In 2006 the Islamic movement Hamas won local elections and the following year took power via a coup against the heirs of Arafat in the Palestinian Authority, the legal ruler according the Oslo Agreements. Gaza has been blocked in both borders, with Israel and Egypt.
Hamas proposed that the religious law or Sharia should take precedent over civil law and rejected the idea itself of Israel, adding that the “Zionist entity” would exist until the day of its elimination from the face of earth. Since then, there has been periodic armed confrontations, including the one which lasted for 50 days in 2014.
Hamas wanted to show its authority, military strength and be considered a political actor despite the fact of being defined as a terrorist movement by United States and the European Union. The objective of Israel was that Gaza should not be a safe heaven to attack its territory.
As there is a recent history of confrontations, the question is why now. Besides new sparks, in my opinion there are four factors:
The first one is the role of Iran which has become increasingly important as more Arabian countries have reached peace agreements with Israel. Iran also supports other groups like the Islamic Yihad as part of a wider plan of “war through proxies” like the use of Syrian territory and Lebanon through Hezbollah. What make special the case of Hamas is that they represent different Islamic branches, Shiites in the case of Iran and Sunnis in Hamas.
The second element is related to Israeli politics which has had four general elections in only two years, none of which has decided with a clear majority if Netanyahu should remain as head of government. The last one took place in March 2021 and the true novelty were advanced negotiations for the United Arab List (Ra´am) to support a new government, which of course is no longer a possibility.
The third and very decisive factor is the cancellation of Palestinian elections by Mahmud Abbas which probably was going to be defeated, not only by Hamas but also by strong alternative candidates in Fatah, his party.
The last one has been the profound change experienced by USA´s policy to the region. Joe Biden has taken total distance from the full support to Israel by Trump going back to Obama´s positions, both in relation to Iran and to the Palestinians. Also there has been a shift in the media and democratic representatives in Congress in support of Hamas.
Is there any way out from this cycle of periodic confrontations? This round reaffirms that there is not alternative to a political solution based on the 1948 resolution by the United Nations, that is to say, two states, but one to the side of the other and not instead of the other. Of course, it also shows how far away are both sides.
And one of the reasons is the same of 1948: the negative and rejection to accept the existence of a state with a Jewish majority. That was the reason also behind other wars. In 1948 Israel was invaded by all neighboring countries, and not only survived but won and today is a technologically advanced nation.
It is distressing to be a witness to some opinions which show ignorance about this conflict , but above all the many which illustrate how alive is in our days a very old hate, the Judeophobia, including traditional and social media, now singling out a country, as they did in the past with a religion or a people. Not so much in the criticism of Israel as justifying Hamas actions, double standard towards a terrorist movement which uses civilians as human shields.
(*) Lawyer (University of Chile, University of Barcelona), Ph.D. in Political Science (Government, University of Essex), former presidential candidate in Chile (2013)
“The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author”.