As usual, in order to understand what is happening in the Middle East, we need to go back to the common thread that connects the big questions on the table, from the origins to the present day.
The new upsurge in war, which has shaken Israel and the Gaza Strip for a week now, necessarily brings us back to the time of Israel’s “war of independence” in 1948 and the “Six Day War” which followed in 1967.
In 1948, the Jews of Palestine won the confrontation first with the Palestinians and later with the Arab armies which – on May 15, when the birth of the State of Israel was proclaimed – invaded the territories which they had received. were assigned by the United Nations and were incredibly defeated by the United Nations. a crowd of armed citizens.
Thanks to the modern firepower and professionalism of its British commander, Sir John Glubb “Pasha”, the Jordanian Arab Legion succeeded in conquering the old city of Jerusalem and the eastern part of the holy city, with the Sheikh Jarrah district, and to keep it under Jordanian control for the next 19 years.
Much has been said – and rightly so – about the exodus into which 700,000 Palestinians were forced after the military defeat. Less has been said about the naturally less massive exodus of Jews forced to leave their villages and homes in the territories taken from the young State of Israel by force of arms.
They included hundreds of Jews living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem, who were forced by the Arab Legion from their homes. Obviously, these houses were quickly occupied by Arab families and the situation remained as such until the 1967 war, when Israel again inflicted a crushing defeat on the Jordanian, Egyptian and Syrian armies, thus ending to the Palestinian-Arab dream of The Jews Returning to the Sea â.
In a secret conversation in September 1947 with the Jewish diplomat (later Israel’s foreign minister), Abba Eban, the secretary general of the Arab League, Azzam Pasha, had been prophetic: âPolitics is not about sentimental arrangements; it is the result of a confrontation between opposing forces. The problem is whether, in order to create a Jewish state, you are able to bring in more forces than we can muster to prevent it. But if you want your own state, you have to come and get it â.
Azzam Pasha certainly did not foresee that his hypothesis would prove tragically true for the Arabs, and the Jews “took” their state in 1948, and even enlarged it in 1967, conquering Jerusalem, the Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank. the Jordan River and the Golan Heights.
The recaptured areas also included the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, inhabited entirely by Palestinians, until – under pressure and support from right-wing Israeli organizations – some descendants of Jewish families who had been forced to leave their homes in 1948, demanded their return or at least the payment of the rent.
Israel is a state founded on the rule of law in which the Supreme Court of Justice does not hesitate to indict a prime minister accused of corruption. Therefore, the dispute over the homes in Sheik Jarrah’s neighborhood dragged on for years in the courts, with its ups and downs, until a few weeks ago the Supreme Court ruled on the matter and ruled on the matter. established the right of Jewish landlords to return to their homes or demand payment of rent.
This decision provoked incidents in the âcontestedâ neighborhood, first between tenants and landlords, then between Palestinian and Jewish demonstrators in other neighborhoods of the holy city. The protests have become increasingly massive and violent, also due to the simultaneous end of Ramadan and the Jewish celebrations of the reconquest of Jerusalem, until Hamas – the most extremist faction of the Palestinian resistance movement which, along with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007, has been part of this dispute sparked by a series of expulsions.
On Monday, May 10, as Palestinian demonstrators violently demonstrated in Jerusalem on the mosque esplanade, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) suddenly launched a missile salute on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, an act of open warfare that was bound to elicit a very harsh Israeli response.
In fact, as was to be expected, not only did 90% of missiles launched from Gaza were intercepted in flight by the Iron Dome air defense system, but the Israeli air force and artillery began to systematically bombard strategic targets located in the Gaza Strip.
An act of war, like the decision to strike the capital of a sovereign state, must necessarily have a strategic purpose – otherwise it would be a foolish act devised by a mad mind.
The assumption that Hamas decided on such a risky operation out of solidarity with its Arab-Israeli “brothers” does not hold water, because the extremist factions of the Palestinian resistance movement consider the latter as collaborators who even agree to send their representatives to the country. Knesset, that is, the Israeli Parliament, by participating in free political elections.
We know full well that the leaders of Hamas and the PIJ are not made up of crazy visionaries, but of very intelligent politicians who have led the two million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip for 14 years with a firm hand and an iron fist against internal dissidents and factions close to the moderate camp.
We also know that for years Mahmoud Abbas, the successor of Yasser Arafat at the head of the Fatah movement, postponed elections in his party-controlled West Bank for fear that Hamas can repeat the success achieved in the elections held 14 years ago in the Gaza Strip and take definitive control of all the territories under Palestinian administration.
In view of the above, therefore, we have to come back to the question of the real reasons why Hamas and the PIJ has decided to launch an open conflict with an adversary such as Israel, whose military strength and political determination they know very well and which they know they cannot overcome on the ground.
In just over a week, by launching thousands of rockets at Israeli towns with the aim of causing indiscriminate massacres, Hamas succeeded in damaging a few houses and causing the death of ten Jews.
In response to this seemingly senseless aggression, the Palestinian resistance movement suffered considerable damage: not only did the collateral casualties of the Israeli bombing exceed two hundred people, but the targeted strikes by the Jewish Air Force killed dozens. of people. Hamas and PIJ militants, thus decapitating intelligence from both groups, killing their important political and military figures and destroying strategic infrastructure such as the network of underground tunnels carefully constructed in recent years to allow the Palestinian military apparatus to operate in absolutely safe conditions.
So far, the rocket offensive has been a failure at the military level, while at the political level it has failed even to stop Israel’s internal debate on the formation of the new government – a debate in which politicians representing 20% ââof Israeli Arabs are also actively participating.
Yes Hamas and PIJ have decided to take the risk of militarily provoking Israel into an unsuccessful confrontation, the reasons probably to be found in the internal politics of the Palestinian movement and its movements in foreign policy.
Domestically, there is a clear attempt to mobilize Palestinians living in the occupied territories or those administered by Fatah and convince them that the pragmatic policy of Mahmoud Abbas is a weak and losing policy. So far, the attempt has failed because the Arab-Palestinian insurgency – encouraged by Hamas emissaries hoping to sow terror in cities like Lod and Ramallah, where Arabs and Jews have found proven forms of peaceful coexistence, are gradually dying out.
In terms of international ties, so far the attempt has also failed – clearly inspired by HamasâExternal sponsors, namely Qatar and Turkey, to sabotage theâ Abraham Agreements âwhich, under the auspices of Donald Trump and Saudi Arabia, led to the normalization of relations between Israel, the Emirates and Sudan at the end of last year.
The exchange of missiles above the skies of Palestine continues in the total silence of the Arab chancelleries and, above all, of Iran, which so far has not allowed Hezbollah– which has an impressive missile device in Lebanon, supplied and controlled by the Iranian Pasdaran– intervene militarily to support his “brothers” in the Gaza Strip.
Yes Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and its outside sponsors hoped that the missile bet could be a game-changer in Middle East diplomacy and mobilize a new Arab front, united in the fight against Israel, their strategy has gone so far. now proven to be a costly failure.
Today, rumors rage of a call for a truce on Gaza: but can a war be started with the strategic objective of calling for a truce?
The missile crisis has so far embarrassed the United States, causing a split within President Biden’s party. He showed that Europe continues to shine through its absence on the international scene, while the United Nations continues to hesitate and be too cautious. In the Security Council debate, however, the missile crisis also highlighted what could be a new protagonist in the Middle East dialectic, namely the China of Xi Jinping, which has made its voice of moderation heard. and authoritative restraint in a discussion in which the other permanent members of the Security Council seem unable to express anything other than obvious and inconclusive phrases calling for âpacificationâ.
If China, already present in certain strategic areas in Africa, decides to make its voice heard on the most sensitive issues of the Arab-Israeli confrontation, perhaps in tune with the voices of Egypt and the Gulf monarchies, the prospects for pacification would become more concrete than the adventurous provocations of Palestinian extremists or the uncertain and contradictory maneuvers of American diplomacy, hopefully. Indeed, after the undeniable success of the âAbraham Accordsâ, under the hesitant impetus of President Biden and his Secretary of State Blinken, American diplomacy does not yet seem to have found the tools to enable it to become a protagonist again. authority in the Middle East Peace Process.