel. When Sharon decided to end the occupation in Gaza, the Israelis thought that the Palestininas would be grateful, vote for the PLO and stick to the Oslo agreement. Instead the Palestinians in Gaza voted for the islamist Hamas which transformed Gaza in an open-air-terror camp, Islamist dictatorship and rocket base against Israel. The suicide bombers, terrorism and rockets of Hamas propelled Netanjahu in power as most Israelis perceived him as strong man and guardian of stability and security. On the other side, Hamas could portray itself as force against Israel´s land grabbing in the Westbank which did continue despite of the Oslo Peace Agreement and the moderate policy of the PLO. Now the situation is that most Palestinian think that the Oslo Peace Agremment didn´t bring any results, just the opposite and that militancy is a better way than the so called peace.

As the Oslo Peace agreement and the two state solution seems to be dead, there are only two other two possible solutions: A one state solution which is unrealistic as it would have a Palestian majority and be the end of a Jewish state. A apartheid state without democracy, some sort of occupation state. And a third option is that Israel uses a conflict in the Westbank to drive the Palestinians out of the Westbank, the Jordanian solution which some right-winged Israeli politicians also propose. However, in Jordania tensions are also rising. The Hashemite king revealed a coup plan within the royal family and arrested the plotters inclding a prince, while the Muslimbrotherhood is getting stronger and 60& of the Jordanian people are of Palestinian origin besides Palestinian and Syrian refugess and there is an intense debate whether Jordania shouldstill stick to the conditions of its peace treaty with Israel in face of the Israeli settlement policy on the Westbank and Jerusalem.  As long as there are no new political parties or forces in Israel and Palestine, the conflict will escalate and the situation will get even more polarized to extremes, even escalate to a war. And as at the moment you have an internal political crisis in Israel, Iran and Palestine, hardliners as Netanjahu, the Revolutionary Guards and the Hamas wants to use to become or remain the major players.

Some Israeli commentators see the present escalation by the Hamas inspired by Iran as Iran also is helding Al Quds Days and demonstrations every year for the reoccupation of the Holy City Jerusalem and wants to terrorize Israel by a ring of fire around Israel, rocket bases in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza and if Hamas would seize power in the Westbank also there. While some experts think such a story plot would be brought in circulation to boycott a new nuclear deal between Iran and the USA, there are some indicators and remarks by Iranian Revolutionary Guards who support this point of view or as an article I the Jerusalem Post asks:

Is massive Hamas attack on Israel the assault Iran warned of? – analysis

Iran’s IRGC head Hossein Salami warned last week that Israel was vulnerable to one large tactical operation because the country is so small.

Themassive rocket barrage involving some 600 rockets from Gaza in a 24-hour period, reaching the crescendo of hundreds of rockets fired around nine in the evening, blanketing central and southern Israel – may be linked to Iran’s warnings about a single, large operation.

Iran’s IRGC head Hossein Salami warned last week that Israel was vulnerable to one large tactical operation because the country is so small. He pointed to the S-200 fired from Syria near Dimona and other threats to Israel as an example of how vulnerable the country is. 

The massive rocket fire launched on May 11, an unprecedented series of barrages targeting Ashkelon, attempting to test the abilities of Israel’s multi-layered air defenses, appear to be part of an Iranian-inspired plan. This is because Islamic Jihad, an Iranian proxy, is involved in the rocket fire and because Hamas is backed by Iran.

It isn’t the first time of course that these groups have launched massive rocket attacks, or the first time they targeted Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The unprecedented aspect relates in part to the volume of fire, sometimes more than 100 rockets in several minutes, and also the nature of the concentrated attack on Ashkelon.  

The lessons being learned by Iran are clear because the Islamic Republic and its friends among Hezbollah have all been predicting that Israel is in decline. This was what was said clearly by Hassan Nasrallah and Iran’s supreme leader. The message from Tehran was not just that Israel could be harmed by a large tactical strike, like a mass of rocket fire, but also that the country is harmed by internal divisions and that it can be broken by a spark like this fire.  

IRAN PAYS close attention to Israel’s internal politics and media. Nasrallah also does. He was watching the story about the dozens of Israelis killed on Mount Meron. Iran has been studying Israel’s method of retaliation and also its ability to manage the conflict with Hamas. This “management” has gone on for years since the 2014 war. It has involved numerous rounds of conflict in which Israel would carry out airstrikes, but would avoid a ground operation.

Several times over the years, Israel came close to an operation in Gaza. Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran also know that Israel is in the midst of a political crisis, where the prime minister may face a fifth round of elections, and they have watched closely the al-Aqsa tensions and clashes in Israeli cities such as Lod. This is the prophecy that Iran thinks is being fulfilled.

The Hamas escalation, which it claimed was in response to Israeli airstrikes, appears to be far more harsh than any airstrikes would have led to. Hamas is driving the conflict. It set the rules on the evening of May 10, demanding Israeli forces leave the Temple Mount and Sheikh Jarrah. It knew this wouldn’t happen. So it then had an “excuse” to attack. Then it said it would strike at Tel Aviv.

Hamas is setting the pace – and that pace may be one that is being watched or even guided from Iran. This may be due to the fact that Hezbollah wants to know what it looks like when Israel is faced with a large amount of rocket fire. They will be paying attention to every instance where rockets made it through.

The images coming from Israel, of internal clashes in places like Lod, the political pressure mounting on Israel from abroad and the method of rocket fire, will be analyzed in Tehran and Beirut and among pro-Iran proxies in Syria and Iraq and Yemen.

Hamas has also shown over the years, firing rockets out to sea, that it has kept itself limbered and ready for the next round. Many had said Hamas was ossifying after 14 years in power with little to show for it. It wanted elections in the Palestinian Authority to break out of Gaza, but t didn’t get to have those elections. Its rockets are what it has left.

However, it has also shown it can dictate the tempo, a tempo and a tactical operation that Iran predicted a week ago in a Quds Day message. That message reached Gaza and Islamic Jihad; it now has reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem through rockets.  

https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/iran-news/is-massive-hamas-attack-on-israel-the-assault-iran-warned-of-analysis-667888

Hamas also wants to use the conflict to become the major player in the Jerusalem question, wihin the Palestinains, topple the PLO and monopolize the power as well as to gain support by other Arab states which during the Turmp era ignored the Palestinian question and established friendly relations with Israel against Iran:

What is Hamas trying to achieve by fighting Israel? – analysis

Events of the past few weeks have allowed Hamas to show that it remains a major player in the Palestinian arena and is popular among the Palestinians.

Regardless of how the current round of fighting between Israel and Hamas ends, the Gaza-based terrorist group believes it has already managed to obtain a number of achievements, especially with regard to scoring points with the Palestinian public.

First, Hamas succeeded in hijacking the protests that erupted between Palestinians and the Israel Police in Jerusalem at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan.

The protests over the police barriers at Damascus Gate, the planned eviction of a number of Palestinian families from their houses in Sheikh Jarrah and visits by Jews to the Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount have turned into large demonstrations in support of Hamas.

When Mohammed Deif, commander of Izzadin al-Qassam, the so-called “military” wing of Hamas, issued a rare threat against Israel over the Sheikh Jarrah dispute, many Palestinians in Jerusalem began chanting slogans praising him and Hamas.

Second, Hamas’s decision to fire rockets at Jerusalem on Monday has enabled it to present itself as a credible “resistance” group that is prepared to do anything to support the Palestinians in Jerusalem and stop Israel from carrying out its purported scheme to “Judaize” the city and “change the historical and legal status” of the Aqsa Mosque compound.

Third, Hamas now appears, at least in the eyes of many Palestinians, as the only Palestinian faction that is willing to stand up against Israel to “defend” Islam’s third-holiest site and “thwart” Israeli “conspiracies” against the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem. This is at a time when the reactions of the Palestinian Authority and the Arab and Islamic countries are restricted to paying lip service to al-Aqsa Mosque and Palestinians in Jerusalem.

Fourth, by commandeering the Jerusalem protests, Hamas has drawn attention to PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s incompetence in dealing with the crisis. Abbas is now being depicted by Hamas and other Palestinians as a weak leader who has failed to stop Israeli “aggression” on the Aqsa Mosque and in Jerusalem.

Worse, the 85-year-old PA president is again being denounced by Hamas and other Palestinians because of the ongoing security coordination between the Palestinian security forces and the IDF in the West Bank. During some of the protests at Damascus Gate, Sheikh Jarrah and the Aqsa Mosque compound, many Palestinians chanted slogans condemning Abbas as a US “agent” and an Israeli “collaborator.”

Fifth, the latest round of violence has enabled Hamas to return to center stage as Egyptian, Qatari and UN mediators are making efforts to reach a new ceasefire between the terrorist group and Israel.

While Abbas and the PA say they are working with several international parties to end the fighting in the Gaza Strip, Hamas leaders Khaled Mashaal and Ismail Haniyeh also have been contacting world leaders in an attempt to reach a new truce.

Hamas’s diplomatic efforts are seen as yet another sign that the Palestinians have two separate leaderships in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The efforts are also seen in the context of Hamas’s strive to gain legitimacy in the international arena and tighten its grip on the Gaza Strip.

Abbas’s decision in late April to postpone the Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections, which were set to take place on May 22 and July 31, respectively, deprived Hamas of the opportunity to display its power through the ballot box.

But the events of the past few weeks have allowed Hamas to show that it remains a major player in the Palestinian arena and is popular among the Palestinians.

Hamas was planning to run in the parliamentary election with a list named “Jerusalem is Our Destiny.” It was hoping to make Jerusalem the main theme of its election campaign by presenting itself as the “defender” of al-Aqsa Mosque and promising to pursue the fight against Israel “until the liberation of Jerusalem.”

Hamas is now boasting that it is the only Palestinian group that fulfilled its promise to retaliate against Israel over the Jerusalem unrest. The message Hamas is sending to the Palestinians is that “‘Jerusalem is Our Destiny’ is not just another empty slogan.”

After Abbas announced his decision to delay the elections on the pretext that Israel had refused to allow the vote to take place in Jerusalem, Hamas called on the Palestinians to step up the “popular resistance” against Israel, particularly in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Hamas was hoping that a new wave of anti-Israel violence would embarrass Abbas, undermine the PA and drag them into a confrontation with Israel.

But Hamas stopped short of directly urging the Palestinians to revolt against Abbas, lest it be accused of fomenting a Palestinian civil war.

Hamas leaders are now rubbing their hands with glee as they watch thousands of Palestinians on the streets of Jerusalem chanting “We are all Mohammed Deif,” raising Hamas flags at al-Aqsa Mosque and denouncing Abbas as a “traitor.”

By accusing Israel of “obstructing” the Palestinian elections and strongly condemning Israeli policies and measures in Jerusalem, Abbas contributed significantly to the outbreak of the violence in the city, including at the Aqsa Mosque compound.

Abbas, however, failed to foresee that his rivals in Hamas would move to cash in on the rising tensions and transform them into pro-Hamas rallies and protests against him and the PA.

https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/what-is-hamas-trying-to-achieve-by-fighting-israel-analysis-667865

Another question is how Israel should react. Air attacks or a military intervention by boots on the ground in Gaza as it did already 2014 during the Operation Protective Edge. However, not with big success, but only loss of lives for both sides and withdrawal. The situation didn´t change very much despite the renewed limited occupation and isolation of the Gaza strip. The Hamas modernized its rockets, the Israelis here Iron dome and multilayer air defense to get prepared for the next round of the conflict. A commentator in te Jerusalem Post reminds these facts and thinks that the IDF has to react, but should have a new and creative solution. However, he doesn´t say how such a solution would or could look like and leaves it open as a appeal:

Israel has to do something different when it comes to Gaza – analysis

(…) Speaking to troops, one got the feeling that another war is about to start.

“We have to hit them hard,” one officer told me. “We can’t be suckers anymore.”

“We don’t want to enter Gaza,” said a Givati soldier blocking a road toward Be’eri. “But if we have to, we will.”

Commenting on the violence that rocked Lod and Ramle, a soldier from the Nahal Brigade said the clashes on the Temple Mount were the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“People are fed up,” she said. “The coronavirus pandemic is over, and tempers are flaring. The Gazans are no different. They are fed up, and they need to vent [their anger]. Unfortunately, we are the address of their anger.”

None of the soldiers I spoke to ever took part in a military operation, and none have entered Gaza.

The officer I spoke to enlisted just a few months after Operation Protective Edge ended, while the Givati soldiers enlisted in the IDF only six months ago.

Operation Protective Edge in 2014 was the last time Israel entered Gaza. Neither side won. Should Israel decide to conduct a ground operation, it’s highly likely nothing will change.

Both sides will lose combatants. Civilians will die. Hamas will remain. So will PIJ.

What has changed are their capabilities. Israel has better missile defenses and intelligence. Hamas has more advanced rockets.So what is Israel to do? Send those same Nahal and Givati soldiers into Gaza? What would that achieve?

The IDF has to do something different. It has to be more creative – and not just with the names it gives military operations.”

https://www.jpost.com/arab-israeli-conflict/israel-has-to-do-something-different-when-it-comes-to-gaza-analysis-667864

While the Trump administration supported Israel 150%, Biden is much more critical about the Netanjahu government, supports the two state solution,condems Hamas´rocket attacks,  but till now has restraints to engage in the conflicht to openly. Joe Biden wants to stay out of the clashes between Israelis and Palestinians as much as possible. It has to do with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu – but also with Iran. The main news in the US on Tuesday morning was the approval of Pfizer and Biontech’s corona vaccine for children between the ages of twelve and 15. CNN also ran a prominent story about a “trampoline jumper” who could replace Angela Merkel as Chancellor. Fear that a new war between Israel and the Palestinians will break out in the Middle East is of little concern to the broader American public. This disinterest reflects the US government’s view of what is going on in Jerusalem. In short, the new President Joe Biden has chosen not to make the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority – neither in terms of his global agenda nor in terms of his Middle East policy. He is not indifferent to what happens in Jerusalem because it can have dire consequences for the entire region. But Biden doesn’t see it as his job to finally bring peace to Israel and the Palestinians. Too many US presidents before him have tried unsuccessfully. The reaction from Washington seems cautious and routine The reaction from Washington to the most recent clashes and skirmishes was correspondingly subdued.

 The State Department and the White House held the usual talks with Israeli and Arab representatives, they publicly urged de-escalation and called on all sides to refrain from violence and provocation. These statements were always linked – this is also part of the standard rhetoric – that Israel naturally has the right to defend itself against attacks.. One cannot speak of a powerful, active diplomatic intervention by the USA or even significant pressure on the government in Jerusalem. It is true that the new US president has a far less friendly relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. But that did not lead to American Middle East policy becoming fundamentally critical of Israel with the change of power in Washington. That could change if the situation got out of hand and other states were drawn into the conflict. But so far Biden’s strategy seems to have been characterized by restraint.

There are several reasons for that. For one thing, the so-called Israeli-Palestinian peace process has long ceased to be a geopolitical priority for Washington. Other conflicts are more pressing. From Biden’s point of view, this is mainly the rivalry with China.

 Second, the focus of Biden’s Middle East policy is not Israel and the Palestinians, but the Iranians. Like President Barack Obama, Biden is concentrating on curbing the regime in Tehran and using diplomacy – in other words, the return to the so-called nuclear agreement that Trump had terminated – to prevent the construction of nuclear weapons. That can only work if Israel, which is directly threatened by Iran and threatens its own military action, supports the American line at least halfway. The lobby of the Palestinians in Washington is loud – but manageable However, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a sharp critic of the nuclear diplomacy between the United States and Iran. To push him even further into the role of the adversary, that the US now openly take the side of the Palestinians, is seen in Washington as counterproductive.

And third, the lobby that the Palestinians have in Washington is loud, but very manageable. Except for a small group of parliamentarians, almost all of whom belong to the left wing of the Democrats – including such prominent representatives as Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – nobody is putting much pressure on Biden to help the Palestinians. Domestically, there is little to gain for Biden by putting pressure on Israel.

Before the escaltion of the conflict, an artcile in the Jerualsem Post by a J Street Israel Representative declared that the political support for the Netanjahu government in the US Jewish community would shrink which would become obvious as not only the left wing of the US demovrats were attending the J Call conference, but also higher ranking represantatives of the Democratic Party:

“What Israel missed by ignoring the J Street conference – opinion

The Israeli government and public are unaware of the change in US attitudes toward Israel, especially in the American Jewish community. The lack of attention in Israel towards J Street proves this.

By NADAV TAMIR  

MAY 1, 2021 17:32

The annual conference of J Street – the Jewish pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby – was held on April 18 and 19 and received impressive coverage in the US but very little attention in Israel. In a Jerusalem Post article (“What J Street means for progressives’ views on Israel”, 4/21) Herb Keinon wrote that the lack of attention in Israel to the J Street conference indicates short-sightedness and a failure to understand the processes taking place in the US. Keinon is not a J Street supporter, but he is absolutely right.

The Israeli government and the public are unaware of the dramatic change in US attitudes toward Israel, especially in the American Jewish community. This change reached new heights at the last conference attended (virtually due to the pandemic) by Democratic Party leaders in both houses of Congress and senior government representatives alongside leaders of all the religious denominations of American Jewry.

The J Street conference received minimal Israeli media coverage, which focused narrowly on comments made by leading progressive senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who both mentioned the importance of monitoring how Israel applies the $3.8 billion in US military aid received annually under former US president Barack Obama’s administration’s memorandum of understanding.

Israeli media falsely portrayed J Street as a marginal organization in which only members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party participate. In reality, at the conference, along with the senators mentioned, Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also appeared alongside US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield and many other leaders of the Democratic party.

The lack of response to the conference in Israel stems from Israel’s inability to understand the general picture in the US, an understanding that is critical to our relationship with our most important ally. The special relationship with the US is a key element in Israel’s national security. So too, is the connection to the largest Jewish community in the world, outside of Israel, which is strategic to a state that defines itself as the nation state of the Jewish people.

For years we have become accustomed to all-encompassing American support regardless of our governments’ policies while relying on legacy Jewish organizations in the US to ensure that this situation lasts forever.

J Street was established because the vast majority of American Jews no longer agree that blindly supporting the Israeli government by established Jewish organizations ignores the values and opinions of the majority of American Jews. American Jews are tired of Israel expecting them to support the country financially and advance Israeli government positions through lobbying, while Israel ignores their values and positions and discriminates exclusively in favor of the Orthodox Jewish denomination.

Most American Jews seek a home and a voice for those who want to support Israel without sacrificing their progressive values.

Before the establishment of J Street, the only option for those who care about Israel but did not identify with Israeli government positions were to disengage or support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. With the growth and success of J Street, they now have a liberal Zionist option.

In a relatively short period of time, J Street has transformed itself from a “start-up” that was not given a chance to compete for impact with the institutionalized organizations into a significant force in American foreign policy in the Israeli context. A large number of Democratic candidates for US House and US Senate running in the 2020 elections sought and received J Street’s endorsement.

Keinon correct states that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican representatives did not attend the conference. But they were certainly invited: I myself sent the invitations to the prime minister and ambassador in Washington, and know that the invitations were received.

The reason that the Republicans and representatives of the Israeli government did not participate in our conference is that J Street is not another organization without taste and without color. This is an organization that represents a clear worldview that is inconsistent with today’s Republican Party, which in the era of former US president Donald Trump lost the moderate elements that it has had throughout history and aligned entirely with the position of Netanyahu’s coalition. 

There has been a shift in the Democratic Party, not due to anti-Israel sentiments, as is commonly thought in Israel. The shift was toward a more critical stance due to Netanyahu’s abandonment of the bipartisan approach that Israel has taken since its inception and his decision to take a clear side in American politics, allying with Republican and Evangelical Christians. The shift was created because, in the Netanyahu era, Israel is abandoning the liberal values manifested in Declaration of Independence that connected the Democratic Party with the state.

There are important organizations that deal with Israeli-US relations and focus on the relations between the countries regardless of the values and policies that this alliance represents. J Street is not such an organization. For us, close relations that eliminate any chance for peace and violate Palestinian human rights are not a worthy goal. We certainly want close relations that strengthen Israel’s security and prosperity, but also those that help Israel achieve an arrangement that will prevent the continuation of the toxic status quo that leads to a dual-national catastrophe. We are promoting relations that will keep the morality of Israel alongside its security.

Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with J Street, no other organization represents the vast majority of the Jewish community and no other organization is closer to the Democratic Party, which is currently in the White House and has a majority in both houses of Congress. Those who care about US-Israel relations should listen to Herb Keinon. 

The writer is the executive director of J Street Israel; a board member of Mitvim, the Israeli Institute for Regional Foreign Policy, and an international affairs adviser to the Peres Institute for Peace and Innovation.

https://www.jpost.com/opinion/what-israel-missed-by-ignoring-the-j-street-conference-opinion-666911

However, the influence of AIPAC and other pro-Likud lobbies in the USA remains still strong and the Trump supporters. 80 million US Evangelicals and most Republicans and parts of the Democrats are still reliable allies if the conflict should escalate further.

As former conflicts were more external affairs, this time Arab israelis are rioting within Israel. The Netanjahu goverment already annoyed many Arab Israeli by a new law defining Israel as a Jewish state, because they felt that they were by definition second class citizens. Nonarab Israelis often had suspicions if the Arab Israelis were loyal to the state of Israel and had not hidden sympathies with the Arabs or even the Palestinians. But during the Middle East wars or even the Intifadas the Arab Israeli mostly were calm and loyal. Now there are many incidents where Arab Israelis attack other Israelis and it remains to be seen to which extent this becomes a popular phenomen. Some commentators even fear a civil war within Israel or a state of emergency or martial law to prevent an internal conflict. This would be a new constellation.

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