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The whole world keenly follows the “sudden ”conflict between Israelis and Arabs. The shelling has not stopped for the sixth day in a row, and the number of victims from both sides continues to grow. In effect, there is nothing unexpected in the current crisis. All parties involved were waiting and preparing for military escalation.
Massive shelling between Israel and Palestinian radicals from the Gaza Strip began on the evening of May 10. It followed riots at the Al-Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem, in which hundreds of people were injured. Hamas heroically put forward an ultimatum to Tel Aviv, which Israel naturally ignored. After that the missiles from the Gaza Strip have not stopped checking Israeli mighty Iron Dome for strength. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) do not lag behind and continue eliminating the command of the military wing of Hamas with precise strikes, repeatedly inflicting losses among civilians.
The escalation was triggered by the decision of the Israeli court to evict Arab families from their homes in the Palestinian Sheikh Jarrah quarter of East Jerusalem, where they have been living for more than half a century. The decision was made just in time, on the eve of Al-Quds Day, when the Arabs remember the loss of Jerusalem, in the last week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The situation in Israel remains very tense, with violent clashes continuing in various cities under the rain of rockets from Gaza. While in Jerusalem clashes led to street riots, in the city of Lod in a suburb of Tel Aviv, the local authorities announced a complete loss of control and demanded troops to be deployed.
Despite the country reportedly being sliding towards civil war, Netanyahu does not budge an inch. It’s no wonder, because in addition to taking an offing to deal a crushing blow to Hamas, he gains benefits in the political arena. The elections to the Knesset took place more than a month ago, but the parties still have not formed a government. It is already clear that such a coalition will be extremely unstable. Military escalation is a chance for Netanyahu to disrupt the formation of this coalition, as it becomes extremely difficult for Arab MPs to join it. Without them, Netanyahu’s opponents will not gain a necessary majority.
Supporting the Arabs in Jerusalem, Hamas is also getting political benefits ahead of the first parliamentary elections in Palestine in 15 years.
Hamas received a big gift for Ramadan from Washington. This year, Donald Trump left the White House, taking the US intentions to defend Israel’s interests with him.
Not without family Jewish influence and the strengthening of the Jewish lobby during his presidency, Trump received the merited status of “Israel’s best friend.” To a great extent, it was due to his political proximity to Netanyahu, who shares the same rigid nationally oriented policy aimed primarily at defending state sovereignty. The support of the United States guaranteed the shaky stability in Israel.
On the other hand, the Biden administration rhetorically follows opposite principles. Its adherence to liberal ideas, as the basis of not only domestic but also foreign policy, has already worsened Washington’s relations with a number of countries in the MENA region, including Israel. As a result, the White House today seems to be more sympathetic to the “oppressed Palestinians.” It is symbolic that, while Washington have not commented on the situation in Jerusalem, the Black Lives Matter movement spoke for it, actively supporting the Palestinians.
As a result, Hamas took a chance and it paid off. Israel has openly asked its once main ally, the US, not to intervene in the Jerusalem crisis.
At the same time, one should also pay tribute to Netanyahu, who, with Trump’s support, managed to improve relations with a number of Arab states, having secured their non-interference in the conflict.
One of these states was Turkey, which, just days before the clashes, for the first time after a three-year break, invited an Israeli minister to participate in an official conference on energy issues, which are a key point in relations between the two countries. Turkey was ready to appoint its ambassador to Israel in order to maintain relations with Washington.
Ankara and Tel Aviv have a solid economic basis for bilateral cooperation and are interested in its mutually beneficial development. US policy puts Ankara against growing economic isolation, which pushes it to develop new economic ties. At the same time, Turkey and Israel are united by a number of similar problems aggravated thanks to the new US president. Both countries suffer from his support for opposition national groups, pro-Kurdish and Palestinian ones.
At the same time, the parties maintain significant contacts at the unofficial level, and declare the cooperation between their intelligence services.
The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, in which they both supported Azerbaijan, openly or tacitly, became a new impetus in their rapprochement. In its turn, Baku claimed its readiness to become a mediator in the negotiation process between Turkey and Israel.
It seemed that the parties were ready to move to the official normalization of bilateral relations, but a new round of escalation in Israel will slow down this process. The Palestinian issue, which serves to some extend as a Turkish lever of pressure, remains the main obstacle to the establishment of stable diplomatic relations between the countries.
As a result, Turkey’s reaction to the current conflict is illustrative, Ankara took the Arab side, once again highlighting the current weakness of Israel and the eater importance of Turkish international ambitions over bilateral relations with the Jews. However, the political reality and interests of both sides remain, despite the harsh rhetoric and numerous calls from Ankara to the dysfunctional international community. Therefore, Erdogan’s activity is unlikely to lead to Turkey’s intervention in the Israeli crisis, and his position will dissolve in a chorus of general “international condemnation.”
The interference of foreign forces in the current conflict between Israelis and Arabs is unlikely, and while the international community is trying to forms a collective position, the course of the conflict will be quickly defined by the two sides. Unfortunately, highly likely, it will be resolved exactly by military means.
Hamas is striving to emerge victorious, trying to achieved certain political points, and reducing the number of victims, primarily among the civilians. It should soon declare its readiness to negotiate a ceasefire, hoping to simply convince Jews not to evict Arab families. That would be enough to gain the status of saviors.
Apparently, such a plan would not suit Israel, which claims to continue the attacks until it achieves strategic success in the area of operations. Netanyahu has an opportunity to bring Hamas to its knees, as well as all the necessary military capabilities to do so.
Thus, another question emerges. Why doesn’t Netanyahu use military capabilities to their full potential? The escalation has been going on for almost a week, and Tel Aviv is only intimidating the Palestinians by deploying troops on the border with Gaza. Lod, whose mayor has asked for troops deployment a few days ago, is still facing violent clashes, and reports of protesters using firearms and attempts to lynch civilians are constantly coming from Israeli cities.
This is for the first time throughout the modern history of the Israeli State that the Jews keep their temper in check. In 1967, it took them 6 days to defeat the Arab coalition. The brutality of the Israeli army’s methods during the intifada was condemned not only by the Palestinians, but also by many Israelis.
Probably, the reason also lies in the policy of Washington, which still holds strong influence in the region.
Through diplomatic channels, Tel Aviv received a clear message that the use of military means against Arab protesters is undesirable. Therefore, the city of Lod, as well as of dozens of other cities, are still relying on their policy and local security forces. Meanwhile in Gaza, the Israeli army is conducting pinpoint strikes, and despite the horrific destruction, the number of casualties remains surprisingly low. Not to mention the fact that it is not for the first day that a decision has being made to start a ground operation.
It became obvious that despite the declaration of idealistic approaches in international politics, the Biden administration does not forget about real national interests. It will not go to the complete betrayal of its main partner in the Middle East, despite their sharp ideological contradictions.
This is confirmed by the ambiguous US policy within the UN Security Council, where Washington hampers meeting in order to avoid the use of its veto in Israeli favour. The Washington’s laissez-faire approach, which seems to play into the hands of Hamas, is in fact tacit support for Netanyahu’s aggression. Thus, demonstrating its adherence to liberal values, Biden is stalling, allowing Netanyahu to resolve his problems by military means, without crossing the red lines.
Joe Biden has already told reporters that he did not consider Israel’s response attacks on the Hamas positions “too sharp.”
“The question is how they get to a point where there is a significant reduction in the attacks, particularly the rocket attacks that are indiscriminately fired into population centers,” he said.
Apparently, Europe is following the US policy. Germany has historically become the European “godfather” of the State of Israel and officially declares its support for Israel, despite major protests in German cities, accompanied by pogroms in the synagogues and the burning of the Israeli flag. France, which is a permanent member of the UN Security Council, completely banned pro-Palestinian demonstrations and temporarily arrested the head of the pro-Palestinian human rights organization.
Highly likely, this will lead to Arabs’ suppression by the IDF, but Tel Aviv will unlikely go beyond the brink of genocide, comparable to the Deir Yassin massacre during the 1947-1949 Palestine war. The conflict will be frozen for a year or two, until internal tensions in the United States escalate and the attention of the White House finally concentrates on the internal problems.
By this time, the regional tension in the Middle East will grow. The Jews will harden their attitude towards the autochthonous Arabs, including in other Arab states. Likewise, vice versa. The influence of Iran in the region will increase to a certain extent,. The US pressure on Tehran is weakening, because Moscow and Beijin became the main Washington enemies. Iran may take advantage of this, and perhaps enter into coalition with Hamas. As a result, the confrontation between Israelis and Arabs can develop into a regional conflict, but not today.
Considering that the UN Security Council still plans to meet on May 16, the aggression may begin to subside by that date.