By Greg Pence
It is said that “Repression is the father of explosion” or “What can’t come out will act out”. This seems to be the case with the 70-year-long oppression of the Palestinians and the recent uprising of Hamas, which killed many Israelis on the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War. Hamas militants launched an unprecedented attack that caught Israel off guard, killing over a thousand people and taking hundreds of hostages.
Israel retaliated with a fierce military response, leading to one of the bloodiest and worst security crises in the Middle East in the last 50 years. The main question here is why Hamas, knowing full well that Israel would react disproportionately, initiated such a widespread assault on the country. Or what factor triggered this pent-up anger to erupt like the Vesuvius volcano that wiped out hundreds of Pompeii, and according to the Jews, caused the worst massacre of their nation since the Holocaust?
First, the tension between Palestine and Israel has been increasing in recent years. Israel’s frequent military operations in the West Bank, along with the country’s intensification of its actions to exert more control over this land, have helped to create an uneasy atmosphere and instability. The violence this year has taken a heavy toll on both sides, with reports indicating that over a hundred Palestinians and dozens of Israelis have lost their lives. Incidents such as the Israeli police raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in April, followed by rocket attacks from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes, also worsened the situation.
In May, a short but fierce battle broke out between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In July, Israel carried out a major operation in the West Bank city of Jenin, one of the main strongholds of the militants. In fact, the lack of a peace process, along with the increasing disappointment of the Palestinians regarding the performance of the leaders of the self-governing organizations and the end of the occupation process, has created an atmosphere of despair and frustration among them. The widespread attack by Hamas, which invites all Palestinians, including Israeli Arab citizens, to rise up against Israel, is an attempt to exploit this public anger and increase the influence of this organization as the main defender of the Palestinian cause.
Second, Israel is currently governed by a far-right extremist group that has prioritized changing the power structure in Israel in order to gain all power and increase its authority. This effort caused significant internal unrest and protests in response to these legal measures aimed at reducing the power of the judiciary. Thousands of reservists, essential to the Israeli army, joined the protests, even threatening to resign over the Netanyahu government’s judicial review plan. This internal turmoil which also led to disobedience in the Israeli army and intelligence institutions made Hamas believe that Israel is vulnerable, and now is the perfect opportunity to ignite the fire of resistance in the region and among the Palestinians.
Thirdly, Hamas’s decision to attack was also influenced by geopolitical and regional developments. Hamas attacked while Israel and Saudi Arabia were negotiating to normalize their relations. Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, had acknowledged the progress in these negotiations. The normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia, as the key Arab country that is the guardian of the Al-Ahram Mosque and the Kaaba, and Israel can change the geopolitical landscape of the Middle East. This, without a doubt, would harm the Axis of resistance and Hamas as a member. With Israel’s attack on Gaza, the prospect of a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel became much more complicated.
The attack by Hamas is a factor for the escalation of tensions in the region, and it derails the progress towards the normalization of Israel’s relations with the Arabs – the agenda of the United States to build a new Middle East – which began with the so-called Ibrahim accord. Arab countries that have recently normalized their relations with Israel, such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco, will be forced to distance themselves from Israel in response to this attack. This attack adds to the challenges and risks of normalization, exposes the Arab countries involved in this process to retaliation by militant groups, and highlights the need for a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Thus, the potential long-term consequences of this attack would include a further worsening of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, increased violence, and halting any progress toward peace.
Apart from the speculations about the drivers of this surprise attack, the recent tragedy is, more than anything, a confirmation of the ineffectiveness of the United States policy towards the long-term conflict between Israel and Palestine. US leaders from Nixon to Obama have failed to do so despite repeated opportunities to end the conflict. In addition, weak Palestinian leaders and radical Israeli lobbies like AIPC have also played a very important role in this crisis. Instead of acting as a real mediator, and using the huge levers at their disposal, the democrat and republican governments have succumbed to the pressure of the lobbies, and have always acted like Israel’s lawyer. They put pressure on Palestinian leaders to make concessions while unconditionally supporting Israel, and turn a blind eye to Israel’s decades-long efforts to gobble up lands ostensibly intended to form a future Palestinian state.
Even today, the United States government, while emphasizing its commitment to a two-state solution, continues to inject money and weapons into Israel, and unconditionally defend it in the international community. Why should anyone take seriously the US’s commitment to an issue – the two-state solution – which in practice has nothing to do with the reality on the ground, and has become completely obsolete and meaningless with the unilateral and biased policy of the United States? As usual, the official response of the United States to this war will be to condemn Hamas and express firm support for Israel.
The continuation of such an approach based on humiliation, mitigation, and repression naturally forces the Palestinians to have no other option but to use force. So, it should come as no surprise that past US peace efforts have consistently failed. From a legal point of view, Hamas’s preemptive attack may seem unjustified, but from a broader perspective, this attack is a reaction to the oppression that has been imposed on the Palestinians in Gaza and other parts of the occupied territories.