Ramadan’s arrival presages no halt to hostilities

Ramadan’s arrival presages no halt to hostilities

The holy month, coming just as tensions are ratcheting up, could actually see increased violence in both Gaza and the West Bank

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

Young Arab children walk by a security wall painted with graffiti and and an Israeli flag, in the divided West Bank town of Hebron. June 24, 2014. (photo credit: Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90)
Young Arab children walk by a security wall painted with graffiti and and an Israeli flag, in the divided West Bank town of Hebron. June 24, 2014. (photo credit: Mendy Hechtman/FLASH90)

Ramadan is now upon the Muslim world, and in Israel, the beginning of the holy month of fasting comes just as tensions along two fronts, the West Bank and Gaza, are heating up.

But rather than calming tensions, the start of the month may serve to further ignite them.

First, nearly every Ramadan, the same terrorists in Gaza get inspired by the holy month, wait for the sun to go down and the day’s fast to end, enjoy their iftar dinner, and then get to work trying to fire rockets at Israel.

Small al-Qaeda affiliates who seek Palestinian attention and support have been looking to fan tensions. These groups don’t enjoy Hamas’s cooperation. Just last week Hamas forces stopped a group from striking Israel from the Shatti refugee camp. Under the current circumstances, these groups are a “Committee of Popular Resistance” that seek to drag the entire Gaza Strip into chaos.

Israel’s challenge is to refrain from responding in a manner that will lead to an escalation in violence, against an entity that possesses hundreds of missiles that could strike Tel Aviv and the north — although not responding is also unlikely to yield quiet.

Hamas does not want war, but is hesitant to play too participatory a role in preventing rocket fire on Israel for fear of being perceived as collaborating with the Jewish state while it criticizes the Palestinian Authority for its security cooperation with Israel.

The economic situation in Gaza is terrible. The unemployment rate has reached 44% and could rise since 40,000 Hamas public officials have not received a salary since November 2013. The smuggling tunnels are closed and the cost of all goods has skyrocketed. This could play a significant role in determining the chances of escalation in the coming weeks.

The second issue is, of course, Hebron and three kidnapped Israeli teens.

The Israeli operation in the West Bank to find the teens continues apace, despite the easing of some pressures on the local population.

On Saturday, paratroopers scoured the canyons north of Hebron and again found nothing. Israeli security forces still seek any leads that would bring them closer to the captives or their kidnappers, thus far in vain.

Hebron has been reopened and residents can move freely to other cities in the West Bank, but thousands of workers are unable to work in Israel and the city lacks its usual Ramadan festiveness.

And yet, one need not be over-dramatic. The city’s routine continues. People are still shopping; maybe less than in previous years, but they are shopping.

Next to the gas station of the al-Jabari family, in the gap between Hebron and Halhul, a huge green flag flutters in the hot breeze in front of the Al-Khalil restaurant.

For once, it’s not a Hamas flag. Nor a sign of support for Palestinian security prisoners.

It is, rather, the Brazilian flag. At least there is the World Cup.

read more: