Op-ed

In world turned upside down, Israel angry at Abbas for taking hard line on Hamas

Government hopes for tranquility are based on a delusional misconception — trying for a deal with terror group Hamas, while slamming PA leader whose security cooperation is vital

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.

Israeli soldiers and medics at the scene of a fatal terror stabbing next to the Gush Etzion Junction in the West Bank, on September 16, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Israeli soldiers and medics at the scene of a fatal terror stabbing next to the Gush Etzion Junction in the West Bank, on September 16, 2018. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The flood of security incidents in the past week on Israel’s various frontiers — along the southern border with Hamas-run Gaza, the northern border with Lebanon and Syria, and in the West Bank — demonstrates, for the umpteenth time, that Israeli hopes for peace and quiet are based on a fantasy.

Iranian involvement in Syria is here to stay. Tehran has invested in the war-torn country heavily, in terms of both finances and manpower, to ensure that President Bashar Assad remains in power, and it has no intention of giving up its reward in Syria when the fighting ends.

Furthermore, the agreements between Jerusalem and Moscow on keeping Iranian forces far from the border, which have received much coverage in Israel, are not expected to change Tehran’s strategy in Syria.

The attack overnight Saturday-Sunday on the airport near Damascus, which was attributed to Israel, is unlikely to be the last such incident in the foreseeable future.

Ari Fuld, who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist outside a West Bank shopping mall on September 16, 2018. (Facebook)

Hours afterward, after a months-long lull in lone-wolf incidents, came the terror attack in the Etzion Bloc, not sponsored by any specific terror group, in which US-born Israeli Ari Fuld was stabbed to death.

Then, in the evening, an army bus that accidentally entered the Qalandiya refugee camp was stoned by Palestinians, and three soldiers and a border guard were lightly injured. That incident could have ended much worse for both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Once again we are reminded how volatile the West Bank is; the relative quiet is illusive, and does not represent reality.

The truth is that hatred toward Israel is on the rise in the territories, and the relatively low number of terror attacks is due to the successes of Israeli and Palestinian security forces. Strange as this may sound, despite the ongoing political schism between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and the open hatred between Ramallah and Washington, the security coordination remains in place, at the direction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and both Israeli and Palestinian security forces have a share in preventing attacks on Israelis.

An Israeli military bus after it accidentally entered the Qalandiya refugee camp north of Jerusalem in the central West Bank on September 16, 2018. (Twitter)

Meanwhile in Gaza, it is hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel. After a particularly stormy Friday when three Palestinians were killed, Sunday again saw riots along the border.

With its actions, Hamas has shown that it does not intend to allow a full ceasefire, even if at this point it does not want events to spiral out of control. In light of the freeze in joint efforts by Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to keep things quiet in Gaza, it is possible that within the next few days or weeks Hamas will again signal that it wants an escalation. Although the terror group that rules Gaza is not out for full-blown war, it will want to deliver a credible threat of one.

On Monday, a delegation of senior Fatah officials is expected to arrive in Cairo to restart reconciliation discussions with Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel’s hopes for a long-term agreement with Hamas that would bring security to the Gaza border area are all but dashed.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a meeting with the Palestinian Central Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah on August 15, 2018. (AFP/Abbas Momani)

The culprit, as far as Israel is concerned, has been known all along: PA chief Abbas, of course. Every day we hear from various Israeli officials that Abbas is bringing Israel and Hamas to the brink of war.

This is ostensibly due to the PA leader’s refusal to accept the terms of an Egyptian-brokered deal between Israel and Hamas. Abbas, these officials would have one believe, is refusing to accept any such agreement so long as Hamas is refusing to part with its weapons and allow the PA to take control in Gaza.

The absurdity is clear: Israel is furious at Abbas for insisting on disarming Hamas. This is the same Israeli government, more or less, with the same leader, that in the past accused Abbas of making a deal with the devil because he was seeking reconciliation with Hamas.

Now, suddenly, Israel is eager to get Abbas to set aside his reservations and work with a terror group that is sworn to Israel’s destruction so that the Jewish state can enjoy a modicum of quiet. For the Israeli government, rather than tell its citizens the truth, it is easier to point the finger at the party that is still trying to force Hamas to put down its weapons.

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