The Palestinian response to the Israeli stalemate

There is the Turkish Hamas, the Iranian Hamas, the Qatari Hamas and the Palestinian Hamas which will unavoidably win in the end.

Wednesday 16/06/2021
Palestinians lift national flags as they march past buildings destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on June 15, 2021, (AFP)
Palestinians lift national flags as they march past buildings destroyed by Israeli air strikes in Gaza City on June 15, 2021, (AFP)

One can say much about the new Israeli government led by Naftali Bennett and about the fragility of its makeup.

In fact, it is possible to ponder for a long time, without any benefit, about this government, whose components have no common denominator of any kind.

From this point of view, the new Israeli government, which won the confidence of the Knesset with sixty votes, while 59 opposed it and one deputy abstained, seems extremely fragile.

It will have to search all the time for a reason to continue governing and avoiding its downfall. This is what motivated Benyamin Netanyahu to say that he expects to return soon to the position of prime minister, unless the Israeli judiciary convicts him in the corruption cases that continue to dog him.

This government, whose 27 members (including nine women) and eight parties are united only by the desire to get rid of Netanyahu (“Bibi”), reflects the deep crisis inside Israel.

The best expression of this crisis remains the holding of parliamentary elections four times in two years without achieving a clear majority in the Knesset, with a minimal homogeneity among its components.

The government that was formed is an unrecognisable hybrid entity.

In theory, there is nothing in common between the right-wing Bennett, who was among the most prominent advocates of settlement and the centrist Yair Lapid, who is supposed to succeed him as prime minister within two years.

In the new government, Lapid now occupies the position of foreign minister.

How can there be a clear Israeli foreign policy in the absence of harmony between the prime minister and the foreign minister? There is no answer to this question at the present time.

The only concern for Lapid and Bennett was to get rid of “Bibi”, who remained prime minister for 12 years, during which he was particularly adept at manipulating others.

The most dominant issue that will remain unchanged is the Israeli position on Iran, Tehran’s policies in the region and its nuclear programme.

It will be easier however for the new government to reach some kind of understanding with the US administration regarding the attitude towards the “Islamic Republic” and its nuclear programme, its behaviour abroad and its missiles, especially since Netanyahu had taken a clear position against any US-Iranian agreement for a return to the 2015 deal.

This is the agreement to which Iran wants to go back on its own terms, especially the lifting of sanctions.

The Israeli government will not be the one to decide on Iran. The military-security establishment will have the last word in this regard. This institution has had a long history of coordination with the relevant departments in the United States.

In addition, the US administration will not find great difficulty to reach an understanding with the new Israeli government as Benny Gantz will remain defence minister.

Gantz, who was chief-of-staff of the Israeli army, has the ability to engage in a dialogue with the US administration.

This is what he did already about two weeks ago, when he visited the US capital where he met a good number of senior security officials.

Gantz was unable to reach an understanding with Netanyahu about how to deal with the US administration, especially when it seemed clear the US administration wanted to get rid of “Bibi” and prevent him from staying in power, since there was no hope of reaching an understanding with him.

This happened before, when the United States under President Bush pressed for the removal of Yitzhak Shamir after the Madrid Conference in late 1991.

Although the new Israeli government will be unable to take bold decisions regarding the peace process, given the support of a section of the far-right and the “United Arab List” led by Mansour Abbas, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood, there is a need to break the stalemate that is likely to affect Israeli policies towards the Palestinians.

If there is an Israeli stalemate, should there also be a Palestinian stalemate?

The Israeli stalemate does not need to prevent the Palestinian side from adopting a flexible approach, regroup and put its house in order, especially in the West Bank.

It is clear, in light of what happened in Cairo, where it seemed impossible to initiate a fruitful Palestinian-Palestinian dialogue between the National Authority and Hamas, that the militant Palestinian group has no choice at the present time but to remain captive to escalation and slogans.

Hamas believes that it has retaken the Palestinian initiative as it revealed, through its rockets in Gaza, the frayed state of the National Authority.

Why doesn’t the National Authority undertake a form of in-depth self-criticism and renew the blood in its veins by getting rid of the syndroms that splintered Fatah into three factions and deprived the Palestinians of their most able figures such as Dr Salam Fayyad and those who cooperated with him when he was prime minister, to name just a few.

The Israeli government is being formed at a time when the Palestinians have discovered that they are one people inside and outside. In the West Bank, Gaza and the territories of 1948 … and in the diaspora.

The Palestinians had an opportunity to translate this unity into a positive action through the elections, which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) insisted on postponing.

With or without elections, it is the Palestinians’ duty to move ahead, regardless of Hamas’ internal travail as it faces a  multitude of conflicts.

There is the Turkish Hamas, the Iranian Hamas, the Qatari Hamas and the Palestinian Hamas which will unavoidably win in the end.

Like it or not, an understanding was reached in Israel, with US complicity, to exclude Benyamin Netanyahu.

When will there be an internal understanding in the West Bank on renewing the youth of the Palestinian leadership and benefiting from the services of competent cadres? The Palestinians deserve a better leadership, especially since they are a dynamic people that possesses some of the best abilities in their fields.

The time has come for a profound Palestinian change so no one can say that the Palestinian people have been unable to translate their national unity into political action.