Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Where the 2014 Gaza-Israel war could lead

One week after the start of the August 26, 2014 cease-fire between Gaza and Israel, all seems calm on Israel’s southern front. Both Gaza and Israel stand down. Quiet on one side is met with quiet on the other side.

The political front, however, is a different story. For both sides, serious post-war developments threaten to upset each side’s pre-war political balance sheet. These developments could change how Muslims and Jews in this region deal with each other.

On the Arab side, the political marriage that created the Hamas-Fatah Unity government may have ended before the honeymoon was over. Arabs had celebrated the June, 2014 unification as the dawn of a new reality for Arab unity. But Hamas has destroyed that unity.

First, it initiated the kidnapping-killing of three Jewish boys.  Then it initiated war with Israel. Then, it refused to accept cease-fire terms offered in July; it waited until late August to accept the July terms.

The result of such awful decision-making wasn’t pretty. Gazans suffered terribly. Infrastructure, homes and businesses have been destroyed. The celebrated unity government is now close to bankruptcy (“PA: Budget for Hamas-backed unity government ‘below zero’”, Times of Israel, September 1, 2014).

The reason for this financial nightmare is that both Hamas and Fatah depend almost exclusively upon donations to survive. Those donors, despite their strongly-held anti-Israel inclinations, may now be concerned about throwing good money after bad.

War with Israel is expensive. For those who foot that bill, it’s beginning to look too expensive.

As a result of those money woes, there is renewed rancour between Hamas and Fatah.  Fatah is supposed to pay Hamas salaries. They don’t, for a variety of reasons beyond the cash-flow crunch. Thousands of Hamas salaries have not been paid.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has gone public to blame Hamas for creating Gazan casualties by refusing to accept the July cease-fire terms until late August. He also blames Hamas for lying about the kidnapping-killings (“Abbas Blames Hamas for Delaying Ceasefire, Lying about Abduction”, Arutz Sheva, August 31, 2014).

Today, we learn that a new poll among Palestinian Authority  Arabs shows Abbas losing badly to Hamas. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh now appears able to beat Abbas in a near-term election by a 62 % -32% margin (“Hamas Leader Haniyeh Favored for Unity President”, Arutz Sheva, September 2, 2014).

Abbas will not lose graciously. He will not tolerate a Hamas win. If Hamas wins, the streets of Ramallah will flow with Fatah blood.

A Hamas take-over in the Palestinian Authority (PA) would provoke another consequence: it would bring a Hamas-style war ideology to Jerusalem’s door-step.

Any war initiated by Hamas and managed from Ramallah would almost assuredly bring a Gazan-style destruction to Ramallah. That kind of destruction could spell the end of Arab statehood dreams forever.

Meanwhile, In Israel, the political landscape also threatens to change. It could shift farther to the Right. It could shift just in time to face a Hamas take-over in the PA.

A Right-ward shift in leadership would make Israel tougher to deal with in the peace-talk trenches. Israel’s Right does not support a two-state solution. A new farther-Right Jewish leadership would be far less willing to compromise with a Hamas-led PA government—and far less willing to bow to Western demands to surrender anything to Jew-hating Arabs. 

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval rating recently plummeted from 82 per cent to 32 per cent within one month, a political sea-change occurred. The approval ratings landscape in Israel tilted--towards Economics Minister Naftali Bennet, who consistently looks to be more Right-leaning than Netanyahu.

In a recent poll to measure who in Israel best represented Israel’s Right wing, Bennet received 39 per cent of the poll vote, Netanyahu received 28 per cent and Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman received 20 per cent (“Poll: Bennett Outpaces Netanyahu as 'Leader of the Right'”, Arutz Sheva, September 1, 2014). That may not translate to a win at the ballot box, but it demonstrates how angry Israelis are at Netanyahu (“Anger as Southern Community 'Abandoned' by IDF”, Arutz Sheva, September 1, 2014).

Worse for Netanyahu, Israel’s politicians realize that he hasn’t yet fully disclosed the terms of the cease-fire he had agreed to last week. His delay begins to rankle (“[MK] Gal-On to Netanyahu: Show the People the Ceasefire Agreement”, Arutz Sheva, September 2, 2014).

Netanyahu is a skilled politician. He’s not politically dead yet. He could recover.

But his recovery could hinge on how far Right he is willing to lean. If he decides to lean hard-Right just as Hamas makes a move to remove Abbas, the Arab-Israel conflict could become Biblical in its proportions. For those in Israel who believe that Redemption is near, that development would not be a surprise.

Stay tuned. This movie hasn’t ended yet.



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