The Israeli occupation has made great efforts, especially in recent days, to achieve its goal of weakening the activities of the return marches, taking advantage of what is widely considered a fault within the Palestinian front, i.e. the launching of rockets. The Israeli efforts included a soft war in which it used its diplomacy, statements, positions and public threats, accompanied by military activity along the border with Gaza. Will this lead to a tactical or strategic retreat in the return marches?
Israel’s actual behaviour on the ground indicates that the occupying state is prepared to absorb a certain type of protests on the separation barrier, provided that they do not include intense firing of incendiary balloons, penetrations of the fence and throwing explosive devices, i.e., they do not involve a high level of escalation, but rather limited friction. This allows the oppressed Palestinians in Gaza to protest and express their anger at the continued humanitarian crisis due to the unjust Israeli military siege imposed on them, but does not allow matters to reach a level of impact that requires Israel to change its policy of procrastination and delay in lifting the siege.
Hence, the Palestinian people and their legitimate resistance find themselves facing two options. The first option is tactical retreat and responding to the serious pressures on them, and reducing the intensity of the return marches, but not completely stopping them under any circumstances, in order to give another chance (for the tenth time) to the truce efforts and the lifting of the siege. This, however, should not prevent the Palestinian masses from intensifying the activities whenever it desires. This is considered a strategy of exhausting the enemy, which stipulates the rule of advancing if the enemy retreats and retreat if the enemy advances. Some may interpret this as weakness and Israel may take advantage of this and promote it as a success for the policy of threats and the soft-hard war it waged, specifically after the rockets were fired at Beersheba. This does not negate the fact that this option is guaranteed and gives the resistance better potential for continuing to control the course and results of the marches.
The second option is to move forward with the return marches at the same level of intensity as over the past weeks, under fair justifications, as the blockade has reached its climax and the delay and procrastination in lifting the siege is at an all time high. Furthermore, the occupation is breaking its promises at an unprecedented rate, and therefore the Palestinians have no other choice but to continue with force and push matters to the brink, come what may, as they have nothing left to lose but three hours of electricity a day!
The chances of the second option succeeded and leading to understandings that are immediately implemented is a possible to a certain extent, as past experiences have shown that Israel does not make decisions except under intense pressure and that Israel only understands the language of force. However, it is a very risky option.
The Palestinian resistance is expected to choose the first option (for the last time), which is considered a tactical retreat that is limited and time-bound, and does not include a commitment to a fundamental change in the return marches, such as the constant retreat of protestors to 200-500 metres, as Israel wants. In other words, they are expected to keep the option of controlling the escalation and de-escalation in the hands of the Palestinian people and their legitimate resistance against the occupation and siege.
This article first appeared in Arabic on the Palestinian Return Centre 19 October 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.