Israel fights in Gaza, and HAMAS mediates a cease fire?????

You read correctly. After 48 hours of fighting, with over 400 missiles thrown at Israel and Israel targetting multiple Palestinian Islamic Jihad locations in the strip, a Cease Fire was negotiated with the help og Egypt and... Hamas.

Let's start from the beginning. Everything staretd with Israel's bombardement of Al-Atta (Commander of Islamic Jihad) house in Gaza. He and his wife were killed. In retaliation, Islamic Jihad started throwing rockets at Israel. Israel told Hamas that insofar they stayed out of the fight, Israel would not attack Hamas strongholds. Hamas, along with Egypt, helped negotiate a cease fire on November 14. The Cease Fire did not hold, as Islamic Jihad started launching rockets at Israel even during the negotiation of the Cease Fire. But that's not the point... the point is that Hamas tried to be helpful. What is going on?

Islamic Jihad was for a long time a marginal group in Gaza supported by Iran. Hamas, although a Sunni organization, it also received support from Iran and also recently from Qatar. Demonstrations against corruption in Lebanon against Hezbollah, echoed in Gaza with demonstration against Hamas (which Hamas repressed). In the process, Islamic Jihad flexed its muscles to try and expand its activities in Gaza. Hamas, of course, would prefer Islamic Jihad to remain small and marginal... one could even suspect that Israel's assassination of Al-Atta could have been a move to support Hamas. If that were the case, it makes perfect sense that Hamas tried to be helpful in the negotiation of the Cease Fire. But even if Israel did not do it to support Hamas, the end result of the assassination is a weakening of Islamic Jihad and a stregthening of Hamas in the strip. But things get more complicated.

In Israel, negotiations to form a new government are stalled. Avigdor Lieberman offered again to form a Unity government, with a resounding "NO" from Netanyahu and yet to receive an answer from Gantz. Gantz seems to be getting nowhere with gaining majority support for his coalition, even with the inclusion of the Arab List. It appears that Israel might be headed for a thrid election in less than 12 months.

Netanyahu, in preparation, concluded negotiations to bring together the Likkud (headed by him) and Yemin HaHadash ("The new Right") headed by Naftali Bennett. This will give him a distinctive edge over Gantz's party "Kachol V'Laban". To clinch the deal, Netanyahu gave Bennett the Defense Ministry, and 24 hours after Bennett took over, Israel assassinated Al-Atta and went into open warfare with Islamic Jihad. Coincidence? Not impossible, but it feels unlikely to me.

Enter the Trump Administration, eager to publicize the much publicized "Deal of the Century", but unable to do so without an Israeli government with a clear mandate. More to the point, the White House already announced that it will not release the plan until Israel has a new government, whether that is headed by Netanyahu or Gantz.

In the meantime, Israelis in the South continue to stay within a short distance of their shelters, children do not go to school and many people do not go to work. And yet, no Israelis were killed so far, although there are a few serious injuries - but only three related to shrapnel. On the other side 27 Palestinians have been killed, and at least three civilians. Why the assimetry in the casualties? Islamic Jihad would say that it is because of the disproportionate force used by the IDF and its disregard for Palestinian lives. If that were the case, a lot more than 27 Palestinians would have been killed, and certainly a larger proportion of them civilians.

I postulate that the difference is that while Israel puts its defenses (Iron Dome and the IDF) between its citizens and danger, Islamic Jihad puts thei civilians between them and danger using them as Human shields. It is not a new tactic, but it appears to be effective in giving Islamic Jihad good propaganda points at the expense of Human lives... so which side is the one that does not care about Palestinian lives again? I also postulate that Netanyahu negotiated and brough in the New Right and Bennett to stregthen his own hand against his main opponent within the Likkud, Gideon Sa'ar, as much as to prepare for round three. With the new configuration he is likely to get three or four more Knesset setas than Kachol V'Laban. But will he be able to form a coalition? - Only if Avigdor Lieberman (Israel Beiteinu) supports him - But Lieberman refuses to forma coalition with the religious parties, and without them Netanyahu could not get a majority. Under the new configuration, however, if Lieberman wants to have any say in Israeli politics, he might be forced to fold and accept the partnership with the religious parties. Had enough?? As usual in Israeli politics, tomorrow everything will change... :)

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