'The Israeli assault on Gaza was triggered Nov. 8 when the IDF crossed the border and murdered Ahmed Younis Khader Abu Daqqa, a 13-year-old boy playing football in his front yard: the official explanation for this action was an alleged weapons cache, supposedly stored nearby, but no credible evidence supporting this contention has come to light. In retaliation, Hamas launched a — generally ineffective — counterattack, and the conflict escalated.
However, there had been rumblings for months of the oncoming Israeli assault, and this incident was merely a pretext: the real reason is that the Israelis were deathly afraid, not of Hamas’s pathetic attempts to make a dent in “Iron Dome,” but of the prospects for a general ceasefire, albeit not a settlement of the outstanding issues, which was in the works well before Netanyahu unleashed the latest blitzkrieg.
According to Gershon Baskin, initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Shalit, Ahmed al-Jabari, leader of the military wing of Hamas, was ready for a peace deal — which was in the works in the days before Jabari was assassinated in a targeted Israeli strike:
“My indirect dealings with Mr. Jabari were handled through my Hamas counterpart, Ghazi Hamad, the deputy foreign minister of Hamas, who had received Mr. Jabari’s authorization to deal directly with me….
“Passing messages between the two sides, I was able to learn firsthand that Mr. Jabari wasn’t just interested in a long-term cease-fire; he was also the person responsible for enforcing previous cease-fire understandings brokered by the Egyptian intelligence agency. Mr. Jabari enforced those cease-fires only after confirming that Israel was prepared to stop its attacks on Gaza. On the morning that he was killed, Mr. Jabari received a draft proposal for an extended cease-fire with Israel, including mechanisms that would verify intentions and ensure compliance. This draft was agreed upon by me and Hamas’s deputy foreign minister, Mr. Hamad, when we met last week in Egypt.”
This nails it: it shows why Israel escalated a series of routine border incidents into a major conflict: Hamas was ready to negotiate. Jabari was going to drop a gigantic “peace bomb” on Tel Aviv, and Netanyahu and his cabinet launched a preemptive strike to make sure it never hit its target. The last thing they wanted was peace breaking out in spite of their systematic provocations.
Hamas is useful to Netanyahu and his coalition partner, wannabe ethnic cleanser Avigdor Lieberman: or, at least, the version of Hamas they have successfully sold to the West. The hasbara brigade in the American media regularly portrays the Palestinian resistance group as inherently and intransigently opposed to Israel’s very existence, pointing to its charter — which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state — and posits from this the utter impossibility of negotiations or even coexistence.
Yet Jabari’s peace feelers belie this simplistic nonsense and show that Hamas, like every other political entity on earth, is concerned first and foremost with maintaining its own grip on power. In order to do that, Hamas has to actually govern: that is, provide the
inmates inhabitants of Gaza with the basic prerequisites of civilized life, i.e., access to food, shelter, and protection from harm. Under the conditions of the Israeli blockade, however, fulfilling these basic needs has been increasingly impossible.
As Melissa Harris Perry pointed out on her show Sunday morning, Hamas faces competing political currents inside Gaza: Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, who are more than ready to take the helm if and when Hamas fails to protect and care for its constituency. Faced with the IDF’s overwhelming military superiority, Jabari and the moderate faction of Hamas entered into back channel negotiations, brokered by the Egyptians, and were about to go public with a peace proposal.
That’s when the Israelis took him out. The timing of this is undeniable, and hardly coincidental. Netanyahu offed Jabari because peace is not in his political interests: he and his party, Likud, thrive on war, and the Israeli Prime Minister’s electoral prospects are almost entirely dependent on the continuation of the state of emergency that exists in Israel during wartime. Jabari was about to pull the rug out from under Netanyahu, and therefore he had to go.’