שמרית מאיר
Shimir Meir
Photo: Tali Shani
Palestinian militants training on a Gaza beach on Saturday

Gaza rockets were a Hamas shot across the bow

Opinion: Abbas is trying to use Israel's reluctance to allow East Jerusalem voting as an excuse to call off next month's Palestinian elections, which he's expected to lose; but Hamas, the predicted winner, has no intention of letting that happen

Shimrit Meir |
Published: 04.25.21 , 11:12
The IDF is not interested in escalation. The calm with Hamas is based on the assumption that another round of fighting would only have a marginal benefit and that it would find ourselves in the same position after the shooting ends.
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  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not interested in escalation; the calm in the Palestinian territories is one of his proudest achievements.
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    תרגיל בעזה
    תרגיל בעזה
    Palestinian militants training on a Gaza beach on Saturday
    (Photo: EPA)
    It makes reaching out to Arab states easier and allows the defense establishment to focus on Iran.
    In addition, Netanyahu has not yet given up on the Islamic Movement's support for his political moves and the flames on the Temple Mount do not foster an atmosphere of tolerance.
    Hamas too, at least according to IDF estimates, is not interested in escalation. Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar is comfortable receiving Qatari money.
    Still, the escalation has arrived.
    The reality of Israel waiting for Gazans to break their Ramadan fast before deciding whether to fire on Israeli border towns to express their solidarity with Jerusalem is ridiculous of course, but the Palestinians have a different perspective.
    According to the Palestinians, Israel is changing the status quo in Jerusalem in general and on the Temple Mount, which houses the Al-Aqsa Mosque, in particular.
    This is not a new claim, but this time it is about restricting access to Muslim worshipers in the area of the Damascus Gate, especially during Ramadan when thousands of people flock to the place, as well as limiting the volume of the call to prayer and of course the violent clashes between young Jews and Arabs.
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    המשטרה מפזרת מפגינים באזור שער שכם בירושלים באמצעות רימוני הלם ופרשים
    המשטרה מפזרת מפגינים באזור שער שכם בירושלים באמצעות רימוני הלם ופרשים
    Israeli security forces stand beside Palestinians praying at the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem on Saturday
    (Photo: AFP)
    In recent years, the al-Aqsa issue has been the only one that has managed to provoke popular protest among the Palestinians, from Umm al-Fahm to Gaza.
    This may explain the protests in Jerusalem and perhaps even the West Bank, but it does not explain Hamas' decision to launch rockets.
    There have been cases in the past where Hamas has restrained itself in the face of more serious incidents than those we have seen in recent days, including those that included casualties.
    The decision to attack over the weekend is also related to the Palestinian political agenda — the parliamentary elections are due to take place in less than a month.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who expects to be trounced in the voting, intends to cancel the elections and Hamas has no intention of letting that happen.
    Hamas' message to Israel is that if it prevents voting in East Jerusalem, thereby giving Abbas an excuse to cancel the elections, it will pay the price.
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    עימותים עם מפגינים במזרח ירושלים בהם מספר עצורים ושוטר שנפצע
    עימותים עם מפגינים במזרח ירושלים בהם מספר עצורים ושוטר שנפצע
    Police arresting a Palestinian protester in Jerusalem on Saturday
    (Photo: Reuters)
    This warning shot also serves as a nice piece of election propaganda that portrays Hamas as the protector of Palestinians in Jerusalem as well.
    Abbas doesn't really care. Tensions in Jerusalem provide him with a good excuse to call off the elections. The clashes, even if they spread into the West Bank, take place mainly in the territories overseen by Israel and Hamas. He wishes both sides luck.
    But this escalation, whether it is eventually contained or it flares up like the "knife intifada" of 2015, signals us that we are at the end of an era.
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    אבו מאזן
    אבו מאזן
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
    (Photo: Reuters)
    So far, Israel has rightly seen the split between Hamas and Fatah as a strategic advantage. There have been crises over the years, but there was always a lifeline for Abbas in the end.
    This time he has maneuvered himself into a particularly dangerous position, thanks to a combination of stubbornness and lack of self-awareness.
    We are approaching the point at which Israel's desire to preserve the status quo is beginning to exact a price. The Palestinian political map is seeking to realign itself and the consequences may be bad.
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