For years, Palestinians and Israelis have worked to redraw the battle lines of their conflict. Israel’s three-day war on Gaza, which began on August 5, was a clear manifestation of this reality.
Throughout its military operation, Israel repeatedly stressed that it was targeting only the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement, not Hamas or anyone else.
A similar scenario had occurred in May 2019 and again in November of the same year. The May clashes began when two Israeli soldiers were injured by a Palestinian sniper at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel. Weekly mass protests had taken place near the fence for years, demanding an end to Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip. Over 200 unarmed Palestinians were killed by Israeli snipers, who were sent to the area of the fence as early as March 2018. The unexpected Palestinian firing on two Israeli snipers was a temporary reversal of the scene bloody in this area.
Israel blamed Palestinian Islamic Jihad for the attack. It responded by bombarding Hamas positions so that the latter would pressure the former to cease its operations near the fence. The unstated objective, however, was to sow the seeds of disunity among Palestinian groups in Gaza, which for years operated under the umbrella of the joint armed operations room.
Like the last war, the May 2019 conflict was also brief but deadly. Another short-lived war followed in November, this time involving only the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Although Israel has failed to break Palestinian unity, there has been debate in Palestine, particularly after the November clashes, about why Hamas has not taken a more active part in the fighting. .
The conventional wisdom at the time was that Israel should not be allowed to impose the time, place and nature of the fight on the Palestinians, as was often the case, and that it is far more strategic for the resistance. Palestinian to make these decisions.
This position might be defensible when understood in a historical context. For Israel, maintaining the status quo in Gaza is politically and strategically advantageous. Moreover, the status quo is financially profitable, as new weapons are tested and then sold at exorbitant prices, making Israel the 10th largest arms exporter in the world over the five years to 2021.
Israel’s wars on Gaza are also political insurance, as they reaffirm Washington’s support for Tel Aviv in word and deed. “My support for Israel’s security is longstanding and unwavering,” US President Joe Biden said this month as Israeli bombs rained down on Gaza, killing 49 Palestinians, including 17 children. It is exactly the same position of every American administration in every Israeli war.
The Israeli military establishment has also embraced this seemingly immutable reality. Its occasional murderous wars against Gaza are described as “mow the grass”. Writing in the Jerusalem Post in May last year, David M. Weinberg of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security explained Israeli strategy in the most dehumanizing terms: “Like mowing your lawn, it is constant work and hard. If you don’t, weeds grow wild and snakes start creeping through the brush.
Tel Aviv’s political establishment has learned to adapt and profit from routine violence. In 2015, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summed up his country’s position in a short but charged sentence: “I am asked if we will live forever by the sword – yes.”
Ironically, in May 2021, it was the Palestinians who dropped the “sword”. Instead of keeping the tit for tat battle in Gaza confined to this small geopolitical space, the resistance took the unusual step of striking Israel in response to events unfolding in a small Palestinian neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Within hours, Tel Aviv lost the political plot and its control over the war narrative. It was as if every square inch of Palestine and Israel was suddenly part of a larger battle, the outcome of which was no longer determined by Israel alone.
The Palestinians call these events “the sword of Jerusalem”. The name was coined in Gaza.
Since then, Israel has been fishing for a new battle that will help it regain the initiative. For example, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tried to provoke such a fight in May, but failed. He believed that by going ahead with the provocative flag march in East Jerusalem, he could drag Gaza into another war. However, instead of war, the Palestinians responded with mass protests and popular mobilization.
The last war in August was another such attempt, this time by new Prime Minister Yair Lapid. However, all the militarily inexperienced Israeli leader could achieve was what Israeli military analysts called a “tactical victory.”
It was hardly a victory. To claim any victory, Israel simply redefined its goals. Instead of “destroying Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure”, as is often the stated goal, he launched a fight with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, killing two of its military commanders.
The typical Israeli media reporting on the war has quietly changed, as if Hamas and other Palestinian groups had never been enemies of Israel. It was the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. “Fighting with the terror group is expected to resume eventually,” The Times of Israel wrote last week, citing Israeli military sources. No reference was made to other “terrorist groups”.
Unlike previous wars, Israel desperately needed the fighting to end very quickly, as Lapid was keen to score a supposed tactical victory that will surely be heavily promoted ahead of the general election in November.
However, Israel’s military and political establishment knows only too well that it would not be able to sustain another all-out conflict like the one in May 2021. The war had to end simply because a bigger war was impossible. to win.
Hours after the declaration of a mediated truce, the Israeli army killed three fighters belonging to the ruling Fatah movement in Nablus in the West Bank. Lapid aimed to send another message of strength, although in reality he confirmed that the battle lines had been permanently redrawn.
The resistance in Gaza has commented on the killing of Nablus fighters saying the conflict with Israel has entered a new phase. Indeed, he has.