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ISRAEL-HAMAS WAR
Tribune
Opinion articles written in the style of their author." These texts are to be based on verified facts and must be respectful towards people, even though their actions may be criticized. shall feature, along with the author's name (regardless of their greater or lesser renown), a footer stating their office, academic title, political affiliation (if any) and main occupation, or the occupation related to the topic being assessed

Israel: A risky strategy

The attack by Hamas gives the government of Benjamin Netanyahu a pretext to deepen its colonizing policies and bury the two-state solution

Guerra Israel Gaza Hamas
An Israeli army self-propelled howitzer fires rounds near the Gaza border in southern Israel on October 11, 2023.JACK GUEZ (AFP)
Ignacio Álvarez-Ossorio

Following the Al Aqsa Flood operation carried out by Hamas, Israel has launched a devastating air offensive against the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the West Bank, a territory under the control of the Palestinian Authority, remains tightly sealed with no mobility allowed between the different cantons where the Palestinian population is confined. To a minimally seasoned observer, the contrast between the relative calm in which the West Bank lives and the desperate situation in Gaza might seem paradoxical, but this paradox is due to a deliberate strategy by the Israeli authorities.

It is well known that one of the strategies implemented by all colonial powers throughout history has been divide et impera (divide and conquer). It has not gone unnoticed by anyone that a divided rival is always better than a united rival. Hence, Israel has tried to divide not only the Palestinian population that is distributed between the occupied territories and the surrounding countries, but also its different political formations. Applying a carrot-and-stick policy, the Labor governments that signed the Oslo Accords drew a clear dividing line between Fatah, which defended the peace process, and Hamas, which bet all its cards on the armed approach.

The failure of the Oslo process took a heavy toll on the Labor Party, which today has a residual weight in the Israeli political scene, paving the way for the Likud (and its Kadima franchise) to take power. Ariel Sharon first and Benjamin Netanyahu later were elected prime ministers precisely to sabotage the negotiations, destroy the Palestinian Authority and prevent, in the near future, a sovereign state from emerging in the territories occupied by Israel. Since then, Netanyahu has tried to undermine Fatah’s authority by ignoring its president, Mahmoud Abbas, whom he does not recognize as an interlocutor, just as Ariel Sharon did in the past with Yasser Arafat.

Punishing the moderates and rewarding the radicals has proven to be a highly risky strategy. In this scenario of “the worse things are, the better,” Hamas is Netanyahu’s ideal enemy, since it continues to defend a maximalist program. The fact that this organization is branded as terrorist by the United States and the European Union allows the Israeli government to continue pushing for punitive measures instead of complying with international resolutions that demand an end to the occupation and the creation of a sovereign and independent Palestinian state.

But it should not be forgotten that Hamas did not exist when the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip were occupied during the Six-Day War of 1967. Hamas was born in 1988 after the outbreak of an Intifada that opened the world’s eyes to the brutality of the occupation and, for several years, benefited from clear favorable treatment by the Israeli authorities, who saw it as a counterweight to the Palestine Liberation Organization. The main reason for Hamas’ electoral victory in 2006 was precisely the continuous sabotage of the Palestinian Authority by the Israeli governments.

Hamas would hardly have a dominant position on the political scene today if colonization had not intensified to unimaginable extremes and if the Palestinian Authority had been able to show some success, no matter how small, in its commitment to the negotiated route. Despite being aware of this situation, the Israeli authorities chose to undermine the credibility of Mahmoud Abbas until he made him practically irrelevant and, today, he is strongly rejected by Palestinian society.

Khalid Qadumi, one of Hamas’ spokespersons, has tried to justify the barbaric acts perpetrated by his group as a response to “the atrocities committed in Gaza, against the Palestinian people and against our sacred places such as the Al Aqsa Mosque.” The unjustifiable cold-blooded murder of hundreds of Israeli civilians hardly benefits the Palestinian cause, but rather serves on a silver platter to the Israeli government the long-awaited pretext to deepen its colonizing policies and, what is more dangerous still, to bury, perhaps definitively, the two-state solution.

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