Israel is Poised to Repeat Last Year’s Gaza Defeat

Here’s how the latest round of terror attacks against Israelis will end: Israel stages military operations and arrests while simultaneously offering concessions – perhaps on recognizing a PLO state, perhaps on limiting Jewish access to the Temple Mount, perhaps by offering money – and Abbas & Co. decide that they’ve had enough punishment and agree.

We’ve been there before – just last year, in the Gaza war against Hamas. A desperate Israeli government kept offering Hamas better terms, until that battered organization, whose regime could have been easily destroyed by Israel, agreed to a very favorable cease-fire.

This time not just Hamas but also Mahmud Abbas’ PLO are behind the violence. The PLO’s Fatah brags about murdering Rabbi Eitam and Naama Henkin, a young couple gunned down in their car while their kids sat in the back seat, and according to articles on the website of the so-called ”Palestinian foreign ministry,” the Arab attacks are nothing but peaceful resistance in the face of “Israeli Attacks at Al-Aqsa Mosque,” located on the holiest Jewish site, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Just days ago, after numerous terror attacks had already taken place, Abbas told the UN General Assembly: “Our people will continue their popular peaceful resistance.”

Ironically, the PLO’s attacks notwithstanding, Israel will keep supporting the PLO anyway, since Benjamin Netanyahu does not want Hamas to take over from the PLO in Judea and Samaria, the hilly regions that Israel conquered from Jordan in the Six-Day War but has never annexed – and Abbas knows it.  Arguably, the attacks can only bolster Abbas, as they aided Hamas last year – thanks to Israel’s internal political division, which has prevented the government from developing any long-range regional policy.  Israel simply limps from crisis to crisis, trying only to maintain the status quo and stop the violence. Case in point: last year’s war in Gaza.  Fearing the rise of ISIS in the Gaza strip, Israel carefully left the Hamas regime intact.

Like Hamas, Abbas knows that Israel’s lack of vision has made it very susceptible to outside pressure, especially from the US.  Reeling from failure in Syria, the Obama administration might push for “progress” here – forcing Israel to make concessions, such as halting building in Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria, or relinquishing control of parts of eastern Jerusalem, home to a predominantly Arab population and also to Jewish holy and historical sites, such as the City of David. The US is also likely to demand that Israel recognize a PLO state in all the territories conquered from Jordan in the Six-Day War.

Abbas’ gains could be greater than even those concessions. He is already trying to leverage the violence to increase his popularity, portraying himself as the leader of the “popular resistance,” hoping to supplant Hamas as champion of the “armed struggle.

About the Author
Daniel Stiebel is a political forecaster specializing on the Mideast and Europe. He identifies major political forces and contrasts them with politicians' reactions to them, enabling him to forecast their behavior.
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