Israel is flying into a storm with eyes wide open

The diplomatic war liable to break out between the Israelis and Palestinians will have far-reaching consequences. Is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aware of this strategic warning? Yes. Is he doing anything to stop the dynamics of escalation? No. Both the Israeli prime minister and the Israeli people are living in a dream world that is going to end up a nightmare.

By Ari Shavit | Haaretz | Jan. 15, 2015 |

There’s a strategic warning of escalation on the table. The best assessments by the top professionals say that 2015 is going to be a year of destabilization. There’s no way to know from whence the evil will burst forth; perhaps the West Bank will erupt before the Gaza Strip, or vice versa. But the trend is clear: The decade of quiet we’ve had in Judea and Samaria is about to end, and the lull in the violence on the Gaza border won’t last. Within a few months our reality is going to look very different from the virtual reality we are still enjoying. Fasten your seat belts — Israel, with eyes wide open, is flying itself into a storm.

The diplomatic tsunami: What the State of Israel has been experiencing in recent years is not a tsunami, but a murky wave, whose water has been seeping into its perforated ship, slowly but steadily. The water’s penetration is going to accelerate in the coming months. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will employ heavy diplomatic and legal artillery against Israel; some of his shells will miss, but some will cause damage.

In response, Israel will deal an economic-diplomatic blow to the PA. Europe will scream. The international community will be furious. The diplomatic war liable to break out between the Israelis and Palestinians will have far-reaching consequences.

Judea and Samaria: The stability in the West Bank over the past nine years has been based on three things — economic growth, joint Israeli-Palestinian security activity and the existence of a legitimate Palestinian leadership that rejects the use of violence. All three of these elements are being eroded. The economic situation there isn’t serious yet, but it isn’t good. Security cooperation is at great risk. And the legitimacy of the leadership that opposes violence is declining.

Under these circumstances, diplomatic warfare between Israel and the Palestinians is liable to ignite a blaze. If Abbas makes his moves at The Hague and Israel retaliates, the PA won’t have enough money to pay the salaries of the security personnel who have provided us with a decade of peace and prosperity. The worrisome scenario is that the hard core of stone and firebomb throwers will widen, the Fatah’s Tanzim militia will lose its restraint, and the security apparatuses will lose the motivation and legitimacy that enabled them until now to prevent the situation from going downhill.

Just as the transition from the quiet of 1999 to the intifada of 2000 was quick and surprising, so might the transition from the current order to chaos, which is just around the corner.

The Gaza Strip: Operation Protective Edge ended without a strategic victory and without a diplomatic solution. The economic carrot, which was meant to complete the work of the military stick, never arrived. No desalination plants or power stations are under construction, nor are tens of thousands of apartments for the homeless. Meanwhile, Hamas is growing stronger. It will be a while until it regains the capabilities it had at the beginning of the summer, but the direction is clear. Even though Hamas is not interested in another confrontation, Gaza’s despair is pushing it toward the next round.

The great danger is that, given the processes playing out beneath the surface in Judea and Samaria, the next round will not be limited to one front. The fear is that the Gaza Strip will ignite the West Bank, and the West Bank will fan the flames in the Gaza Strip. If there is an escalation in the coming year, it’s highly likely it will be a dual-front escalation.

Is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu aware of this strategic warning? Yes. Is he doing anything to stop the dynamics of escalation? No. Both the Israeli prime minister and the Israeli people are living in a dream world that is going to end up a nightmare.


Originally published at www.haaretz.com.

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