Gaza, Obama, and Testing the Arab Spring

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الجمعة، ١٦ تشرين الثاني ٢٠١٢ (٢٠:٢٣ - بتوقيت غرينتش)
الجمعة، ١٦ تشرين الثاني ٢٠١٢ (٢١:٥٦ - بتوقيت غرينتش) Walid Choucair

There are many reasons and objectives for Israel's open war on Gaza, which began the other day. It would be silly to see it as a response to the launching of rockets from Gaza at Israel by Palestinian groups other than Hamas. Israeli responses have gradually forced Hamas to enter the confrontation after the Islamist movement, along with the Egyptian leadership, had reached a truce with Israel, which was broken by the assassination of the deputy head of the Izzeddine al-Qassam military wing, Ahmad Jaabari.

If the news is true that Jaabari was about to endorse the truce, this affirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that the objective of the open war launched by Benjamin Netanyahu, through murder and bombing, is not merely a response to Palestinian rockets.

Israel's reason for escalation over the past two days goes beyond Netanyahu's electoral considerations, three months before early polls that he hopes to win under the slogan of guaranteeing the security of Israelis, which is a priority for them.

Amid the complex and intertwined regional conditions, there are several functions for the Israeli escalation, among which are:

1-A preemptive strike against the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas as it prepares to go to the General Assembly of the United Nations to ask for a vote on non-member status for Palestine, based on the 1967 borders. This would mean considering the disputed Palestinian territories as being occupied by Israel, which would modify the rules of negotiations between the two sides. This has caused panic among Israeli leaders, who have been considering a response by measures that could involve taking around 40 percent of the West Bank, where there are Israeli settlements, which form the principal obstacle to resuming peace talks, and annulling the Oslo Accords, which were canceled in practical terms by Ariel Sharon in 2002 when he invaded the West Bank. Moreover, the Israelis might seize Palestinian revenues from taxes and fees and halt American aid to the PA.

2-It is a test of the possibility of restoring the alliance between Israel under Netanyahu and the U.S. under Obama, after they moved apart because of Netanyahu's bias toward Mitt Romney during the recent presidential campaign, and the supposed dispute over war against Iran because of Netanyahu's insistence on gaining Washington's support for military action against Tehran. In fact, America's insistence on giving priority to a diplomatic solution with Iran will not alter the American priority of blind support for the security of Israel. Moreover, Obama has supported Israel's right to respond in this latest action. What Netanyahu has done in the last two days, and what he will do, enjoys full support, affirming that the two sides have recovered their good relations. While the Palestinians have obtained around 150 votes of support in the UN General Assembly (out of 193 members), Washington is using huge pressure on the Palestinians, to get them to drop their plan of seeking non-member status.

By declaring war on Gaza, Netanyahu has confirmed that he and Obama are in harmony when it comes to the Palestinians; he received a green light from Obama himself, thanks to an insulting telephone call by the American president to the Palestinian president on Sunday, when he tried to get him to drop the idea of going to the UN to obtain recognition. This call ended with a quasi-threat, when Obama told him, "You will set the entire region ablaze." The Americans are crudely and insultingly pressuring Arab states to in turn pressure Abbas to drop the idea.

The identical stance by Netanyahu and Obama confirms what American commentators said about a so-called "divergence" over Iran; by exaggerating the dispute, Netanyahu was trying to obtain support for his steps against the Palestinians in return for not launching a war that he knows he cannot conduct by himself.

3-It is a test (and challenge) by the Israelis, and the Americans, of the countries of the Arab spring in general, and particularly the new regime in Egypt, to see how ready they are to achieve the slogans of the popular movement, which rose up against dictatorial regimes, vis-à-vis the Palestinian issue. Egypt felt itself deceived by Israel after it nearly succeeded in cementing a truce, and moreover the new regime in Egypt is concerned, like other regimes, with recovering some dignity vis-à-vis Israeli and U.S. arrogance. This required Egyptian reactions that would not have taken place under the old regime.

Most likely, testing the Arab Spring through a new war in Gaza will not be in Israel's interest in the medium- and long-term, and this is what Washington and Tel Aviv fail to realize.

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