Israel’s policy in Jerusalem escalates situation in Gaza and West Bank

Palestinian families, living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of Eastern Jerusalem, are threatened by eviction (Mostafa Alkharouf - Anadolu Agency)

Adnan Abu Amer

Middle East Monitor  /  May 8, 2021

At a time when the confrontations in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied Jerusalem persist, Israeli security and military circles have expressed concerns over the continuation of the uprising that erupted at the Damascus Gate at Al-Aqsa Mosque. These events were followed by the subsequent burst of rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards the occupied territories, in solidarity with Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the intensity of criticism in Israel regarding how the occupation’s security services and army had succumbed in front of Gaza’s missiles after surrendering at the Damascus Gate became more intense. This granted Hamas another moral victory that would force Israel to face more confrontations in the future, as media and social media platforms in Jerusalem and the entire Arab world have been invaded by a final and decisive headline: Israel is defeated.

The clashes that followed the installation of security checkpoints at the entrance of Damascus Gate are another episode to be added to the events, including the electronic gates of Temple Mount, the prisoner swap deals with Hamas, the first Intifada and many other bleak milestones in history. Zionists have paid dearly for these events, despite the misinformation marketed via Israeli media.

The Israeli rejection of the authorities’ policy to contain the Damascus Gate clashes intensified even further, since immediately after the removal of the checkpoints, hundreds of Palestinian youths gathered and chanted slogans in support of Mohammed Deif, current leader of Izz Ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’s military wing). Deif threatened to expand the reach of ​​confrontations if the restrictions on Jerusalemites continued, meaning that the Israeli defeat and surrender in front of the heroic victory of the people of Jerusalem gave the Palestinians another moral achievement.

Israel’s approach in the occupied Holy City pushed the Palestinians to invest their energy in escalating the situation in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. On the other hand, it can be said that all the factors and indications took a noticeable turn, indicating that the martyrdom operation in Nablus may fuel subsequent attacks of the same nature, or as part of a sophisticated escalation scheme.

Immediately after the West Bank attacks, the Hamas propaganda machine started working around the clock. The movement’s spokespeople welcomed the offensives and linked them without hesitation to the violent confrontations in Jerusalem. This comes despite the fact that the coming week will be loaded with crucial events and dates, increasing the tension and prompting the involved parties to seek further escalation.

The last Friday of Ramadan fell on 7 May, and Qadr night will be celebrated on Sunday (the night of the 27th day of the holy month), followed the next day by the Jewish Jerusalem Day, celebrated this year during the month of Ramadan. If that is not enough, a week later comes the Nakba Day, knowing that the unrest in Jerusalem has not diminished after opening Damascus Gate and removing the security checkpoints. Therefore, Palestinians are very keen to re-ignite the flame of resistance in Jerusalem.

After the violent Jerusalem events have subsided, Hamas is trying to stop the eviction of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, to motivate the population of East Jerusalem to take to the streets.

The current Israeli policy has been linked to what the extreme right considers as a retreat in the conventional approach to handling the Palestinian factions. It no longer demands the government to strike Hamas with an iron fist and an outstretched military arm, as usual. However, there have been desperate calls made by Israeli personalities to take action, while repeating “Hamas always escalates” and attributing the Israeli efforts to stop clashes to the Egyptian mediation efforts to restore calm.

While facing Hamas, the Israeli security apparatus is afraid of launching a comprehensive campaign against the movement and paying a bloody price, adding to that the effects of The Hague and Goldstone reports. This still haunts the occupation authorities, among other things, such as the West Bank uprising and the belief that every military operation against Hamas would force them to reoccupy the Gaza Strip 16 years after their withdrawal.

Israel is still reluctant to make a military move against Hamas, and as a general rule, the Israeli public sympathises with the government’s reluctance. As such, supporters for ending the siege of Gaza are afraid to appear foolish in case the Israeli army turns out to be unable to guarantee security without controlling the strip. Meanwhile, dissenters want the Israelis to know the high cost that they will pay after leaving Gaza.

The Israelis’ favourite option indeed is to target Hamas, but they are sure that the resistance movement will not suffer much harm. Hence, the Israeli response to Al-Qassam rockets has rarely caused real damage to Palestinian areas, as Hamas leaders enjoy long-term immunity from targeted assassinations, in addition to many other advantages. As for the political and security levels, and the right and left wings alike, they all agree that in the current situation, there is no escape from holding back and investing in the Iron Dome and underground Sensory Concrete Barrier, instead of responding to Hamas.

Estimates of the Israeli position say that the gates of Gaza must be smashed once every few years so that Hamas will think a hundred times before trying to drag Israel into war and internalise serious concerns over the occupation’s extended reach. However, the real problem lies in the fact that Israel’s behaviour while confronting Gaza is characterised by a sense of despair, as the Israeli army and the political leadership are using this cowardly rhetoric to justify their “lip-biting” approach in front of the 40 rockets recently launched by Hamas.

The recent events in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank have proven to be interconnected with what is happening in occupied Jerusalem. The events ended with Israel’s frightening folding of the barriers at the stairs of Damascus Gate, while offering Hamas what looked like a victory and approval to its claim that the shooting in Gaza emanated from Israel’s practices in Jerusalem.

The Israeli policy towards Palestinians is the expression of silent and submissive behaviour, as the Israeli authorities presented a model of conduct that can be referred to as “a shameful surrender to the Palestinian bullying.” They caved in without the blink of an eye and without taking into account that Hamas might find a new excuse to incite the region due to the aggressive Israeli policy in Jerusalem.

Adnan Abu Amer is the head of the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza