The recent military confrontation between Israeli troops and resistance groups in Gaza following Israel’s covert military operation inside the territory resulted in a direct clash as well as an exchange of missiles and artillery shells. The operation not only failed to achieve its goals, but also led to the resignation of the Israeli Minister of Defence. All told, it confirmed that a new balance has been established in Palestine-Israel.
If Israel launches an air strike, the Palestinians will retaliate; if Israel launches an attack, the Palestinians will thwart it; and if Israel raids the Gaza Strip, it will pay the price. Israel also knows that its towns and cities can be targeted.
We cannot say that all of Israel’s military options have been neutralised, but it is reasonable to suggest that it will not be able to impose a radical military solution for the conflict. Despite its technological superiority, Israel cannot impose its will on the Palestinians.
Israel’s destruction of Palestinian military capabilities in the 1980s and again in 2002 after the Second Intifada when it reoccupied the West Bank did not alter the overall structure of the conflict. At every such turn of events, Israel believes that it has triumphed only to discover that there is no real victory over the Arabs. After each defeat, Arab and Palestinian forces emerge capable of restoring some balance, paving the way for the next phase.
The Zionist state now fears the ability of Palestinian resistance groups to threaten its main population centres, despite the crippling blockade it has imposed on Gaza for 11 years. Similar fears exist about the new missile systems deployed by Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Thus, it is fair to say that there has been a shift in the relationship between Gaza and nuclear-armed Israel, which feels that is no longer as capable of defeating the Arabs as it was in 1967.
Another significant change has occurred in Israel, where society itself is very different to what it was in the run up to 1967. At that time, it was still very much a “self-made” society facing harsh economic conditions. Today, Israel has a largely consumer society, with a sizeable middle class which wants to live life as comfortably as possible.
This transformation has affected the Israel Defence Forces’ intensity of service and the concept of death within Israel. The founders of the state have been replaced by a generation that does not want to be consumed by and killed in endless warfare. The fact that soldiers spend such a lot of time policing the occupied Palestinian territories rather than in actual fighting — shooting unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip is neither policing nor fighting — weakens their combat readiness and, indeed, their fighting spirit.
Today there are many more Palestinians in historical Palestine than were there on the eve of the Nakba and the 1948 war. Hence, even the demographic “time bomb” which frustrates the Israelis so much is proving difficult to resolve, with 15 million Jews around the world who have not yet migrated to the Zionist state and Palestinians who have refused to surrender and leave the land that has sustained them for centuries.
Furthermore, Egypt’s position has also changed. This has helped the cessation of hostilities and limited Israel’s use of force in Gaza. Cairo has realised that Gaza is important to Egypt’s own national security, and its intelligence agencies are convinced that the Palestinians do not pose a threat to the country. Domestic social and political issues in Egypt have to be resolved by the Egyptians.
In Israel, meanwhile, the right wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu has found itself in a difficult position due to the hit that the Trump White House received in the mid-term elections. Coincidentally, the number of young Jews who have questions about the nature of the self-declared Jewish state, political Zionism, the Palestinians and the future has grown. Moreover, there is more awareness around the world that Israel does not face an existential threat from the Palestinians that Israeli propaganda has been claiming for decades. On the contrary, the state itself is annihilating the Palestinians and their land on a daily basis with its brutal military occupation.
The situation on the ground is changing, as is the political milieu upon which Israel is built. The possibility of a long-term ceasefire is very real. The Palestinians must grab it.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the New Khaleej on 22 November 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.