Analysis: With the Arab street at boiling point in Israel and the Palestinian territories, Gaza’s Hamas rulers want concrete achievements to dispel the image of a failing organization, but are walking a delicate balancing act with the ongoing rocket fire.
As things stand, the situation now in Israel is as follows: The drizzle of rocket fire continues on the western part of the Negev, following difficulties in the ceasefire negotiations with Hamas, which are being conducted via Egyptians mediators assisted by Jordan and Turkey.
Hamas has presented a series of demands to Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, the main ones being what Hamas refers to as the “lifting the siege” on Gaza, and a commitment from Israel to end target killings in the Strip.
By lifting the blockade, Hamas is trying to get Israel and Egypt to allow the entry of goods into Gaza, as well as open the Rafah crossing to let people from the Strip enter Egypt.
Cairo only allows the opening of the crossing for just a few hours every few days, and is continuing with the destruction of Gaza smuggling tunnels, which hinders the transfer of goods and fuel and endangers the tax money Hamas collects on these products.
Tensions in the south
On the brink of war: Hamas may still back down / Ron Ben-Yishai
Analysis: Escalation in tensions serve Hamas’ interests to improve standing among Palestinians, but war with Israel does not.
Hamas is also trying to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to fund the transfer of fuel from Israel to the Strip. The fuel shortage leads to power cuts in Gaza and the pollution of Gaza beaches, where drainage pumps are idling due to the lack of electricity. Gazans who are on vacation for Ramadan cannot go to the beach, which is their only possible entertainment in the Strip.
The Palestinian Authority refuses to fund Hamas fuel; Israel is limiting the transfer of building material, causing thousands of Palestinians to lose their jobs; and Hamas is unable to pay the wages of 44,000 civil servants and the Palestinian Authority refuses to transfer money to help finance the salaries.
Hamas is trying to change all of this in such a way as to ease the population’s distress and allow it to present an achievement to its supporters, thereby erasing its image as a failing organization.
An additional issue that concerns the Hamas leadership, not to mention that of Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees and their rocket launching squads, is the IAF targeted attacks. Hamas is particularly upset about IAF hits on its special teams deployed to prevent rocket fire that Israel mistakenly identified as militants launching rockets.
Hamas, and the leaderships of the other organizations in the Strip, have gone underground for fear that Israel is now planning to resume its targeted attacks. Israel refuses to comply with Hamas demands to avoid targeted attacks and ease the blockade, nor is Egypt willing to meet the demands of Hamas and the other rogue organizations now working in coordination with the organization.
This is why the rocket fire continues, but Hamas and Islamic Jihad are careful not to launch heavy barrages of rockets beyond the western Negev communities, thereby avoiding an escalation and triggering a major Israeli military operation.
The drizzle of rockets is meant to show that as long as there is no agreement, Hamas will continue to attack; but the attacks, including those conducted by rogue organizations, are not meant to aggravate the situation and therefore are aimed mainly at open areas.
Hamas wants to get out of this situation with something in hand, and prevent a serious IDF operation in Gaza. Israel also has an interest in calming the situation, which is why the IDF has decided on utmost restraint and is not attacking the Strip despite the continuous rocket fire.
The war within
Meanwhile, security sources surmise that the wave of riots among Israeli Arabs actually started about two weeks ago, but reached a peak on Friday night following the murder of the Palestinian teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir from East Jerusalem.
The sources say that in recent months tensions have already been high among Arabs in the triangle and Wadi Ara, following price tag attacks conducted by Jews against Arabs in the area, as well as due to continuous incitement by extreme sources within the Islamic Movement.
A bill to outlaw the northern wing of the Islamic Movement, which is headed by Sheikh Raad Salah, is now being considered on the grounds that it is trying to inflame tempers following Mohammed’s murder.
Another factor contributing to volatile situation is the month of Ramadan and the inflammatory sermons being delivered at several mosques in the triangle and Wadi Ara. This is compounded by calls on social media for young Israeli Arabs to confront the police, get out on the streets, throw rocks and block roads.
Security sources assess that the a show of restraint by police and Border Police officers and the fact that so far no one has been killed will eventually lead to the riots fizzling out. In addition, there is a recruitment drive by the leaders of the Israeli Arab communities to prevent the riots and even disperse rioters. This has happened in Qalansawe, Taibe, Umm al-Fahm and other places.
The Jewish- Arab party Hadash has called on young Arab protesters to not to vandalize public property – a clear sign it is against the riots. As a result of the Arab leaders’ cooperation in calming the situation, the situation is expected to cool down, if nothing unusual occurs.
The same process is taking place in the West Bank, where friction and wild rumor have inflamed passions. A Palestinian youth who was beaten in one of the Arab villages near Nablus was taken to hospital in the city, and was presented in the Palestinian media as a victim of violent settlers.
A similar incident occurred in Hebron. The IDF is investigating, but even if it turns out that the reports and rumors were false, they have already become the absolute truth on the Palestinian street, and could well reignite the flames, especially now during the Ramadan. The Palestinian Authority is working to calm things down, which is why the West Bank is relatively quiet, but the situation is still unstable.
One can say that the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir has lit a great inferno on the Palestinian street, whose flames are fanned from three directions: unsubstantiated rumors that become fact; Ramadan, which ignites religious anger; and the social media networks that spread the rumors and call on youths to take their anger to the streets and clash with police.
The police, very intelligently, are trying to deploy forces in large groups, so that policemen won’t get caught in a dangerous situation that would force them to shoot live bullets at rioters, causing bloodshed that would reignite the clashes.
It appears that at this point the police have succeeded in controlling the Arab street in Israel and IDF is trying to gain certain control over the West Bank, so far not entirely successfully. The situation is still volatile, and any extraordinary event could spark an uncontrollable fire.