Osman Mirghani

Israel’s Worrying Choices

Nothing is surprising about what happened in Gaza, except for the timing and magnitude of the ‘Al-Aqsa Storm’ operation. As the world watched on and did nothing to help, Gaza was trapped in disastrous living conditions and a continuous siege for 17 years. The Palestinian arena in its entirety has been boiling since Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli fanatics decided to kill any prospects for a two-state solution. Meanwhile, the world helped them do so by removing the Palestinian question from the agenda as settlements continued to expand, more land was annexed, the Palestinians were put under increasing pressure, and provocations in Jerusalem escalated.
The grievances of the Palestinians must have heightened as the West's double standards became increasingly apparent in its position on the Ukrainian crisis. There, voices were raised about Ukraine’s legitimate rights, international law, and resistance to occupation, while this discourse is absent from discussions of their cause.
What else did Israel and the world expect?
Within Israel, some, though not many, had been cautioning against closing the door to peace, Israel’s arrogance, and its infringements upon the rights of the Palestinians and the confiscation of their territories, predicting that it would lead to explosive escalation. However, the world did not heed these warnings. Netanyahu's government was permitted to keep taking arrogant escalatory steps, leading to the ‘Al-Aqsa Storm’ attack, which will certainly have repercussions.
Now, Israel is mobilizing for a large-scale ground attack that could begin at any moment. Hamas and other Palestinian factions must have accounted for this possibility when they embarked on the operation, and, therefore, prepared for it. This battle will undoubtedly be more difficult than any of those that had preceded it, and the losses on both sides will be higher than they had ever been. Clashes in the narrow streets of Gaza and its densely populated neighborhoods will pose serious challenges, and that could mean a longer conflict than the 51-day war of 2014. The scale of the material damages and loss of lives, the number of missiles fired by the Palestinian factions, and the tons of bombs Israel dropped on the strip during that war in the summer of 2014, have already been surpassed, and the ground invasion has yet to begin.
Israel seems determined to launch a massive operation and inflict as much damage in Gaza as possible. It wants to "discipline" Hamas and the factions allied with it. The army's Spokesman, Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, confirmed that hundreds of tons of bombs have already been dropped on Gaza in statements on Tuesday. He even acknowledged that "the emphasis is on damage and not on accuracy." Indeed, Israel has adopted a policy of collective punishment, both through the unprecedented scale of its bombardment and the total siege it has imposed.
If Israel assessed the situation rationally, it would have realized all of its previous operations in Gaza and the West Bank had, at best, achieved intermittent ceasefires. Real peace remains very far off. All of the lethal force that Israel has used over the years, its Iron Dome, its costly wall, and its constant digital and aerial surveillance, failed to protect it. Its vulnerability was exposed by Hamas and the other factions’ basic, even rudimentary, tools. In operation "Al-Aqsa Storm," they used bulldozers to break through the wall, allowing its forces, vehicles, gliders, motorcycles, and tuk-tuks to cross over, and they struck Israeli targets with missiles that are incomparable to Israel’s cutting-edge military technology.
The problem is that Israel will not see things from this perspective. In fact, given the pressure he is under and accusations that his government is responsible for Israel's greatest-ever security failure, Netanyahu might contemplate reoccupying the Gaza Strip. Such an option would not only be extremely costly for Israel, but it could also lead the entire region to an unmitigated catastrophe, potentially leading to the expansion of the war and further destabilization of the region. The situation is particularly volatile given the rise of an Israeli right that wants to erase the Palestinian question entirely, while many have started to openly call for the mass expulsion and displacement of Palestinians.
In an article he wrote for Haaretz last May, Israeli political analyst Gideon Levy warned that after Netanyahu and the extreme right had succeeded in killing the two-state solution, Israel’s apartheid regime would end in one of two ways. One, he explained, is preferred by the extreme right and almost all Israelis, a second Nakba. If the conflict reaches a climax, Israel would find itself faced with two options: either a single binational democratic state or a mass expulsion of the Palestinians that allows it to remain a Jewish state. The obvious choice for almost every Jewish Israeli would be the expulsion of the Palestinians.
This second option makes many countries in the region apprehensive about Netanyahu's policies and the impasse of the peace process. Thus, it should come as no surprise that Cairo rushed to respond to what seemed like Israeli attempts to encourage the residents of Gaza to seek safety in Egypt and escape the intense and continuous bombardment of the past days.
Israel wants and aspires to rid itself of the Palestinian cause by transferring the Palestinians to other Arab countries. It wants normalization without giving up anything in return and seeks peace without concessions. This mindset will not create a solution or ensure stability, it will only exacerbate the crisis.
The undeniable fact is that there can be no solution or stability without justice and peace, a price that Israel is unwilling to pay. As long as this continues to be the case, and as long as Netanyahu and the hard right continue to push for further expansion and work to erase the Palestinian cause, the cycle of violence and war will continue; Israel will not know peace, and the region will enjoy the stability it desperately needs.