Monday, October 25

Israel and Hamas: stop the war | Opinion

Impact of an Israeli bombing on Sunday in Jan Yunes, in the Gaza Strip.
Impact of an Israeli bombing on Sunday in Jan Yunes, in the Gaza Strip.SAID KHATIB / AFP

The open military confrontation between Israel and Hamas is both a tragedy for the suffering of civilians and a reminder of the dire state of affairs, long forgotten by the international community. It is urgent to stop an escalation that, in a diabolical action-reaction spiral, is rapidly worsening and which may have unpredictable consequences in a volatile regional environment. Unfortunately, the warring parties seem determined to deepen the clash. The international community must activate the channels at its disposal so that containment, first, and de-escalation, later, take place as quickly as possible.

In an immediate glance, this new confrontation is the culmination of the increase of the tension accumulated in Jerusalem during the last weeks. There are three specific situations that have generated deep unrest among the Palestinian population: the probable eviction of eight Palestinian families from the Sheikh Yarrah neighborhood, the charges of the Israeli police on the Esplanade of the Mosques – which have resulted in hundreds of injuries. and the blocking of the Damascus Gate, important access to the Arab quarter of the Old City and the Al Aqsa Mosque. These are three events that could have been handled by Israel in a completely different way – especially the last two – but which, together with unnecessary provocations such as far-right demonstrations and several episodes of attacks against Palestinians, have formed an explosive mood. None of this, however, can justify the indiscriminate firing of rockets by Hamas against Jerusalem and several Israeli cities, which is the trigger that begins this military escalation. Once again, Hamas takes unscrupulous action to capitalize on Palestinian anger and demonstrate its military vigor.

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But the immediate gaze and the aggression of Hamas cannot hide the background context and the serious responsibilities of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. During his long tenure, the policies of occupation and discrimination promoted by the prime minister have considerably aggravated Palestinian frustration, both in the occupied territories and – as evidenced by the protests these days – among the Israeli Arab citizens. Israel has every right to exist in safety and is objectively threatened in a very hostile environment; but many of its policies violate international law. Netanyahu has cultivated in Israeli society the myopic illusion that it was possible to bury any prospect of peace with the Palestinians and recognition of their rights, continuing with colonization, and that nothing would happen. This is a fallacy; it is a recipe to foment hatred that, sooner or later, explodes.

Installed in a situation of total precariousness, on the verge of losing his command chair and cornered by justice, Netanyahu could be tempted to stay in power via escalating military tension. It would be another terrible service to your country. On the other hand, Mahmoud Abbas is a fragile leader, devoid of democratic legitimacy, while Hamas, notoriously, exercises an unscrupulous leadership that seems to accept these periodic confrontations as useful to its cause. Containment is urgent. International pressure is urgently needed. Who has the most influence, the United States, is called to exercise it right now.

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