Tensions on the Israeli-Palestinian front. Another war on the horizon?

(In collaboration with Termometro Politico)


Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians are mounting once again. On June 12th three Israelis, Ghilad Shaar, Eyal Yifrach e Naftali Frenkel, were kidnapped near Hebron, in the West Bank. After two weeks their bodies were found in a ditch nearby the Halchul area. During the research operations led by the Israeli army, 9 Palestinians were killed and around 500 were arrested. The Israeli army spokesman declared that two Hamas militants, who are believed to be the alleged kidnappers, haven’t been found yet.  The violence escalation continued with a group of Israeli extremists’ retaliation against a 16-year-old Palestinian, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was burnt alive.

There has been lately an exchange of condolence between the Israeli Premier Netanyahu and the President Abu Mazen, even if their relationship has been at odds since the news of the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, two groups previously at opposite opinions. The former is in favour to the coexistence of two states; the latter, more fundamentalist, has never recognized Israel. In this occasion Netanyahu asked President Abu Mazen to revoke the technic government of national unity leaded by Rami Hamdallah.

The international community expressed his solidarity to the families of the victims and invited to keep the calm, even if the situation is believed to be degenerating.  Following the intensification of the rocket attacks from Gaza, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, foresaw a response against Hamas through an operation called “Defensive Shield 2”, based on the model enacted in Cisgiordania of 10 years ago. At the same time, the head of the right wing religious party, Naftali Bennett, presented a list of 8 possible actions against the other part: e.g. the seizure of the Islamic faction’s founds in the Cisgiordani bank and the introduction of the death penalty for terrorists, if condemned by a military tribunal. Mr Bennet, probably not wedging his claims, affirmed that ‘at the end, the war with Gaza will break out. Thus, it is better if we make the first move’. On the other side, the Palestinian National Authority asked, through its spokesperson Ihab Basseso, the international community for protection against the surging violence from Israel.

Every element of the issue seems to lead to the ending of war breakout in the Middle East. Will it really happen? Lately, the armed wing of Hamas, the brigades Ezzedin al-Qassam, launched missiles to the central zone of Israel. The latter government answered with air raids while a ground mobilization of forces is about to begin. Actually, the Arab-Israeli conflict involves different international actors and is likely to destabilize the delicate balances in the Middle East. Washington supported the Israeli actions in Gaza, but stressed at the same time that the only way for the Jewish state to live in peace and security can be found via the recognition of the Independent Palestinian State. On the other hand, the European Union and the United Nations recommended moderation from both the sides. France and Italy condemned the attacks in the civilian areas and asked the truce of 2012 to be respected. Furthermore, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil el-Araby, suggested an immediate meeting of the UN Security Council. The Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi reinforced the defensive controls along the border with Gaza and, therefore, put more economic pressure on Hamas. Furthermore, Al-Sisi said he would try to promote a ceasefire. Within this scenario, the Gulf Arab countries, with Saudi Arabia leading, are aware of the influence of Israel in the US and, therefore, are trying not to break all relations with Tel Aviv. According to Wikileaks, Israel has reinforced the cooperation with Saudi Arabia after the big powers’ agreements with Iran and against the chemical weapons in Syria. A report from the Israeli military demonstrates that weapons have been sold to the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Algeria.

Thus, considering the danger of a war breakout, who would support the Palestinians? Recently we have witnessed a mixing of the alliances in the region basing on the sectarian divisions. Hamas widened distances with Damasco and declared to support the Sunni manifestations against the latter. This fact weakened also the relations with Iran and Hezbollah. The Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah continues deceiving the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCG) asking for weapons for Gaza. The aim is to demonstrate the neutrality of the Gulf monarchies, putting a shadow over the filo-Arab credentials of Doha and Riyad.

Hamas’ dream of a balance of power in the region with the Muslim Brotherhood – aimed at granting cooperation between Egypt, Gaza and Syria after the coup in the first state – is vanishing. In the meanwhile, Qatar continues to offer political asylum to Hamas and to support some projects of development in Gaza. Nonetheless, the former refused to offer military assistance to Hamas, previously provided by Iran.  In conclusion, facing a proliferation of hostile forces to al-Qaeda, the reduction of possible allies in the region should push Hamas towards a realist solution in order to find a common ground agreement and put apart disagreements with Iran and Lebanon.



Master’s degree in International Relations and European Studies (University of Messina)

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