No quiet without Gaza’ | Jordan Press | Ammon News

No quiet without Gaza’

[11/29/2012 12:00:00 AM]

by Michael Jansen |JT

Israel’s eight-day war on Gaza gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who retired on Monday, an instant boost in popularity, but this is unlikely to last because the air, land and sea offensive failed to achieve peace and quiet on the Gaza front.

Israel’s superior war machine armed with nuclear devices, the latest fighter planes, helicopters, drones and anti-missile batteries was constrained by Palestinian irregulars armed with light weapons and, mainly, artisan rockets.

Israel could not use most of its arsenal because of the fear of massive Palestinian casualties: Israel could not politically afford to kill 1,445 Palestinians and lay waste to Gaza as it did four years ago.

In spite of its relatively cautious approach, Israel has been, once again, accused of committing war crimes by targeting “civilian objects”, prohibited by the laws of war.

During this unequal exchange of fire, Israel killed more than 165 Palestinians and destroyed public buildings, houses and infrastructure in Gaza, but was unable to stop Hamas and its allies from firing rockets into Israel.

Israel, which suffered only six fatalities, was also unable to destroy the arsenal accumulated by Hamas and its allies.

It is estimated that out of 12-14,000 rockets, including some long-distance models — most homemade — only 10 per cent were said to have been fired or destroyed by Israeli strikes. Hamas has vowed to replenish its store.

Consequently, Palestinian rocketeers are not only equipped to fight another day and hit targets in the south, but also to strike as far north as Tel Aviv and Gush Etzion, an Israeli colony near Jerusalem. The Gush Etzion is particularly sensitive to Israelis because they were compelled to abandon it to Jordan’s Arab Legion during the 1948-49 war.

The ceasefire agreed on November 21 will only hold as long as Hamas is prepared to rein in resistance rocketeers determined to put pressure on and punish Israel for its siege and blockade of the narrow coastal strip.

Furthermore, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, who brokered the truce, made it clear that he plans to hold Israel to its pledge to ease the blockade.

Israel has already complied to a certain extent, by granting Gaza fishermen the right to set their nets six nautical miles off shore and permitting Gaza farmers to visit their fields along the strip’s border with Israel.

Israel had restricted fishermen to a 4.5-kilometre zone and barred farmers from entering a band of land 300 metres to more than a kilometre wide along the frontier fence. Fishermen and farmers who violated Israel’s restrictions were shot or arrested and beaten.

Indeed, the first ceasefire death was a youth shot by Israeli troops for coming too close to the frontier fence.

Under challenge over his attempt to limit the powers of his country’s judiciary, Morsi cannot afford to let down Gaza’s rulers who belong to Hamas, an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Tel Aviv may find it increasingly difficult to deal with an Egyptian leader who, unlike ousted president Hosni Mubarak, is obliged to consult public opinion, which is overwhelmingly pro-Hamas and anti-Israel.

Gaza’s de facto prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, can claim victory because Hamas’ armed wing stood firm against Israel’s onslaught and retaliated by firing a constant stream of rockets into Israel. Hamas’ performance has strengthened Haniyeh’s hold on Gaza.

However, the movement’s politburo-in-exile, which had been sidelined by Hamas’ Gaza leadership, negotiated the truce, reasserting its usefulness to the movement. Khaled Mishaal, who had planned to step down, became a main player once again as did his deputy, Musa Abu Marzouk, who helped rally Arab support for Gaza.

This means that the politburo, which has moderated its line, is in a position to restrain the more militant Gaza wing of the movement. The politburo may also be able to raise more funds for Hamas now that it has shown itself ready to take on Israel and do some damage.

Hamas and Gaza now lead the Palestinian front. West Bank-based President Mahmoud Abbas and Fateh have been upstaged and marginalised. West Bankers brandishing Hamas’ green banners took to the streets of their cities and towns and clashed with Israeli troops.

In spite of Israeli and US opposition, Abbas was compelled to call for Palestinian unity through talks with Hamas and to press harder than ever for recognition of Palestine by the UN General Assembly as a non-member state consisting of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.

Israel vehemently opposes this bid because it has annexed East Jerusalem, is in the process of colonising the West Bank, and has no intention of allowing these areas to become part of an independent Palestine.

However, as a result of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, the Palestinian application is more certain than ever to be approved by the assembly and, perhaps, by a larger margin of votes than before the latest offensive. Many countries will cast sympathy ballots, while others will delight in defying the US and Israel.

Tel Aviv and Washington are also under pressure to resume talks with the Palestinians. Both Netanyahu and US President Barack Obama had hoped that the notion that there could be negotiations with the Palestinians had been put to rest when Netanyahu refused to halt colonisation in 2010.

Now that negotiations are back on the agenda, it is obvious that Hamas must have a seat at the negotiating table, either as one of the parties or as part of a Palestinian delegation representing Gaza, as well as the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Israel and the US have been doing their best to divide the two wings of the oft promised but never delivered Palestinian state. But it is obvious that this strategy has failed.

Furthermore, the latest bout of violence has shown, once again, that there can be no quiet on the Palestinian front without Gaza. Fostering a tame Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and making it Israel’s instrument for crushing the Palestinians cannot succeed as long as the resistance survives in Gaza.

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