What’s Next?

Unless something unexpected happens – Hezbollah joins in or Hamas succeeds in creating a mass-casualty incident in Israel – the war between Israel and Hamas will be over in a few days at most, ended by a cease-fire encouraged by the US. The “grass will have been mowed,” Hamas will remain in power, licking its wounds and rebuilding its infrastructure and replenishing its stock of rockets. Its leaders will be occupied for some time rebuilding their mansions, swimming pools, and malls, which have been hit hard by the IDF. There will be a next time.

The disturbances on the home front, both in Judea and Samaria and inside the Green Line, that were incited by Hamas supporters and other elements in the Palestinian political firmament, will not fade away so quickly. In Judea and Samaria, the imminent departure of Mahmoud Abbas (he’s 85 years old) has the various factions that would like to replace him, including of course Hamas, positioning themselves for the expected mêlée that will determine his successor. As always, the prize will go to the most ruthless and brutal, but in the contest for popular support, the challengers will each try to demonstrate that they are the best suited to “resist occupation,” which will keep things hopping from our point of view. There have already been several incidents of murderous terrorism.

That struggle will also be reflected within the Green Line, where the Palestinian factions have their auxiliaries. The idea that Jews and Arabs can coexist as “Israelis” has been severely strained by the unprecedented riots in cities with mixed Jewish/Arab populations like Lod, Ramle, Acco, Yafo, and Haifa. I say “unprecedented” because while there have been disturbances by Israeli Arabs before – notably at the start of the Second Intifada in 2000 – today’s riots appear less like spontaneous expressions of rage at Israeli authorities and more like planned antisemitic pogroms.

In the city of Lod, ten synagogues were burned by Arab rioters. I repeat: ten synagogues. Hundreds of cars belonging to Jews and Jewish homes and businesses have been burned or looted. Lod is currently under curfew, and Border Police have been sent to help restore order. Jews who have driven into Arab towns have been dragged from their cars and beaten. Jews have been attacked in the streets, and one man beaten by the rioters has died. In Acco, a firebomb was thrown into a home and a 12-year old boy seriously burned. The boy was an Arab, but so were the perpetrators, who apparently erred, thinking the home was occupied by Jews. There has been a systematic attempt to ethnically cleanse the Old City area of Acco of Jewish residents and businesses.

An Arab politician, Mansour Abbas, visited one of the burned out synagogues in Lod and offered to help rebuild it. He was immediately faced with a wave of criticism from his supporters.

Yesterday there was a general strike by Arab workers:

[The strikers call for] the end of the massacre in the Gaza Strip and aggression against Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah, withdrawal of settler gangs and repressive forces from our cities and villages and solidarity with hundreds of detainees [arrested during the riots]

Most Arab workers honored the strike, although some hospital personnel did not.

From the international media, you will “learn” that what is happening here can be described as “Jewish/Arab clashes.” This is misleading. There have been a handful of Jewish extremists that have beaten up a few Arabs, and a few more cases of Jews defending themselves against attack. There is no comparison to the violent aggression, much of which appears systematic and planned, that is coming from the Arab communities.

These events have shocked Israeli Jews, for whom they are reminiscent of Jewish life in the Arab world or Europe before the founding of the state. About 20% of the citizens of Israel are Arabs, and despite a degree of friction, the ideal of coexistence has seemed attainable. Although there would always be differences, most Arabs were believed to be loyal to the state. Now it seems to many Jews that they may not be.

Right now, Israelis are hoping for a return to normalcy. The Covid epidemic is essentially over (one hopes, for good), and those of us who live south of Netanya would like to stop sleeping with our pants on, ready for a dash to the shelter. We would also very much like an end to the political crisis that has spanned at least two years and four elections (and counting). When we finally get a real government, one of its first priorities must be the development of a coherent strategy to finally end the threats from Hamas, the PLO, Iran – and the hostile elements among our own Arab citizens.

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