What lies behind the current Flare-up with Gaza?

Many reasons have been advanced for the cause of the current flare-up with Gaza.

Some see it as resulting from a property dispute between Jews and Arabs in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

Others blame the police for erecting barriers at the Damascus Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem when Muslim worshipers were congregating there during the holy month of Ramadan.

Yet others view the current unrest in the context of the Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections that were scheduled respectively for May 22 and July 31, and which Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas postponed on the grounds of a dispute between him and the Israeli government as to whether East Jerusalem residents would be able to participate in them.

Were such elections to take place, Hamas would in all likelihood have displaced the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank and is using the flare up as an opportunity to demonstrate to the Palestinian public at large that they are the ones who are fighting to protect the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and Palestinian rights rather than collaborating as the Palestinian Authority does with the Israeli authorities.

Some believe that prime minister Netanyahu was interested in stirring things up in order to sabotage attempts to form a coalition that would have replaced him as prime minister. Those who hold such a view see confirmation in the fact that Yamina party leader Naftali Bennett has now withdrawn from negotiations to establish such a government.

While there may be some truth in a number of these assertions, the bottom line is that many Palestinians have yet to come to terms with the existence of a Jewish State in the Middle East with Jerusalem as its capital. Hamas are committed to the destruction of the Jewish State and are aided and abetted by their Iranian patrons, who have repeatedly expressed their intention to wipe Israel off the map. The call by protesters to “Free Gaza” chooses to ignore that dimension of the conflict.

In an op-ed in the New York Times earlier this week Peter Beinart argued that displaced Palestinians should have the right to return home. He drew an analogy between their lot and that of Jews who yearned for two thousand years to return to their land. However, the comparison is flawed. Palestinians have not been the victims of persecution in foreign lands. Even more relevant is the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly been offered the opportunity to establish an independent state (something they have never had) alongside Israel, but have always refused seeking to play a Zero-Sum game.

Israel is not about to disappear. Half of world Jewry live there and the country has the most powerful armed forces in the Middle East. However, the present round of fighting has exacerbated relations between some of Israel’s Jewish and Arab citizens. That in some senses is much more worrying than the current flare up, which will come to an end, as previous ones have done, when a ceasefire is finally brokered.

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