The attack launched by Hamas against Israel on 7 October cannot be the beginning of another full-scale conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It must be the start of a war on terrorism.
Many commentators compared Hamas’ surprise onslaught with 9/11 in the United States or the Bataclan attack in Paris on 13 November 2015, so similar to this weekend’s rave party massacre in the Negev desert.
Hamas is a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist militant group designated as a terrorist organisation by the EU and the US, whose aim is to put an end to Israel. Hamas has been the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip since 2007.
For the last 15 years, Gaza has been under a land, sea and air blockade from Israel. Unemployment levels in the strip are amongst the highest in the world, with 62% of the population requiring food assistance, according to the UN.
A decades-long back and forth of violent conflict, steeped in centuries of dispute, finally led to boiling point. But how did Hamas take control of the region?
Its rise happened in part due to the weakness of traditional organisations representing the Palestinian people, buoyed by recent events such as Israeli military raids in the Palestinian city of Jenin, strikes in both Israel and Palestine, and the raid of the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem by Israeli soldiers.
In this situation, Hamas has grown stronger, and its rival Palestinian force – the Fatah of Mahmoud Abbas – has lost all credibility.
Fatah is a confederation encompassing the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) of the late Yasser Arafat, which recognised Israel in 1993 and signed the Oslo Accords – opening the road to peace based on a two-state solution.
But there have been no elections for the post held by Abbas since 2005, and the Fatah has been plagued with accusations of corruption. Despite the EU continuing to provide funds to Fatah, it has lost any authority. Maybe the EU will reconsider…
On the other side, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, first took office in 1996. He took advantage of the weakness of Fatah and the fatigue among the Arab countries in supporting the Palestinian clause.
International media have called his latest government, inaugurated in December last year, the most right-wing and religiously conservative government in Israel’s history.
Netanyahu was perfectly happy with Hamas having the upper hand in Gaza, as long as the Arab petrol monarchies recognised Israel and forgot about the Palestinians. This worked in 2020, with the Abraham Accords signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, and the next step is a similar accord with Saudi Arabia.
If Netanyahu ignored the danger Hamas represents for Israel, maybe this is because he was too focused on Iran and Hezbollah. Or maybe the entire Israeli society was simply engrossed in his internal push to overhaul the judiciary system in a way that would protect him from prosecution, in the face of an ongoing corruption trial against him.
It is quite possible that this second war at Europe’s gates is rooted in corruption: a perfect storm created by a corrupt Palestinian elite which left the door open to terrorists, and a corrupt Israeli elite bent on preserving its own interests.
Israel says its intelligence services did not have specific warnings that Hamas was preparing a sophisticated attack that required coordinated land, air and sea strikes.
Some critics say the Israeli government made the mistake of relying too much on intelligence reports based on AI. Others say they relied too much on technical intelligence, based on intercepted messages – at a time when Hamas deliberately abandoned electronic communication – neglecting HUMINT, human intelligence.
It remains to be seen if Hezbollah, a Shia Islamist political party and militant group based in Lebanon and backed by Iran, will join the picture. Pundits say Iran is not yet ready for that type of war.
As long as this scenario is unfolding, Israel needs internal unity – so we can expect that Netanyahu will get a boost. When it ends, however, he will probably need to resign, as Golda Meir did after the Yom Kippur War 50 years ago.
For the EU, this is another full-scale war at its gates, and it needs to be on its guard as there is a risk of terrorist propaganda finding its way into Muslim communities in many EU countries. There is also a risk that European political forces, such as La France Insoumise, inject contentious debate into our societies.
To all of them, we need to say and repeat: This must not be a war against Palestinians.
This must be a war on terrorism, senseless violence and bloodshed – and one that must be accompanied by genuine efforts for a two-state solution that is fair to Palestinians.
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The European Commission said on Monday it has put all of its development financing for Palestine under review following the weekend’s Hamas attack on Israel that drew general condemnation from the West.
The EU’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said an emergency meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers will be convened on Tuesday afternoon on the situation in the Middle East after the Hamas attack on Israel.
With China’s and Russia’s influence rising on NATO’s southern flank, the alliance is considering new and improved security relations with countries in Africa and the Middle East, but it faces an uphill task as well as its own internal divisions.
A “Europe of Power” is needed to respond to international developments, along with a European approach to industrial policy to counteract fragmentation risks and completion of the EU’s Capital Markets Union (CMU), former Italian prime minister Enrico Letta told Euractiv.
Bulgaria is facing heavy fines from the European Commission as it ignored a 2019 infringement procedure initiated over a lack of an obligation for private hospitals to conduct public procurement for medicines.
The Czech Health Ministry would like to start penicillin production, which has long been in short supply, but plans face many challenges and criticisms, as there are insufficient financial resources in the country or Europe.
In less than 50 years, Ireland has become the largest net exporter of pharmaceuticals in the EU and a strong international player, thanks to a consistent government strategy that made it attractive for investment.
Look out for…
Informal meeting of Foreign Affairs ministers on Tuesday.
Third European Defence and Security Conference in Brussels Tuesday.
Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi receives former President of Ukraine, Mr Petro Poroshenko Tuesday.
Views are the author’s
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Nathalie Weatherald/Alice Taylor]