The criminal Israeli offensive on Gaza is taking place in the midst of the Israeli general election campaign. There should be no doubt that it is connected to the election with regards to the timing, and to the personal, factional and political goals of Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. Even so, the real reasons for this offensive go beyond the election; they are related to security, political and strategic issues that have no bearing on who Israel's Prime Minister and Minister of Defence are.
The security and political leadership in Israel believes that Operation Cast Lead no longer acts as a deterrent or psychological barrier to the resistance. It is striking that the word most repeated in the Minister of Defence's recent speeches is "deterrence", which suggests that it's the biggest concern for the Israeli government, particularly after its failures in its war against Lebanon in 2006 and its aggression against Gaza in 2008/9. Thus, the so-called Operation Pillar of Cloud appears to have been pre-packaged to rebuild the deterrence factor. Through death and destruction and intimidating the people of Gaza, the Israelis hope to break the will of the Palestinian resistance.
In its 2008/9 offensive, Israel's Ehud Olmert-led government tried divide and rule: it launched a war on "extremist" Palestinians in Gaza, while keeping good relations with the "moderate" Palestinians in Ramallah. This time, Israel is threatening to attack Hamas in Gaza, because of its missiles, and threatening to undermine the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank for launching its own diplomatic missile at the United Nations.
Looking at the present, it is clear that conditions are ripe for Palestinian reconciliation and unity. There are no more temptations, even for the leaders who are most fond of negotiations, and thus the biggest political obstacle standing in the way of achieving reconciliation has been removed, as there are no negotiations, not even low-level relations with Israel. Hence, it is an open confrontation on all fronts; how can the Palestinian people tackle it while distracted by national division? How can they face up to Israel's military, economic, political and diplomatic aggression while fragmented?
It is time for the Palestinian response to be decisive and conclusive. It is time for the response to stress the fact that Palestinians are one people and that what is happening in Gaza feels as if it's happening in Ramallah, and even in Nazareth. Palestinians are one people and cannot be divided. The thing that can confuse Israeli strategists during its aggression, which it regards as a calculated adventure, is for a Palestinian response that goes beyond division.
Our people are not weak as some of their leaders think. Ending the division can be announced tomorrow; security coordination with the Israelis can be cancelled; popular resistance can be activated; and a campaign to impose sanctions on Israel can be started. All of this is possible in addition to going to the UN and moving the Arab public and governments in a support and solidarity campaign with Palestine and the Palestinians.
The Palestinian and Arab response can confound the Israeli leadership's calculations which have prompted the current offensive in Gaza. More than once, Israeli governments have launched wars ahead of elections in the hope of winning them, and each time they have lost. That was the case with Peres in 1996, Barak in his war against the Intifada in 2000, and Olmert and Livni in the war on Gaza in 2008/9. As was the case then, so too is it now; this aggression may lead to Netanyahu losing the election. What's more important, though, is for the Arab Palestinian response to be a deterrent to Israel in the future; how ironic it will be if the Israelis have gone to Gaza as a deterrent, but once there are deterred themselves.
Dr. Jamal Zahalka is a member of the Israeli Knesset
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.