The second Lebanon war made many doubt the government's ability to think in advance about the results of its actions, analyze future implications, and act accordingly. However, the government's conduct in regards to the Palestinians no doubt attests to the strategic planning abilities of a distinguished chess master who patiently lays a trap for his opponent, step by step, until the king is defeated. Checkmate.
In fact, it won't be an exaggeration to say that those least surprised by the recent bloody clashes between Fatah and Hamas in the Territories were the same political figures who were quick to rule that "at this time, the Palestinian agenda is dead" – an effective "confirmed kill" that came to end prospects of talking with the other side. Israel can continue referring to the violent chaos as an "internal Palestinian matter" and present itself as uninvolved in it, but the roots of this dangerous confrontation stem from Israeli policy that made sure to weaken both sides – Fatah and Hamas – equally , so that none of them can effectively rule over the Territories.
From the day he was elected president, Israel referred to Mahmoud Abbas as an empty, weak, and impotent figure, thus laying the groundwork for his defeat in parliamentary elections and ascension of Hamas to power. The most blatant example of this policy is of course Israel's refusal to coordinate the Gaza Strip withdrawal with the Palestinian government, which did not include Hamas at the time, while opting for a unilateral move – a brilliant Israeli maneuver that exempted the government, in its own eyes, of the need to refer to the Palestinian side, which it viewed as virtual.
As we know, the "no partner" policy was not invented in honor of Hamas, yet with the rise of the Islamic movement to power, this policy took a grave active turn: Not only do we refuse to talk with this no-partner, we also use all means available in order to defeat it, including the abduction of its elected officials and starvation of its voters.
Carefully orchestrated play
Yet if it appears for a moment that Hamas is losing some of its status among Palestinians and Abbas' position may again be boosted, Israel makes sure to detain the Presidential Guard's commander, thus delivering yet another elbow to Abbas' ribs, and so on and so forth. At this stage, the fashionable discourse regarding "strengthening Abbas," which recently replaced the "no partner" mantra, is no more than a sad joke, as both in Jerusalem and Washington officials realize this is too little, and particularly too late.
This play Israel is carefully orchestrating also has a set, called the Gaza Strip. In the past year since the withdrawal, Israel made sure to turn the Strip into a pressure cooker with a particularly short fuse, awaiting the explosion to come. With unemployment skyrocketing, a naval, ground and aerial siege, and often sealed off crossings, along with an economic siege and a freeze on the transfer of tax monies belonging to the Palestinian Authority by law, the Israeli government knew with certainty that it will only be a matter of time before the Strip collapses into violent chaos –
as indeed happened – and now the government can post a satisfied checkmark next to the objective it formulated a while ago.
However, it's worthwhile reminding all those happy to see the Palestinians killing each other at this time that this play also has an epilogue. When the day comes, possibly sooner than expected, they will seek to end the bloodshed and unite around a common objective.
Then, no objective could unite around it the split Palestinian factions more than resistance to the occupation. This way, Israel is cooking up, with its own hands and through significant satisfaction, the third Intifada, even before the second one died down, in order to continue feeding the no-partner ethos.
The writer is an announcer and political commentator on All for Peace Radio