Will Sheikh Jarrah trigger another Israeli-Palestinian war? - analysis

There are several parties in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that are interested in escalating tensions with Israel, each for its own reasons.

Hamas members burn a coffin draped in an Israeli flag, rally marking 13th anniversary of Second Intifada, 2013 (photo credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)
Hamas members burn a coffin draped in an Israeli flag, rally marking 13th anniversary of Second Intifada, 2013
(photo credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)

Despite the fiery and belligerent statements emanating from the Gaza Strip regarding the latest tensions in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinians on Tuesday said they are under the impression that Hamas is not really keen on entering another round of fighting with Israel.

However, there are several parties in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that are interested in escalating tensions with Israel, each for its own reasons.

The Sheikh Jarrah feud seems, for now, to be attracting more attention in the international arena and media than among the Palestinians of east Jerusalem and, in general, those living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

For now, the Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank and the armed groups in the Gaza Strip appear to be fairly satisfied with the battles and campaigns they are waging in the media, especially social-media platforms, over the Sheikh Jarrah feud.

At this stage, they prefer statements of condemnation to stabbing, shooting and rocket attacks against Israel.

 Arabs and Jews clash in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, February 13, 2022 (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90) Arabs and Jews clash in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, February 13, 2022 (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

Interestingly, despite the tensions in the neighborhood and repeated calls by Palestinian activists and factions to escalate the “resistance” against Israel, the majority of east Jerusalem residents remain as indifferent as ever to what is going on in Sheikh Jarrah.

It’s not that these residents don’t care about the threat to evict Arab families from their homes or the presence of far-right MK Itamar Ben-Gvir in Sheikh Jarrah.

Some residents believe there is no point in taking to the streets and clashing with the police officers because nothing will stop the eviction of the Arab families after they lost their court cases to two Jewish organizations.

These residents feel they’ve already seen this movie before, particularly in other parts of Jerusalem, including Silwan and the Old City, where Jewish families have long been moving in.

Other residents seem to share the PA’s and Hamas’s contentment over the wide coverage the Sheikh Jarrah affair is receiving, especially in the local and international media. Social-media platforms allow many Palestinians to vent their anger and frustration at Israel while lying in bed or smoking a nargila.

The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip appear to share these sentiments.

They do care about what is happening in Jerusalem. They are worried about Israel’s perceived effort to “Judaize” the city, and they are worried about Israel’s alleged attempt to squeeze the Arabs out of the city.

But no one, for now, is openly calling for another war with Israel.

The talk in Ramallah and Gaza is about the need to step up the “resistance” against Israel because of its measures and policies in Jerusalem and the West Bank. There is also hope that the international community would continue to exert pressure on Israel.

Yet, there still is no call for firing rockets at Israel from the Gaza Strip.

It does not seem that the Palestinian public is enthusiastic about entering into a another war over the Sheikh Jarrah issue.

After all, Sheikh Jarrah is not al-Aqsa Mosque. Hamas has come under criticism by some Palestinians for dragging the Gaza Strip into war over the Sheikh Jarrah dispute last year.

For many Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, the price they paid during the war was too heavy. As far as they are concerned, Sheikh Jarrah is not an issue that deserves another devastating round of fighting with Israel.

Still, this does not mean a war could not break out at any moment. Even if Hamas and the PA appear at this stage to be more interested in keeping the Sheikh Jarrah conflict on the back burner, there are many elements that are keen on triggering another armed conflict with Israel.

In the Gaza Strip, there are a few groups that would like to drag Israel into another cycle of violence to serve the interests of outside parties, such as Iran and Hezbollah.

These groups, which are at odds with Hamas, are also hoping another war would bring about the downfall of the Hamas regime.

In the West Bank, on the other hand, there are many groups and individuals that would like to see a new intifada – not because they hate Israel, but to bring about the collapse of the PA.

The opponents of the PA are hoping to use the Sheikh Jarrah issue as a catalyst for sparking major clashes in the West Bank that would force the IDF to launch another massive military offensive, similar to Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 during the Second Intifada.