The “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is spinning out of control toward another possible all-out war. Blame should, of course, fall on the Palestinian terrorists operating from Gaza, who have once again fired hundreds of rockets inside Israel against civilian targets. This time, the terrorists deliberately escalated what began as a local fracas over the possible eviction of Palestinians from homes they have been occupying in an area of East Jerusalem known as Sheikh Jarrah. Israeli Jews claim that this land belongs to them. After a barrage of rocket attacks, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) struck back. The Palestinians are complaining. Here we go again.
The pattern is very familiar by now. Palestinians use a pretext to start a riot. The Israeli police and security forces respond proportionately. The Palestinians up the ante, prompting a further Israeli response. Then Palestinian terrorists in Gaza use the territory they control to launch rocket attacks into Israel against civilian targets. Israel warns the terrorists to stop the rocket fire, which the terrorists ignore. After the Israeli military retaliates proportionately in an effort to target the terrorists responsible for the rocket attacks and their facilities, Palestinian government leaders cry foul. They point to unintended Palestinian civilian casualties, which are often caused by the Palestinian terrorists putting the civilians, including women and children, in harm’s way. Then, with their usual crocodile tears, Palestinian diplomats run to the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and other globalist forums to reprise their false narrative of victimhood at the hands of the “oppressor,” “murderous,” “apartheid” Israeli regime. The Palestinians can count on leftist support for their cause in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere.
In short, Palestinian militants provoke violence to which Israel responds. Palestinian terrorists target innocent civilians deliberately. Israel targets the terrorists and their facilities, with policies and practices in place to minimize civilian casualties. And like the youth who kills his parents and then asks the judge for mercy because he’s an orphan, the Palestinians ask the so-called “international community” to rally around them.
The Israeli Supreme Court had not even ruled yet on the Sheikh Jarrah dispute before Palestinian agitators exploited the situation. They used the dispute, together with a peaceful Jerusalem Day parade celebrating Israel’s reunification of Jerusalem following Israel’s victory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, as an excuse to riot. Israeli police responded, leading to an outbreak of violence in and around the Temple Mount.
Then Hamas and Islamic Jihad entered the fray by firing hundreds of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel and several rockets into the Jerusalem area. Abu Ubaida, a spokesman for Hamas’s armed wing, said it had launched “a rocket strike against the enemy in the occupied Jerusalem in response to their crimes and aggression against the holy city and its aggression against our people in Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa mosque.” This was the first time since the 2014 Gaza War that Hamas has aimed its rockets at Jerusalem.
While Israel’s Iron Dome defense system managed to intercept some of the rockets, others got through and killed at least two Israeli civilians, injured scores of other Israelis, and destroyed homes.
On Tuesday evening, as reported by the Jerusalem Post, Palestinian terrorists launched rockets reaching the Tel Aviv region. One of the rockets hit a bus, causing several injuries, including to a 5-year-old girl.
“The terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “Whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price,” he added, warning that the fighting could “continue for some time.” As usual, the Palestinian terrorists did not listen.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) made good on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s threat. The IDF responded to the Palestinian terrorist attacks by striking Palestinian terrorists and their facilities in the Gaza Strip. Israel’s airstrikes were deadly to be sure but aimed squarely at killing the terrorists, such as the head of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s special rocket unit, Samah Abed al-Mamluk, and other senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives. The IDF also targeted Hamas military installations, a Hamas tunnel, and rocket launchers.
Israeli forces try to provide warnings where possible to give Palestinian non-combatants, if any, the opportunity to leave before a building believed to be used by terrorists is destroyed. Any Palestinian civilian casualties are the collateral consequences of the decision by Palestinian terrorists to operate or hide among the civilian population. Also, some of the Palestinian civilian deaths reported by the Gaza health ministry could well have been caused by rockets the terrorists launched that landed in Gaza.
The dispute in Sheikh Jarrah, which helped ignite the current conflagration, involves land that two Jewish trusts bought from Arab landowners in 1876. After Jordan captured the area and illegally occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City, in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, the Jordanians seized the Jewish-owned lands to build homes for Palestinians. Following Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem from Jordan in 1967, Israel returned ownership of the Sheikh Jarrah homes to the Jewish trusts, which later sold them to Jewish settlers who are trying to evict the Palestinians now living there. The Palestinian residents who signed an agreement in 1982 accepting Jewish ownership of the land in return for which they were allowed to live in the homes there as protected tenants may have had a decent case to remain, except for one thing. They repudiated the agreement, thereby forfeiting their protected status. This protected status does not suddenly return if other Palestinians move in as squatters. In any event, the issue is up to Israel’s Supreme Court to resolve.
Leftwing Democrats have added their own fuel to the fire by reflexively taking the Palestinians’ side rather than waiting for the judicial process to take its course. Democratic-Socialist Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, for example, wrote last week that “We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian residents of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Israeli forces are forcing families from their homes during Ramadan and inflicting violence. It is inhumane and the US must show leadership in safeguarding the human rights of Palestinians.” (Emphasis added)
The ”we” includes Senator Elizabeth Warren. The progressive senator said that “the forced removal of long-time Palestinian residents in Sheikh Jarrah is abhorrent and unacceptable. The Administration should make clear to the Israeli government that these evictions are illegal and must stop immediately.” The Israeli government should make clear to Senator Warren that she lacks any understanding of the background of the dispute and should mind her own business.
The Biden administration has reportedly expressed its displeasure to Israeli authorities over the possible Sheikh Jarrah evictions, as well as Israel’s construction plans in other parts of East Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is said to have dismissed the objections. His position is that “Jerusalem is not a settlement, but the capital of Israel.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu no doubt wishes that Donald Trump was still in the White House. President Biden’s attempt to go back to the so-called even-handedness approach of the Obama-Biden administration and to put some distance between the United States and its closest ally in the Middle East has enabled much of what is now happening. Biden’s recent decision to restore millions of dollars of funding to the Palestinians has also encouraged the Palestinians to become more aggressive against Israel without fearing a Trump-style response.
The Biden State Department has at least condemned the Palestinian terrorist rocket attacks as “an unacceptable escalation.” The State Department spokesman, Ned Price, called on “all sides” to show restraint, but acknowledged “Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself.”
That’s helpful, but it’s just words. What will the Biden administration do if another one-sided, anti-Israel resolution pushed by the Palestinians and their friends comes before the UN Security Council? The Security Council has already met behind closed doors to discuss the current crisis.
Will the Biden administration abstain like the Obama-Biden administration did in 2016, allowing the infamous Security Council Resolution 2334 to pass? Probably it will, under pressure to go along with the globalist “consensus.” Resolution 2334 declared that Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law…” The Biden administration would have no problem allowing another resolution to pass that reaffirms Resolution 2334’s proclamation and declares that any Israeli evictions of Palestinians in East Jerusalem are also illegal under international law.
As usual, the current crisis should not be considered in a vacuum. Palestinian leaders are hoping that the escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza puts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict back on the front pages. They are hoping that Israel’s forceful response to the terrorists’ rocket attacks will create a major split between Israel and the Arab countries seeking better relations with the Jewish state.
This strategy may be succeeding. The back-and-forth of terrorist rocket attacks and Israeli retaliatory airstrikes is dominating the news. An Arab League meeting of foreign ministers was convened to discuss the situation, resulting in a statement that placed the blame for the violence solely on Israel.
Reuters has reported that at the conclusion of the Arab League meeting, the foreign ministers issued a statement holding Israel “fully responsible for whatever follows due to its crimes, which constitute glaring violations of U.N. decrees, international law and human rights law.” The statement called on international organizations including the UN Security Council to “immediately stop the Israeli aggression and provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian people and uphold their right to worship freely and safely.”
The Palestinian terrorists’ current escalation also reflects in part the ongoing power struggle within Palestinian leadership ranks. Hamas wants to show Palestinians that it is best equipped to look after their interests after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decided to postpone indefinitely the first Palestinian elections in 15 years, scheduled for May 22nd. Abbas reportedly feared that Hamas would not only hold onto its power in Gaza but would also fare better than the Fatah Party factions still supporting him would in the West Bank. Hamas called the election postponement a “coup.” It is trying to force Abbas’s hand by showing him up as an ineffectual, out-of-touch bureaucrat.
Hamas may also be trying to destabilize Israel politically as Israel tries to put together a working governing coalition. However, the terrorists’ attacks are more likely to have the opposite effect.
If the past is prologue, some combination of Egypt, Qatar and UN officials will try to mediate a ceasefire in return for which Israel will have to make one or more concessions. The Palestinians may get to stay put in homes on land they do not own without the owners’ consent after all.