Neither Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt nor Hamas wishes to see another
round of fighting. What we are seeing is akin to a conversation between two deaf
The escalating violence this week between Israel and the
Palestinians has not completely spun out of control, at least not yet. We might
see another rocket or two being launched from Gaza toward Israel, but by and
large none of the regional players has any interest in expanding the cycle of
violence, certainly not on Christmas, a day on which Bethlehem is decorated for
a festive occasion.
Israel could not have continued to hold its fire,
especially after Tuesday’s murder of Defense Ministry civilian employee Salah
Shukri Abu Latyef, the 22-year-old from Rahat who worked along the security
fence outside Gaza to repair the damage caused by the recent storm.
could not have ignored the string of terrorist incidents from recent days,
including the explosive device that blew up on a bus in Bat Yam on Sunday as
well as the stabbing of a traffic policemen near Jerusalem on Monday. In the
past three months, terrorists have killed six Israelis.
Israel’s decision to respond with a military blow. It was a joint operation that
included IAF warplanes, tanks and artillery fire against Islamic Jihad targets
in the Gaza Strip. In addition, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon decided to seal
off the Gaza border crossings. While Israel’s response was sharp, it was a
measured one considering regional circumstances.
From the Palestinian
standpoint, the escalation began earlier – last Friday, to be more exact, when
the IDF and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) launched arrest operations in
the West Bank that left two Palestinians dead. In Gaza, meanwhile, the
Palestinians will have a hard time restraining themselves in light of news that
a mother and her infant were killed – apparently due to poor intelligence – in
IDF operations on Tuesday.
One would be remiss not to mention that Hamas
has been playing a dangerous game these past few months.
While it has no
interest in sparking a large conflagration similar in scale to Operations Cast
Lead (five years ago) and Pillar of Defense (just over a year ago), the
movement’s financial and political standing is at an all-time low. Perhaps this
can explain why it is seeking to demonstrate its relevance, refusing to
surrender, that it is alive and kicking.
Against the backdrop of the
escalation there is the ticking clock on the diplomatic negotiations with the
PLO. If those talks do not end with an agreement, it will lead to another round
of confrontation that would make the events of the past few months seem like