Editorial |

The Strong Earn Respect

Palestinian diplomacy is perceived as weakness whereas violent struggle is treated with reverence

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Palestinian demonstrators on the Gaza border, September 2018.
Palestinian demonstrators on the Gaza border, September 2018.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The demonstrations along the Gaza border have resumed amid a lack of progress in negotiations on easing the Gaza blockade and achieving calm on the border for the long term. Along with the protests has come a resumption of the violence and killing that are only expected to intensify now that the United States is ceasing funding for the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

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The latest reports have all the ingredients of a recipe for escalation: the navy fired at a protest flotilla, thousands of Palestinians demonstrated along the coast with the army shooting at them, Palestinians tried to breach the border fence and were arrested by the military, an Israeli plane fired at a squad launching incendiary balloons and fires broke out on the Israeli side of the border, dozens have been wounded and three young people have been killed, including one shown on video waving his arms before being shot dead.

Without a diplomatic agreement that ensures sources of revenue, electricity, fuel and a reconstruction plan, the current round of protests is but a prelude to another round of attacks, shelling and rockets.

The excuse for these demonstrations is a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump’s treatment of the Palestinians. But the circumstances surrounding the renewed protests are more complex.

“For 12 years we’ve been under siege and our children haven’t received cancer medications and treatments, and the world hasn’t intervened,” Hamas’ leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, said last week. “Now, due to the Marches of Return and the pressure we’ve created, the intermediaries sometimes come several times a day.” But when the protests subsided international pressure did as well. Sinwar says the UN envoy to the Middle East, who during the protest marches met with senior Hamas officials twice a day, hasn’t found it fit to visit Gaza once over the last three weeks.

Israel’s cool attitude toward the moderate Mahmoud Abbas and its willingness to consider a long-term settlement with Hamas in Gaza only after a wave of violence provide a clear message: Israel responds only to force; without pressure on it the situation will not improve.

This isn’t just something inferred from Israel’s actions. Benjamin Netanyahu, in a speech at a ceremony naming the Dimona reactor after Shimon Peres, said so plainly: “The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.”

The blows inflicted on the Palestinians by Washington, alongside the gifts bestowed on Israel, are proof that Trump’s America rewards the strong and tramples the weak. The United States just announced its intent to close the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission in Washington. Palestinian diplomacy is perceived as weakness whereas violent struggle is treated with respect.

The aggressive American moves look as if they have been coordinated with Israel, possibly even dictated by it. It’s hard to understand what Israel expects these moves to yield other than a renewed eruption of violence.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.