By: Abdelbari Atwan
Gaza’s missile retaliation has changed the rules and created a crisis for the Israelis.
I called an old friend and colleague in Gaza on Wednesday. Hilmi Mousa spent more than ten years in Israeli occupation jails, and lived for a long time in Beirut where he worked for as-Safir newspaper before returning to the Gaza Strip. “Don’t ask me how I am,” he said, “I am better off than all of you. Gaza is giving the whole world a lesson in pride and dignity.” He said people had been rejoicing at the sight of missiles lighting up the skies on their way to Israeli settlements, and were upset when they stopped.
The scene described by Hilmi quickly found echoes in most parts of the Arabs and Islamic worlds, even though the confrontation did not last for more than a day and half, and was followed by the fastest cease-fire in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Despite the starvation siege imposed on them by Israel and some Arab countries, the people of the Gaza Strip took to the streets in celebration, congratulating each other and handing out sweets, as though to say they wished the war would last longer. This gave the lie to Binyamin Netanyahu, who claimed that Israel’s enemies had “begged for a cease-fire.” The Israeli prime minister elaborated that he was attentive to the voices of residents of southern Israel who were subjected to bombing, but that “together with the security chiefs I see the general picture of Israel’s security,” and that “the public sometimes cannot be a part of decisive considerations. They must be hidden from our enemy.”
Netanyahu was lying. It was the settlers in the Gaza envelope who “begged” for a cease-fire after they were forced into their shelters, their schools were ordered to close, and their ears were filled with the sounds of warning sirens and of missiles flying overhead and exploding.
Some 450 rockets and mortar shells were rained on the settlers, sending more than 60 to hospital, and shocking Israeli military experts with both their improved accuracy in hitting their targets and the high-explosive payload of their warheads.
Netanyahu knows the undeclared reasons that prompted him to agree to a quick cease-fire. Chief among these was the prospect, if the war continued, that the missiles would start reaching Tel Aviv and other population enters, sending millions of Israelis into the shelters, disrupting air traffic at Ben Gurion airport, and ultimately triggering the flight of capital investment to London, New York, Frankfurt or elsewhere. The myth of Israeli omnipotence is falling apart. Supremacy in the air is no longer decisive. It lost its effectiveness against the barrage of missile retaliation from Gaza, and the days are gone forever when the Israeli air force could run riot in the skies over Syria, where people have begun returning in growing numbers.
The 48- hour war in Gaza changed many assumptions. The Strip’s territory and airspace can no longer be attacked with impunity by the Israeli raids without triggering a deterrent response. Those who have the capability to target with great accuracy a military transport bus with Kornet missiles (courtesy of Hezbollah) are also capable of bringing buildings down over the heads of their settlers in Jaffa, Haifa Lydda , Ramleh, Isdud and Asqalan, not to mention nearby Sderot.
Gaza’s no-longer ‘random’ missiles have exported the crisis to the Israelis, humiliating Avigdor Lieberman, and threatening to bring Netanyahu and his government down and send him to jail like his predecessor Ehud Olmert. The knives are being sharpened, the charges are ready, and the game of playing for time is nearing its end.
The ripples from this wave of dignity will most definitely reach the West Bank, if they have not done so already, perhaps sooner than expected by either Netanyahu or Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas. We doubt that the latter’s security forces – one of whose commanders was recently pictured on his knees helping his Israeli counterparts change their flat tyre – will stop this wave, despite all the means of repression at their disposal.
The flame of resistance in the occupied Arab territories may dim for a while but it does not die. This is what many of the Arab normalisers failed to realise. They believed, regrettably, that it could be extinguished, and accordingly rolled out the red carpets for the Israelis, their leaders, ministers and sports teams.
The Palestinian people will never surrender, and will continue to resist, with the support of all honourable people. And in the process, they will continue, untiringly, to perform miracles.