Lianne Pollak

Israel-Gaza Conflict – There’s Room for Hope

Political Eclipse Global geopolitics rarely hosts moments when all the constellation of stars align – the moon and the sun are on the same axis, creating a kind of a “Political Eclipse.” Now is one of those moments. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been reading this unique cosmology. Will he also know how to use it and write the next chapter in Middle Eastern history books?

When tens and hundreds of missiles hit Israel’s grounds every single day, and Israel’s soldiers are fighting on Gaza soil, every death on both sides hits like an arrow in Israelis’ hearts, and international press still struggles to understand and sympathise with Israel’s situation, it is difficult for Israelis to think strategically. Israelis are in “survivor” mode and only want the rockets to stop firing at their homes. But if we raise our heads above water, take a deep breath and read the unique star map that was created very carefully, there is room for hope, if only Netanyahu will make good use of it, following an entire term of stagnation.

It is clear that Hamas has completely lost it. This time it managed to surprise even Israel, and it seems it has lost all sense of moral grounds. Not only was “underground Gaza” discovered, but Hamas has been shooting thousands of rockets aimed at population centres, has been cynically using its civilians as human shields, its leaders have been hiding in hospitals, and to top it all: wasn’t even willing to respect the humanitarian cease-fire the UN requested from Israel (and Israel complied) to allow Gazans refill their food and medical supplies. All of these extreme behaviours show the world that what Israel is dealing with is a bunch of loonies who care more about killing Jews than saving their own peoples’ lives. In addition, Hamas’s financial situation is in its lowest point. Syria and Iran are dealing with their own share of challenges and have stopped funding, the organisation has no financial outlook; Hamas is bankrupt – financially and politically.

At this time, Egypt became the hero of the day and went back to being a senior candidate to lead the Arab world. Yes, it had a rough patch, but with the leadership of General Sissy, it is back on the map, and is making it very clear that today, the “Muslim Brotherhood” and the likes are “OUT”, while moderates are back “IN”. Egypt issued unparalleled statements against Hamas, accusing it in this war, and placing the blame for the blood spilled in Gaza on Hamas. By doing that, Egypt began to restore confidence in the Israeli partner in fighting terrorism and strengthening moderation the Middle East.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas who has proven his effectiveness in leading the West Bank, sees the current situation as his own rare opportunity to restore the rule on the Gaza strip. Even though security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority against terrorism in the West Bank is not perfect, and could not prevent the abduction and killing of the three Israeli youngsters, Abbas has still managed to prove himself in many other attempted terrorist attacks on Israeli citizens from the West Bank. Relative calm in the West Bank can be at least partially attributed to Abbas, who despite Netanyahu’s will, is turning out to be the only moderate partner on the Palestinian side.

And most of the world sees and understands the situation. Maybe not everything, maybe not to the extent Israelis would have wished, and the media will always tend to be militant against Israel and support “the poor people of Gaza “. And yet this time, also thanks to the restraint displayed by Netanyahu so far, it is quite clear in that Israel was dragged to combat against its will, and that it has no choice but to take care of this bunch of Jihadists and their lethal weapons. The unprecedented statement from the EU on the need to disarm Hamas and the rest of the terrorist groups in Gaza reinforces the declarations of support from world leaders such as U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The international notion not only shows that Israel has political room to act, but that it is almost expected to do so.

So what is this unique constellation of stars showing us? Hamas is in its extremist form, weakened and with no external support; Iran and Syria are busy with problems of their own; Egypt is strong and firm against radical Islam and against Hamas; Abbas who has proven, even if partially, his capability to work with Israel to prevent terrorism and to demonstrate moderation; and the international community with a better-than-ever understanding of the security threat Israel is facing, whilst a attempting to hold on to any glimmer of a new plan, any plan, for a better future for the people of Gaza. A constellation of stars almost as rare as an eclipse.

Netanyahu is already reading this unique star map. Will he go all the way and topple Hamas’ regime in Gaza? Will he magnify, nurture and empower the new-old Israeli alliance with Egypt? Will he finally see in Abbas his true partner and help him regain his power over Gaza? If Netanyahu is wise enough to do so, not only will he get my vote, but he will also write a new chapter in the history books of the Middle East.

(Originally published in Hebrew at “Globes” on July 20th, 2014

About the Author
Lianne is a Public Sector Consultant at KPMG London, formerly worked in the Israeli PM's Office and with Tony Blair’s private consulting firm in Central Asia. She is a Chevening Scholar, holds an MSc in Public Management from the London School of Economics and is former Argov Fellow at IDC Herzliya.
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