Second Yom Kippur, fourth Palestinian-Israeli war
By Balkan Talu
On October 7, 2023, Hamas in Palestine launched rocket attacks on Israeli territory. Hamas forces captured many people during the bombardment and raids, dubbed the 'Aqsa Flood'. The death toll in Israel and Palestine exceeded 3,000. The Israeli government declared a state of war and launched Operation Iron Swords in retaliation.
As the Israeli army continues its bombardment of Gaza, a comprehensive ground operation is on the agenda. US President Joseph Biden announced he would support Israel with military and intelligence.
In the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, hot clashes have resumed after years. We may witness the fourth major Palestinian-Israeli war after 1948, 1967, and 1973. Hamas' al-Aqsa Flood was delayed by one day to coincide with the anniversary of the Yom Kippur War in 1973. To make our point, it may be necessary to look at the historical background of the crisis.
The Yom Kippur War was the first Arab victory over Israel after the 1967 defeat. This victory was favorable to Hafez al-Assad in Syria. Until the Yom Kippur victory, the early riser in Syria was the coup d'état, while Hafez al-Assad could establish and maintain his rule.
However, Yom Kippur became a Pyrrhic victory when Egypt abandoned the Palestinians in the Camp David process. Menahem Begin, the former leader of the Irgun, known for his massacres of the Palestinians in the 1948 war, which caused unease even among the Jewish intelligentsia, received the Nobel Peace Prize, and that was it.
Oslo's defeat and dashed hopes
The failure of the Oslo process in the 1990s, the failure to recognize Palestine's official independence, and the beginning of the second intifada led to the gradual decline of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah. It was challenging to say anything against a cult leader like Yasser Arafat. But the Tunisian generation, a self-proclaimed, over-aged, and highly corrupt generation, did not listen to the youth, and President Mahmoud Abbas smilingly posed for pictures with Bush and Sharon at the 2005 Sharm El Sheikh talks, which clouded minds.
In his commentaries on Oslo and the second intifada, Edward Said said that Arafat trusted the US too much. During the Sharm El Sheikh process, Ariel Sharon said he would establish a Palestinian state. This statement by Sharon, known as the 'butcher of Sabra and Shatila,' shocked the world's public opinion. While Sharon was conducting the Sharm El Sheikh negotiations, in 2005, he clashed with Likud over the Palestinian issue and founded the Kadima Party, which positions itself on the center-right. Netanyahu, now prime minister, later publicly declared that he would never give the Palestinians a state. In 2006, Sharon's sudden brain hemorrhage and vegetative state led to Netanyahu taking over and doing as he said. Unconditional US support for Israel also shelved the two-state solution.
After years of chewing the two-state solution gum, the Palestinians gained little, which led to Hamas winning the 2006 elections. The US administration, which had repeatedly called for democratic elections, cried foul when the results became clear. By 2007, collective punishment, a blackout, and a blockade of Gaza replaced the two-state solution.
So why the timing of the Aqsa Flood attack now?
According to an analysis by Omer Onhon, the last Turkish Ambassador to Damascus, published in T24, "Israel, contrary to what was envisaged in the Arab Peace Plan, moved towards normalization with Arab countries without withdrawing from the occupied territories and without giving the Palestinians their rights." In addition, Netanyahu's ultra-orthodox and nationalist allies took critical ministries such as finance, national security, interior, and housing. According to Onhon, Palestinians, and Jews are complaining about the radical right-wing takeover.
Yes, we can; no, we cannot!
Let me pause here to ask: How can the radical right-wing Jewish settlers be so brave? The answer is that former US President Barack Obama, who chanted 'Yes, We Can,' threw in the towel and said, 'No, We Can't,' as he did on other issues... Obama initially wanted to at least put the brakes on the settlers' construction, which amounted to de facto annexation, even if permanent peace could not be achieved. Obama's approach was blocked by his deputy, Joseph Biden, now President of the United States, and Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State. After four years of an unsettling Donald Trump administration, the next round of the US presidency was entrusted to Biden, a typical establishmentarian who, in his old age, occasionally wanders off into the distance.
The constants of Israeli politics
Benjamin Netanyahu is in trouble because of corruption allegations. That's why he is trying to tie the judiciary to him. So how has Netanyahu, who has had to hold five elections in four years and faces protests every weekend, been elected despite these developments?
Yes, the populist right is on the rise worldwide, but we should also look at Israel's political tradition, which is too immutable. First, the fixed rule of success in Israeli politics is still to be an Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jew with a military background. In addition, it is well known that the center parties, including the Labor Party (very similar to our CHP), which fell below the threshold) are unwilling to question Zionism, the ideology of the founding state that legitimizes the occupation of Palestine. In the last elections, Palestinians who refused to participate in Netanyahu's right-wing block and the Change list ran on a separate 'Joint List' but won only five parliamentary seats. Sir, does this sound familiar?
The front line
So how did Hamas breach Israel's notorious defense wall, the Iron Dome system? This was as much a shock to the Palestinians as it was to the Israelis, the BBC reports: "Despite the closure of the tunnels leading to Rafah on the Egyptian side, the Palestinian factions' weapons capability has not diminished, but they have continued to fill the empty stockpiles in their underground facilities with better weapons."
In addition, the Aqsa Flood has involved Islamic Jihad and the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Hamas blames the Aqsa Flood on Israeli violations against the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. It may be helpful to recall that Israeli schools have been taught that "we will demolish Al-Aqsa and rebuild the Temple of Solomon in its place".
As a background to these violations, the BBC points out that Israeli forces have a tradition of raiding the Al-Aqsa Mosque on religious holidays such as Yom Kippur when Jews pray at the Wailing Wall.
Blockade in Gaza, repression and violence
Of course, it's not just about the bullying Palestinians say they are subjected to in the Haram al-Sharif. Gaza has long been an open-air prison. Settler violence and repression in the West Bank, coupled with a vacuum of authority in the Palestinian autonomous administration, have led to the expansion of armed resistance cells. In 2021, Hamas fired rockets at Israel in response to the raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque; according to BBC news analysis, 172 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank alone since January.
Commenting on Netanyahu's victory, Noam Sheizaf, an independent journalist and editor, told Al Jazeera in November 2022 that he worries about a growing militarization of Arab citizens and that there is a need for Arab-Jewish political cooperation.
This is not impossible. For example, following Israel's Iron Swords operation in retaliation for the Aqsa Flood, the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality (HADASH), a coalition of left-wing parties, including the Communist Party of Israel (MAKI), issued a joint statement.
The statement says that "the murderous occupation policy of the far-right Netanyahu government" handles what is happening in the region and that Israel's behavior poses a great danger to peace. The condemnation statement issued by MAKI and HADASH draws attention to the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque by settlers who went berserk under the auspices of the Israeli government and the pogrom in the West Bank town of Huwara just two days before the Al-Aqsa Flood.
What happened during the pogrom rehearsal in the town of Huwara? In Huwara, in the northern West Bank, a Palestinian gunman opened fire at an Israeli family in a car stuck in traffic. Although no one was injured, Israeli settlers rioted in the area. Dozens of settlers, including a radical right-wing lawmaker, descended on the northern West Bank town, killing a 19-year-old Palestinian youth.
As world citizens, we are turning a deaf ear to the demands for change, getting swept up in the nationalist-populist maelstrom, and leaning annoyingly too much towards the establishment. The United States has turned a deaf ear to demands for change and continued its unconditional support for Israel's religious nationalist establishment. Facing corruption charges, the 74-year-old Netanyahu has remained in power, backed by the religious, nationalist, and even homophobic populist right. Netanyahu has long blocked Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank.
Hamas is seeking a landmark victory on the anniversary of Yom Kippur to send a message both inside and out. Even if they succeed on the military front, possibly with the support of Iran and thus Hezbollah, it is a mystery how far they can take it.