Israel is not only the target of deadly violence incited and provoked by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, it is in the physical and political middle of a 15-year-long civil war between the other two for control of both territory and the “Palestinian narrative.”
For months, Israeli intelligence sources had been watching and reporting on Palestinian violence both in the West Bank and in Israel as a result of civilian frustration with the repressive and corrupt P.A. stoked by Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas presents itself as younger, stronger and purer than the P.A., and the better guardian of Palestinian interests and holy places. Its claims are well-received by many, and Hamas flags flew above the Al-Aksa mosque on the weekend. P.A. strongman Mahmoud Abbas plays “catch up,” diverting from his troubles by inciting his people to violence against Israelis, continuing to pay “salaries” to terrorists and relying on the Israel Defense Forces to maintain security for himself and his cronies.
Yes, the Israeli government protects Abbas from Hamas—protects the rock from the hard place.
When the sirens went off in southern Israel on Monday night as Hamas launched rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli towns, it had the distinctly ugly smell of the run-up to the 11-day rocket war of last May.
It is worth a recap: Hamas won a plurality of seats in the 2006 election for a Palestinian legislature. Abbas refused to seat the legislature, resulting in the bloody ejection of the P.A. from Gaza and the creation of a Hamas government there in 2007. Fearful of a Hamas takeover of the West Bank as well, Abbas held no other elections. Pressed by the Biden administration, however, he announced a vote for early 2021. But the possibility of losing was ever-present. Abbas canceled the election and covered his failure with a campaign to incite violence against Israelis.
Beginning in early April 2021, Fatah called for riots, stabbings and general mayhem. At the end of April, to stake its claim to the “liberation” of Israel, Hamas began firing rockets from Gaza (more than 4,000, about 10% of which landed inside Gaza). On May 10, Israel fired back; 11 days later, there was a ceasefire. Hours after, the Associated Press reported thousands of Hamas supporters demonstrating against Abbas in the West Bank, chanting, “Dogs of the Palestinian Authority, out, out.” Hamas members were also seen victory dancing in Gaza.
Back to the present: The Abraham Accords, signed in 2020 among Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco with the active participation of the Trump administration, centered on economic and political coordination plus a concern for Iran. The accords thus moved the Palestinians and their claims against the State of Israel from the driver of Middle East politics to the periphery. Perhaps more importantly, the Trump administration invited the Palestinians to the table only if they met five basic requirements: respect for human rights; financial and political transparency; the end of incitement against Israel; halting financial compensation to terrorists; and eliminating Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Some people called those “preconditions.” Yes, indeed.
The Biden administration, on the other hand, saw the Palestinians as their priority and appeared to skip over the Hamas-P.A. internecine warfare as well as attacks by both on Israel. They announced the restoration of the “peace process,” the “two-state solution,” reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem for Palestinians, and restoration of U.S. funds to the P.A., despite the language of the Taylor Force Act. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave the priorities to then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at their first formal meeting:
- “To demonstrate the commitment of the U.S. to Israel’s security.”
- “To start to work towards greater stability and reduce tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem.”
- “To support urgent humanitarian and reconstruction assistance for Gaza, to benefit the Palestinian people.”
- To continue to rebuild our relationship with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority.”
The Abraham Accords are generally referred to as “normalization agreements” rather than peace accords by the administration when they are referred to at all. The Palestinians, reasonably enough, concluded that they are again the driver, and everything flows from that, right up to the present calls for murdering Israelis and “Palestine from the river to the sea.”
The Palestinian people are in a wretched situation brought on by their own leadership in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and also by Israel’s not unreasonable fear that Hamas might, one day, actually win the civil war, leaving Israel with the Muslim Brotherhood on both sides of the Jewish state.
By centering American policy around a non-existent “peace process,” the Biden administration simply fans the flames of the Hamas war it appears not to understand.
Shoshana Bryen is senior director of the Jewish Policy Center and editor of inFOCUS Quarterly.
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