The skirmish between Israel and Hamas over the planned Israeli “flag parade” in east Jerusalem will be postponed to June 15, 2021, following a decision by the Israeli government’s security cabinet to push off this week’s procession.
Israel must break the “Gaza-Jerusalem” equation that Hamas is trying to establish as a fact. This equation is dangerous to Israel’s security, and Israel has enough leverage to exert pressure on Hamas. Israel must not allow Hamas to dictate new rules of the game even at the cost of another round of fighting in the Gaza Strip.
The “Gaza-Jerusalem” equation, set by Hamas on the last “Jerusalem Day” by firing rockets at Jerusalem, could become a permanent equation on the ground if Israel does not prevent its practical realization.
Hamas is again trying to threaten Israel’s plan to permit the “flag parade” next Tuesday, June 15, after the expected inauguration of the new government in the Knesset. Hamas warns that it will re-engage in acts of terrorism and rocket launches against Israel and at the same time cautions the mediators trying to stabilize the ceasefire that Israel is responsible for the provocations and is playing with fire.
Hamas must not be allowed to set new rules of the game. The Hamas leadership initiated a gradual offensive on Israel, which was planned by Muhammad Deif, chief of staff of the movement’s military-terrorist wing. In order to destabilize the Palestinian Authority following the cancellation of Palestinian elections, Hamas, feeling robbed of victory in the parliamentary elections, launched a terrorist rocket campaign against Israel aimed at increasing its influence on the Palestinian street in east Jerusalem and the West Bank. Hamas now positions itself as the “Defender of Jerusalem and al-Aqsa,” while at the same time undermining the PA’s status.
Hamas Attempts to Throw Its Weight in Jerusalem
Hamas seeks a new equation that will have impact, through rocket terrorism, on activity in Jerusalem. Its goal is to force Israel take into account Hamas’ position when dealing with the Temple Mount and east Jerusalem. This equation is very dangerous to Israel’s security. Israel must immediately sever this link through a determined response in east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said on May 10, 2021, from Qatar:
The equation that connects the Gaza Strip to Jerusalem is strong and permanent. The Gaza Strip has responded to the calls of Jerusalem. We will continue until the Israeli occupation stops all aggression and terrorism in Jerusalem and at the al-Aqsa Mosque. Jerusalem has established a new balance of power politically and in the territory itself, and the will of our people will prevail.
The security cabinet made a decision on June 8, 2021, to postpone the “flag parade” to June 15, when it will take place in an agreed framework between the police and the organizers of the parade.
The Biden administration has sent messages to Israel to refrain from unilateral measures in Jerusalem that could lead to a flare-up. Security officials have warned that a flag parade at the Old City’s Damascus Gate or the Muslim Quarter of the Old City could cause an immediate escalation not only in east Jerusalem but also within Israel’s Arab centers inside the “Green Line.”
Exerting Pressure on Hamas
Tensions in east Jerusalem will continue through next week and will be handled by the new government. However, Israel must establish a clear policy on its conduct in east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Israeli Border Police reservists have had their service extended after one month of duty during the Guardians of the Walls operation.
It appears that Israel’s military strikes on Hamas during the Guardians of the Walls operation were not a strong enough deterrence because Hamas is again threatening and trying to impose the “Gaza-Jerusalem” formula on Israel. Hamas took advantage of the sensitive political situation in Israel and the expected change of political power to establish its new equation as a fait accompli.
It is, therefore, of great importance that the new government reasserts its full Israeli sovereignty with no surrender over east Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.
Israel has enough leverage over the Hamas leadership to tear apart the new equation that they are trying to impose. Hamas is weaker than it was before the Guardians of the Walls operation. Actions Israel could take include:
Do not open the border crossings or increase the size of the fishing zone.
Reduce or stop the supply of electricity from Israel to the Gaza Strip.
End the delivery of Qatar’s monthly monetary grant, especially in light of the remarks by the outgoing head of the Mossad, Yossi Cohen. In a June 7, 2021, lecture to the Friends of Bar Ilan University, Cohen admitted that relying on Qatar to calm the region was a mistake. Security officials say that most of the Qatari money authorized by Israel for the Gaza Strip was ultimately used for Hamas’ military buildup.
Slow the indirect negotiations of a prisoner exchange deal. Hamas sees great significance in showing the Palestinian street that it has real achievements from the last war, and securing the release of hundreds of terrorists in a prisoner exchange is no less important than the Gilad Shalit deal (when 1,027 were released) in 2011. If such a deal is implemented now, it will further strengthen Hamas’ stature on the Palestinian street and weaken the PA. Israel is in no rush just because Hamas wants to implement the deal on its terms for political gain.
Israel should let Hamas stew in its own juice. Israel is much stronger militarily, and it must not allow Hamas to dictate new rules of the game even at the cost of another round of fighting in the Gaza Strip. Only an aggressive policy will restore deterrence.
Hamas is trying to drag Israel into a war of attrition of short rounds of fighting to establish the “Gaza-Jerusalem” equation. The next round of fighting may have to include the ground entry of IDF forces into the Gaza Strip to damage the terrorist infrastructure. The IDF has sufficient operational plans to damage the terrorist infrastructure in a ground operation without occupying the entire Gaza Strip. It is time to change the situation of incessant rounds of fighting in the Gaza Strip and move on to a more creative and effective strategy.