The Hamas attack on October 7, 2023, and the war since launched by Israel against Gaza will undoubtedly remain one of the darkest pages in the history of Palestine. Not since 1948 have foreign fighters entered Israeli territory and murdered so many Jews. Never before has the Gaza Strip been the victim of such a destructive and murderous offensive.
If no one could have predicted a Palestinian operation of such magnitude, it is not surprising given the level of rotting of the Palestinian question in which Israelis and the international community have been complacent for more than a decade. Everything did not start on October 7, but it is nevertheless by taking this event as a starting point that the errors of analysis accumulate.
The first concerns the nature of Israeli government. Many observers underestimated the qualitative change represented by its constitution at the end of 2022. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak did not hesitate to describe the coalition formed around a radicalized Likud as “fascist” (32 deputies), allied with two ultra-orthodox parties (18 deputies) and, for the first time, with three supremacist, racist and homophobic parties (14 deputies). Benyamin Netanyahu even offered the leaders of the latter essential ministries: to Itamar Ben Gvir National Security, to Bezalel Smotrich Finance and especially supervision over the West Bank.
The second error is the underestimation of the dangers of this coalition’s policy for the Palestinians, with the course set on the annexation of the occupied territories and the expulsion of their inhabitants, as well as the questioning of the status quo on the Holy Places. But also for the Israelis, via the marginalization of the last safeguard of democracy, the Supreme Court, and the accentuation of the theocratic character of their State. Finally, for the region, the threat of a military operation against Iran adds to the risk of a third Intifada.
“Double standards” is the third error. So many of those who, in the name of the Palestinians’ right to resistance, refuse to condemn the war crimes, even against humanity, perpetrated on October 7; as well as those who continue to invoke Israel’s right to defend itself to justify war crimes committed against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. However, it is precisely all the policies put in place for the “security” of Israelis (assassinations, blockades, arrests, etc.), to the detriment of that of the Palestinians, which could have motivated the preparation of such a violent attack.
The fourth error concerns the nature of Hamas: that its crimes fall under terrorism, understood as a method of action, does not mean that it is similar to Daesh. It is first of all an Islamo-nationalist movement, created in 1987 by the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood. In order to “divide and rule,” Israeli services allowed the organization to develop to fragment the Palestinian resistance and weaken Arafat’s Fatah. Hamas ended up winning the 2006 elections, then, the following year, violently took power in Gaza. Netanyahu even facilitated, from 2018, its financing by Qatar to avoid the economic bankruptcy of Gaza.
If Hamas’s strategy does not bother with human rights, it is nonetheless as rational as it is cruel. Thus the terrorist operation of October 7 had four essential objectives: to shatter the Israeli policy of making Palestinians invisible; demonstrate to the Israelis, through terror, their insecure situation; marginalize the Palestinian Authority; prevent Saudi Arabia from joining the Abraham Accords.
The fifth error concerns the comparison of the “surprise” of 2023 with that of 1973. Hamas’s choice of the anniversary date of the offensive by the Egyptian and Syrian armies owes nothing to chance. But comparison is however not right. A war between three armies has nothing in common with an asymmetric conflict. On the other hand, it is true that Netanyahu, like Golda Meir before, did not believe the warnings coming from Egypt: at the time the Tsahal had been seriously challenged on the Suez Canal and the Golan; this time, it left the kibbutzim near the Gaza Strip almost defenseless.
Another striking difference: while in 1973 the Israelis had only turned against Golda Meir after the war, to the point that the right would eventually come to power four years later, in 2023 the militarist union seems to go from paired with an indictment of Netanyahu: immediately 86% judge him responsible for the security catastrophe (and even 79% of voters in the ruling coalition); 56% of respondents demand his immediate resignation. And the parties in power, in the event of early legislative elections, would fall from 64 seats (out of 120) to… 41.
The actors of this new sequence
Thirty years after Oslo, October 7 also symbolizes the radicalism prevalent in both societies: as in 1967, or even 1948, Israelis and Palestinians categorically consider themselves more legitimate than their neighbors to live between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The parenthesis of Oslo and the two States is well and truly over. The new sequence which is opening and being written before our eyes contains many uncertainties, but several points already seem to be affirmed.
Even if Benjamin Netanyahu is forced to resign, the continued power of Likud and its allies would certainly mean the entrenchment of the military occupation on the conquered lands, or even the start of a colonization process, as desired. 44% of Israeli Jews.
This perspective remains hanging on at least two unknowns. First, the future of the Palestinians in Gaza. They know that a forced exodus from their land would make any return impossible. The few days of truce showed their determination to stop Israeli plans: by the thousands, civilians marched towards the north of Gaza to demonstrate their presence. And Egypt continues to firmly oppose any settlement of refugees on its soil. Finally, the main opposition leaders, if they put an end to Netanyahu’s long reign, have so far not offered any alternative consistent with international law.
In the West Bank, ethnic cleansing continues. Settlers and soldiers are working, in obvious complicity, to expel Palestinians from several areas. An unprecedented repression has left hundreds dead, thousands injured and a considerable number of arrests. Even the situation of Palestinians in Israel is worrying: they face clear attacks on their freedom of expression, reminiscent of the first decades of Israel’s existence, when this population lived under the yoke of a military government. exceptional.
Nothing will be possible for the Palestinians without a renewal of their national movement. Hamas is in control of the game. A large proportion of Palestinians say they support the action of October 7 – while denying the reality of the atrocities committed… just as the majority of Israelis ignore or relativize the carnage in Gaza. Many factions followed one another in Doha to meet the leadership of the Islamist organization, which does not hide its wish to trade the release of soldiers and officers hostage in Gaza against that of numerous Palestinian political figures, Marwan Barghouti in the lead. In these meetings, it is also the replacement of Mahmoud Abbas and the future of the PLO which is being prepared.
As essential as it is, this renewal of Palestinian leadership cannot change the situation without strong international support. If the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are distinguished by their diplomatic silence, unlike the Arab crowds who took to the streets massively, these two institutions say they are working jointly for the future of Gaza by now relying on the support of Southern powers, notably China. It must be said that the umpteenth veto by the United States alone in the vote on a Security Council resolution to demand a cease-fire, Saturday December 9, illustrates an obscene diplomatic double standard.
In this context, France and beyond, the European Union, should play a much more active role. First by relying on all possible levers, and there are many. Then by setting out to work for a balanced, voluntary diplomacy resolutely focused on respecting the rights of peoples.
Thomas Vescovi and Dominique Vidal