June 1, 2021 | Longitude

A formula for strife

June 1, 2021 | Longitude

A formula for strife

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After 11 days of conflict, on May 20, Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire agreement brokered by Egypt. Thus ended the fifth round of hostilities between them since Israel pulled out of Gaza in the summer of 2005. Following the cease-fire, a flurry of diplomacy began, with top Western diplomats shuttling between regional capitals and pledging aid to rebuild Gaza. In fact, the latest round of conflict makes it clear that a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is as remote as ever. Hamas remains entrenched in Gaza; the Palestinian Authority is weak and corrupt; and a Palestinian state in the West Bank could easily go the way of Gaza and make a future war both inevitable and bloodier. With Hamas on the ascendance in the West Bank and Iran’s support for its military capabilities assured, there is little that diplomacy can do.

The Conflict

The conflict began when Hamas launched a salvo of rockets against Jerusalem, which, according to a study of the Washington Institute, was followed by 4,300 rockets launched against Israeli civilian targets and critical infrastructure. The intensity of the rocket barrage surpassed any previous round, with an average of almost 400 rockets per day, up from 90 per day during the 2014 month-long confrontation and 29 per day in the Christmas war of 2008-2009. Rockets also increased their range, exposing central Israel to Hamas’ reach.

The intensity of the rocket barrage caused casualties mostly on the Palestinian side, as about 600 rockets fell short of the Israel border and landed inside Gaza. Nevertheless, Hamas and the other Palestinian factions engaged in the conflict managed to inflict civilian casualties on Israel, hit population centers in the greater Tel Aviv area, and target critical infrastructure, including Israel’s international airport and its gas pipeline. Perhaps more importantly, Hamas managed to briefly inflame passions among the Arab-Israeli population, something not seen on this scale since the early days of the Second Intifadah almost 21 years ago.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy. Follow him on Twitter @eottolenghi.

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Arab Politics Gulf States Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Jihadism Palestinian Politics