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Columnist ignores Palestinian complicity in recent Gaza fighting

A third of Gazans who were killed died from errant Islamic Jihad rockets, not Israeli airstrikes

To the editor:

Muhammad Shehada’s recent column, “The bloody truce between Hamas and Israel,” consistently presents only half of the story — a tactic designed to inflame one side while being dismissed by the other.

Any military action and loss of life are tragic, but the author neither acknowledges any Palestinian agency and responsibility for that carnage (both in targeting Israeli civilians and in firing missiles from civilian areas), nor does he acknowledge the pain suffered by Israelis who live under fear of rocket attacks. 

The article leads with a photo of bodies from the Najm family killed in Jabalia, but does not mention that blast most likely came from a misfired Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket which, while intending to strike Israeli civilians, instead killed Palestinians. 

From a more analytical perspective, a number of important conclusions can be drawn from the recent conflict. The limited nature and scope of the conflict and the speed of its conclusion suggest various parties actually share some common interests, most notably: Hamas and Israel.

The terrorist organization that has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007 (and perhaps the Palestinian Authority) appears aligned with Israel in their opposition to PIJ. Whether that alignment is the result of ideological, tactical or partisan political differences, those differences create an opening for a greater detente between Israel and the primary authorities in the West Bank and Gaza. In fact, one could speculate that the initial impetus for the initial Israeli moves (an imminent, major PIJ attack on Israeli civilians) reflected intelligence provided by Hamas, and that the limited nature of the war could be a reflection of ongoing security cooperation between the parties.

The Abraham Accords followed by the war in Ukraine have created new realities, challenges and opportunities for the region. The Gulf States have cast their lot with Israel over Iran, which leaves the Palestinians with no obvious allies and with much less leverage to control inter-Arab and even Arab-Israeli relations. 

Faced with a possible Iran-Hezbollah-PIJ alliance that could lead to massive war and even more pain, the PA and even Hamas may finally see the advantage (or necessity) of addressing the daily needs of Palestinians through incremental steps toward reduced militancy and maybe even the eventual resolution of conflict and the acceptance of coexistence and peace with Israel.

Israeli attitudes may shift as well: The Abraham Accords have whetted their appetite for fuller integration, but realists recognize that the unresolved Palestinian issue will always ultimately lead to crisis and war. The post-Oslo shift to the right on security issues — when many Israelis concluded that the Palestinian leadership is committed to militancy and the destruction of Israel — may shift again, as a desire for greater normalcy and the potential for a more moderate and realistic Palestinian leadership create an opening for real dialogue and, importantly, difficult concessions.

If commentators wish to advance the cause of peace, they would encourage both parties to focus less on blame for the pain of previous conflicts, and more on the benefits to be gained by rethinking the conflict in a new light, and encouraging reconciliation rather than resentment.

— Ralph Lieberman

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