"'The same is true now,' Eldar writes. 'Marwan Qawasmeh and Amer Abu Eishe have taken Hamas to a place where its leadership never intended to go.'
"Hamas leadership has yet to take responsibility for the kidnapping and likely had no knowledge of its planning. As Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel notes, 'So far, there is no evidence that Hamas' leadership either in Gaza or abroad was involved in the kidnapping.' Harel adds that the fallout of the kidnapping 'effectively froze the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation.'"
The latter is certainly one of the reasons behind the current onslaught. A reconciled Palestinian leadership could offer more formidable resistance to Israeli domination (although the years-long fecklessness of Fatah, its enormous corruption and frequent, brutal cooperation with Israel does not augur well for any principled resistance). But before any reconciliation or spine-stiffening could take hold among Palestinian politicians, Israel went on the attack.
Blumenthal tells a harrowing tale of the propaganda campaign waged by the Israeli government to whip the population into a frenzy of revenging bloodlust over the "missing boys" -- even as Netanyahu and his minions knew full well the boys were dead. These efforts were redoubled after the bodies were found, and of course led to the notorious murder of a Palestinian teenager by Israeli youths inflamed by the government's cold-blooded manipulations. I won't excerpt the passage here, but you should read the Blumenthal article in full.
But political power-playing to separate Fatah and Hamas were by no means the only impetus behind the operation. In a world whose lifeblood is fossil fuel, it's no surprise to find that the present attack on Gaza -- like the ISIS assault in Iraq -- is, in significant measure, one of the "resource wars" which many analysts believe will be one of the defining characteristics of the 21st century. As Nafeez Ahmed notes in the Guardian:
"In 2007, a year before Operation Cast Lead, [Israel's] concerns focused on the 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas discovered in 2000 off the Gazacoast, valued at $4 billion. Defense Minister Ya'alon dismissed the notion that 'Gaza gas can be a key driver of an economically more viable Palestinian state" as 'misguided.' The problem, he said, is that:Operation Cast Lead did not succeed in uprooting Hamas, but the conflict did take the lives of 1,387 Palestinians (773 of whom were civilians) and nine Israelis (three of whom were civilians).
"'Proceeds of a Palestinian gas sale to Israel would likely not trickle down to help an impoverished Palestinian public. Rather, based on Israel's past experience, the proceeds will likely serve to fund further terror attacks against Israel.'
"A gas transaction with the Palestinian Authority [PA] will, by definition, involve Hamas. Hamas will either benefit from the royalties or it will sabotage the project and launch attacks against Fatah, the gas installations, Israel -- or all three... It is clear that without an overall military operation to uproot Hamas control of Gaza, no drilling work can take place without the consent of the radical Islamic movement."
Since the discovery of oil and gas in the Occupied Territories, resource competition has increasingly been at the heart of the conflict, motivated largely by Israel's increasing domestic energy woes.
Mark Turner, founder of the Research Journalism Initiative, reported that the siege of Gaza and ensuing military pressure was designed to "eliminate" Hamas as "a viable political entity in Gaza" to generate a "political climate" conducive to a gas deal. This involved rehabilitating the defeated Fatah as the dominant political player in the West Bank, and "leveraging political tensions between the two parties, arming forces loyal to Abbas and the selective resumption of financial aid."
...As Dr Gary Luft -- an adviser to the US Energy Security Council -- wrote in the Journal of Energy Security, "with the depletion of Israel's domestic gas supplies accelerating, and without an imminent rise in Egyptian gas imports, Israel could face a power crisis in the next few years... If Israel is to continue to pursue its natural gas plans it must diversify its supply sources...."
Earlier this year, Hamas condemned a PA deal to purchase $1.2 billion worth of gas from Israel Leviathan field over a 20-year period once the field starts producing. Simultaneously, the PA has held several meetings with the British Gas Group to develop the Gaza gas field, albeit with a view to exclude Hamas -- and thus Gazans -- from access to the proceeds. That plan had been the brainchild of Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair.
But the PA was also courting Russia's Gazprom to develop the Gaza marine gas field, and talks have been going on between Russia, Israel and Cyprus, though so far it is unclear what the outcome of these have been. Also missing was any clarification on how the PA would exert control over Gaza, which is governed by Hamas.
According to Anais Antreasyan in the University of California's Journal of Palestine Studies, the most respected English language journal devoted to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Israel's stranglehold over Gaza has been designed to make "Palestinian access to the Marine-1 and Marine-2 gas wells impossible." Israel's long-term goal "besides preventing the Palestinians from exploiting their own resources, is to integrate the gas fields off Gaza into the adjacent Israeli offshore installations." This is part of a wider strategy of:
"...separating the Palestinians from their land and natural resources in order to exploit them, and, as a consequence, blocking Palestinian economic development. Despite all formal agreements to the contrary, Israel continues to manage all the natural resources nominally under the jurisdiction of the PA, from land and water to maritime and hydrocarbon resources."
For the Israeli government, Hamas continues to be the main obstacle to the finalization of the gas deal. In the incumbent defence minister's words: "Israel's experience during the Oslo years indicates Palestinian gas profits would likely end up funding terrorism against Israel. The threat is not limited to Hamas... It is impossible to prevent at least some of the gas proceeds from reaching Palestinian terror groups."
The only option, therefore, is yet another "military operation to uproot Hamas." Unfortunately, for the IDF uprooting Hamas means destroying the group's perceived civilian support base -- which is why Palestinian civilian casualties massively outweigh that of Israelis. Both are obviously reprehensible, but Israel's capacity to inflict destruction is simply far greater.
So here is another reason why the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation cannot be borne by Israel; it not only blocks a billion-dollar deal for existing Israeli gas, it also cuts Israel off from exploiting the 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas off the Gaza shore. As Ahmed notes, this isn't the only cause behind the current operation -- but it is a central one.
But beyond all the politics and petrodollars driving the madness of the latest assault lie the ordinary people whose bodies and lives are being ripped to shreds. As'ad AbuKhalil, the "Angry Arab," is, as usual, an important source for some hard fragments of reality amidst the toxic sludge of spin and propaganda. AbuKhalil points us to a number of stories on the human toll of the attacks. Such as this one: