The occupation has escalated its ongoing attack on the Gaza Strip, after months of tension and cautious calm, to the extent that observers expect that this escalation is the beginning of a fully-fledged war similar to the Israeli wars in 2008, 2012 and 2014. Is it really the beginning of a full-fledged war? What are the occupation's objectives for its recent violence?
Reading into the internal Israeli debate
The internal debates in the political and media arenas in Israel do not seem to indicate that there has been a decision to wage a war on Gaza. The government, especially Netanyahu and the Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, are leaning towards not carrying out such an attack for reasons related to the occupation's inability to completely eliminate Hamas. Also because of the enormous media and political costs of the war, based on the experiences of the three previous wars.
On the other hand, other parties in the government, such as Naftali Bennett, head of the far-right Jewish Home party, are pushing for war, perhaps to register political goals against the Likud.
As for the military experts and research centres, they are divided over the appropriate options for dealing with Gaza, between the need to maintain the relative "calm" imposed by the recent war in 2014, and the launch of a full-on war to reimpose full calm in the so-called Gaza envelope settlements.
Among the options are the Syrian and Lebanese fronts, as some government, military, and media voices are pushing for a focus on the security concerns and risks on these fronts, and refraining from waging a new war in Gaza.
Great Return March and incendiary balloons
The Great March of Returns, kite, and incendiary balloons are a new major factor that could affect the Israeli decision-making process regarding the war on Gaza. The fires in the Gaza envelope settlements caused by the kites and incendiary balloons have put great pressure on the government. They have also acted as a tool for more radical ministers and military officials to score political points against Netanyahu, which has prompted the latter to carrying out more frequent air strikes under the pretext of targeting those issuing the orders to launch the kites. This is an effort on his part to ease the internal pressures and political bidding from more radical parties.
Apart from the public pressures and demands, the real motivator for the recent Israeli escalation is the Israeli government's desire to restore the deterrence equation produced by the 2014 attack, disrupted by the phenomenon of burning kites, because of the large fires caused by this phenomenon.
To understand the occupation's objectives for imposing an appropriate deterrence equation, we must look back on the shift that appeared in the Israeli deterrence policy since 2006:
- In 2006, the occupation did not achieve a clear victory against Lebanon, but the brute force of the air force was able to deter Hezbollah from carrying out military operations that could lead to a full-on war with the occupation. Perhaps the most important statement made by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in this context is that he would not have captured the two soldiers at that time if he knew it would lead to a war that would leave such destruction and victims in Lebanon.
- In 2008, the occupation also failed to achieve a clear victory against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and was also unable to end its control of the Gaza Strip. It was not considering waging a full war due to the high political cost of reoccupying Gaza. On the other hand, the war produced a new deterrent formula, mainly that firing rockets from the Gaza Strip would mean a devastating war against it. This formula led to a state of calm, which of course ended in the 2012 and 2014 wars.
- The 2012 and 2014 attacks established almost the same deterrence equation between the occupation and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Through its current escalation in the Gaza Strip, the occupation is actually seeking to re-establish the deterrence equation created by the past wars after the introduction of a new factor to this equation, i.e. the phenomenon of burning kites.
The questions remaining are those regarding the position required by the Palestinians on the popular and resistance level. The Great Return March experience proved that peaceful popular Palestinian action is the most feasible in the current stage. On the one hand, it maintains the "clash" with the occupation, and on the other, it reverts the conflict back to its original state: a conflict between a brutal occupation force and an occupied people looking for freedom. It also imposes a higher political and media cost on the occupation at a lower cost to the Palestinian people than the war. Furthermore, it has the ability to get the issue of the unjust blockade on Gaza moving.
The Palestinian resistance is the right of the people against the occupation, but the people and their leaders must calculate its results and make their decisions based on these calculations. Nothing at the current stage costs the occupation more and maintains more clashes and engagement with the occupation than peaceful resistance, and the Gaza Strip cannot continue to bear the high costs alone on behalf of the Palestinian national project.
Translated from Arabi21 on 16 July 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.