10 May, Israeli parliamentarians Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett were to meet the president and inform him that they were capable of forming a new government. PM Benjamin Netanyahu was about to be ousted. Then at 6 p.m., rocket attacks from Gaza started and everything else is history. Once again, crisis and turmoil saved Netanyahu.
Only people are losing in the battle of Gaza as Hamas is also likely to get political benefits. Elections were to be held in Palestine this year, which were postponed by President Mahmoud Abbas. But for Hamas, this controversy has come as a chance to further strengthen its position.
According to Gaza’s health ministry, more than 212 Palestinians have been killed so far, including 61 children and 36 women. The death toll in Israel is 10, including one child.
It is not difficult to predict the end of this violent dispute. Like earlier conflicts and war, there is a possibility of a ceasefire without any rational and reasonable agreement. Then the status quo will remain until the next dispute. So, why are the Netanyahu government and Hamas are stoking passions?
Benjamin or Bibi Netanyahu had failed to form a new government after parliamentary elections held in early 2021. His right-wing Likud party received the most votes, but he could not form the government alone. Netanyahu needed an alliance.
Netanyahu wanted to form a government with Naftali Bennett’s Yamina Party, but the latter refused. Then the president gave an opportunity to the second-largest party Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid to look for an alliance. Lapid now has time till 2 June.
Mansour Abbas of the Arab Party Raam was also in talks with Lapid. Bennett also came along. But on 10 May, the Gaza dispute began before Bennett and Lapid could begin the process of ousting Netanyahu.
Bibi Netanyahu has become the longest-serving Prime Minister. While Netanyahu has received political relief from the Gaza dispute, the situation for his opponents has become difficult. Mansour Abbas is considered close to Hamas. If Abbas joins the government amidst the conflict, his vote bank of Arab Israelis may get angry with him.
Abbas’s support is necessary for Naftali and Bennett. But given the increasing tensions between Jews and Arabs, taking the support of an Arab party can be a difficult and dangerous step.
Meanwhile, questions are being raised about Netanyahu’s attitude towards Hamas. In 2009, Netanyahu came to power promising to end Hamas. 12 years have passed, but it seems Netanyahu wants to keep the organisation very much alive. Letting Qatar send financial aid to Gaza reinforces this argument. This year Qatar has announced to send $360 million in aid to Gaza.
On seeing the events of 10 May and before, some things make sense. On 7 May, there were clashes between the Israeli police and Palestinian protesters at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. From the next day, clashes started in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
On 10 May, Hamas gave an ultimatum to Israel to withdraw its security forces from Al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah before 6 p.m. or else it will launch a rocket attack. Israel celebrates this date as Jerusalem Day. Israel ignored Hamas’ warning and the celebrations began. Acting on the warning, Hamas fired six rockets, out of which only one could reach the outskirts of Jerusalem.
It did not cause damage, but Hamas’ situation improved among Palestinians with pictures of disruptions of Jerusalem Day celebrations, sirens ranging in Jerusalem and chaos. There was tension in Jerusalem for several weeks, but the Fatah Party-led Palestinian Authority could not do anything about it.
On the other hand, Hamas made a move towards becoming the leader of Palestinians by firing rockets in retaliation for Israeli action in the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
While Netanyahu manages to survive political upheaval in Israel, there is a power struggle going on in Gaza too. It seems that Hamas’s political bureau chief in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, and the organisation’s military wing Qassam Brigade chief Mohammad Deif are competing to become champion of resistance.
Deif had been missing from the scene for a long time and Sinwar was running Hamas in Gaza. But the ultimatum of 10 May was given by Deif. Sinwar barely won Hamas’ internal elections this year. It is said that since then, Sinwar has been spending more time on resolving the humanitarian crisis of Gaza. But after the al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah dispute, when Deif gave an ultimatum, Sinwar had to support him.
Hamas is not a very big militant organisation. Its influence is only in Gaza. The Palestinian Authority has more dominance in the West Bank. In such a situation, the possibility that Hamas is trying to expand its base among Palestinians of the West Bank by direct confrontation with Israel cannot be ruled out.