Palestinian leaders are under pressure, both in the West Bank and in Gaza, and are trying to take it out on Israel – nothing new there, then!
The leaders of both main Palestinian camps, Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank and Ismail Hanyieh in Gaza, are in a bad place with their populations right now. In Gaza, the ruling Hamas lost its Egyptian ally when President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was removed summarily by the Army. As terrorists from Gaza began infiltrating the Northern Sinai and joining other Islamist groups against the Egyptian army, the Egyptian army began closing its border with Gaza; firstly sealing the Rafiah crossing and now collapsing the lucrative tunnels that allowed both materials and people to pass too and from between the two.
As any traffic with Egypt dried up, Hamas’ leaders have even been rumoured to be asking Israel for help – more help, that is, than israel is already giving in the goods crossing daily into the enclave through the Erez and other crossings. When things like this happen, the best way to divert popular feeling away from the leadership is to start demonstrating against Israel! Which is one reason why today (Friday) has seen demonstrations and disturbances in Gaza – supposedly to mark the 13th anniversary of the second intifada in 2000. Mind you, it’s a funny number of years to celebrate.
In Ramallah, Mr Abbas’ negotiating team has been involved in talks with Israel that neither his people nor his PLO colleagues want him to be involved with. While there is no love lost between Fatah in the West bank and Hamas in Gaza, both know that finding an external enemy is the key to diverting anger away from their top bosses (just like every other nasty regime has in history). Abbas, who has little political credibility among his own people, will do his best to blame Israel when the current round of US-driven talks eventually collapses. Following his predecessor Yassr Arafat, Mr Abbas knows that making major concessions to Israel could win him a bullet in the back of the head from the local Islamist.
All of which helps to explain outbreaks of violence this week in Hebron (two Israeli soldiers killed), Jerusalem (rioting in East Jerusalem), demonstrations in various places in Gaza and attacks on the Israeli forces at Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem. Once again, Hamas and Fatah leaders are trying to make Israel the scape-goat for their own domestic troubles by stirring up the masses to attack Israeli forces – problem is, too many in the West believe them!