Are Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak using the threat of another full on war against Gaza as a bargaining chip against the international community’s support for an upgrade of Palestinian statehood at the UN later this month? While some might consider this too speculative, the history of Israeli aggression in Gaza, the timing of this escalation and reports from Israel indicate that Netanyahu may be attempting to provoke a broader fight in Gaza in order to sabotage the Palestinian UN push.
Yousef Munayyer wrote in February, 2012 demonstrating how Israel often instigates the escalation in violence with Gaza suggesting:
[I]t is the Israelis and not the Palestinians who, through their capacity to actually inflict high casualties with their projectiles, control escalation in cross border dynamics.
Were provocations against Gaza discussed election eve at the closed meeting between nine Israeli ministers on ways to coerce/threaten/punish Palestinians over the UN bid?
As we reported earlier, on the evening of November 7 in Israel, 10 hours after Obama was elected to his second term in office the Defense Minister of the Israel, Ehud Barak went on the radio and said the Palestinian UN bid had to be delayed “immediately.” The next day a Palestinian child was dead, killed in Gaza by invading Israeli military forces. That news has been erased from the narrative rapidly developing over the last 72 hours.
At dawn, the morning after the Defense Minister’s radio address, Israel military forces crossed over the border into Gaza with tanks and bulldozers sparking off a new round violence when 13-year-old Hameed Younis Abu Doqqa was killed by rounds of live ammunition fired by an Israeli military helicopter. The Popular Resistance Committees responded by firing rockets into southern Israel saying they were a “revenge invoice” for the increased Israeli attacks on Gazans, making it clear they viewed the Israeli attacks as a provocation. Still, the Palestinian response has served as a PR-friendly casus belli to “prepare international public opinion for an Israeli operation in Gaza.”
Why now? This was not like the build up to September 2011 UN bid when the Palestinian effort for statehood was all over the news. This year, between the US election and Israeli sabrerattling over Iran, the Palestinian bid for statehood has taken a back seat, until immediately after the election. In fact, it still has to take a back seat, because frankly, Israel’s argument against a state for Palestine is just not very compelling (no kidding, Oren’s “ Top item on U.S.-Israel agenda is Palestinian statehood bid” never even got picked up by the mainstream media). Was the attack meant to pressure Abbas into backing off, drive a wedge between Palestinians and justify another war against Gaza, should he dare go through with it? Are Palestinian rockets being used to build support in the international community for retribution and prevention of Palestinian statehood?
Now, Haaretz is reporting that “Netanyahu is interested in taking advantage of the situation in Gaza to provoke Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of his plan to apply for observer status at the UN”:
A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said Sunday in a press briefing that Netanyahu is conducting hasbara – efforts to explain and justify Israel’s policies to the rest of the world – in order to “prepare international public opinion for an Israeli operation in Gaza.”
It appears that despite the big statements and threats, Netanyahu is interested in taking advantage of the situation in Gaza to provoke Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ahead of his plan to apply for observer status at the UN at the end of the month – this, despite the fact that the sovereign power in Gaza is Hamas. “Abu Mazen claims he is the sole representative of the Palestinian people, but is not assuming responsibility for the fire from Gaza,” the PMO said Sunday evening.
Netanyahu discussed the issue with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who earlier Sunday released a message condemning Abbas for the situation in Gaza.
“Abbas’ failure to denounce or relate to the rocket fire into southern Israel in recent days once again raises the question of whom Abbas represents, what is his responsibility for what is done in this area and what value will an agreement with him actually have,” Lieberman said.
On election day in 2008, Israel invaded Gaza and broke the ceasefire. The ensuing rocket fire was used as the pretext for a full on invasion and war against Gaza beginning 3 weeks later. November 29th, the day the Palestinian delegation is expected to submit its bid for observer status at the US, is two weeks from tomorrow.
As we watch how Netanyahu takes “advantage of the situation in Gaza” to impact Israel’s positioning over the Palestinians UN bid, it will be important to remember the caged people whose lives are treated as nothing but political pawns to the powerful players.