FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Strategic Motives

 

Jerusalem.

A few hours after the Israeli military assassinated Hamas’s spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, I entered the classroom in order to teach my politics of human rights course. Everyone had already heard about the extra-judicial execution, so I asked my students whether they felt safer. The response was unanimous: they all felt more vulnerable.

A day later, Ephraim Halevy, former director of Israel’s intelligence agency, the Mossad, stated on Israeli television that in the near future the terrorist threat would certainly increase. It would take a while, he argued, before the situation would return to the level it had been prior to the assassination and that in the long run the threat was unlikely to decrease as a result of the execution.

Considering that Yassin’s assassination will exacerbate the violence in the region and thus further endanger Israeli citizens, one might ask why the government authorized the operation.

Israeli commentator Oded Granot seems to have an answer.

A day following the assassination, he noted that the Hamas and Fatah (the largest party within the Palestinian Authority) were on the verge of reaching a cooperation agreement regarding the distribution of authority in the Gaza Strip. The two major political factions in the Strip wanted to ensure that there would be no internal strife and that joint control would be assumed over the region if Prime Minister Sharon went ahead with his plan to dismantle the Jewish settlements and withdraw Israel’s troops. Israeli officials, Granot added, feared that if such an agreement was signed then the Bush Administration would veto all Hamas assassinations. Israel consequently decided not to take any chances and killed Yassin.

Even if Granot is right, the question regarding the Israeli government’s objective still stands.

One explanation is based on the assumption that Sharon actually intends to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and that he killed Yassin in order to advance this end. This view is informed by three major hypotheses.

First, “Sharon does not want to replicate his predecessor’s mistake.” Unlike Israel’s rapid withdrawal from southern Lebanon, which many conceived as an act of defeat and cowardice, Sharon wants to create the impression that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza is in no way a result of pressure applied by the Hamas. Accordingly, the assassination is both a symbolic act and an attempt to weaken Hamas’s infrastructure. One may accordingly expect that in the coming months the Israeli military will accelerate its operations in the Gaza Strip.

Second, Sharon hopes that Yassin’s assassination will help him garner support within his own Likud party, both because his popularity is waning and because many of allies are against any withdrawal from Gaza. The execution of the Hamas leader, whose group is responsible for hundreds of Israeli deaths, demonstrates to Sharon’s political partners that he is still “attuned to Israel’s security needs and will not hesitate to use all the means necessary to ensure it.” The new Sharon is still the old Sharon.

Finally, according to this explanation the attack’s objective was to create chaos in the Gaza Strip so that following the withdrawal internal strife between the Palestinian factions would erupt.

Those who think that Sharon authorized Yassin’s assassination in order to abandon his withdrawal proposal also employ this last point. Sharon, according to this explanation, hopes to use the chaos he has engendered and the violent reaction that will surely follow as a pretence for keeping Israeli troops and settlements in the Strip.

While only the future will tell which explanation is more accurate, Yassin’s assassination has a number of direct effects.

It will certainly lead to a series of bloody attacks against targets within Israel and perhaps even abroad. While the Hamas’s ability to strike against Israelis has in no way been jeopardized, the perpetrators’ will to carry out attacks is surely much greater than it was before the execution.

In addition, the assassination has widely broadened the frontiers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by accentuating its religious dimension. Muslims from Jakarta to Cairo have vowed to avenge the cleric’s death.

While these two effects have been mentioned in the media, commentators have ignored that the Israeli attack will likely deal a harsh blow to the recent emergence of a Palestinian non-violent resistance movement. The three-and-a-half year-old Palestinian uprising, known as the Intifada, began changing its character about two months ago: from a struggle based on violent resistance led by relatively small groups of militants to a massive non-violent grassroots movement.

The impetus for this mobilization is the rapid erection of the separation wall. The protesters use the same techniques developed by Ghandi and Martin Luther King, with hundreds of demonstrators standing or lying in front of bulldozers, chanting songs and waving flags. Although the military has been ordered to disperse the protesters, using tear gas, clubs, and, at times, even bullets, every day in the past weeks more and more Palestinians (alongside a few Israelis and internationals) have joined the ranks. For a moment it appeared that the Palestinians had adopted a tenable strategy which could actually threaten Israel’s occupation.

Yassin’s assassination will probably weaken the non-violent resistance and empower those who favor violent retaliation against Israel. Thus, ironically, Israel’s operation has actually strengthened the legitimacy of Hamas’s military wing.

NEVE GORDON teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University and can be reached at neve_gordon@yahoo.com.

A different version of this article appeared in In These Times.

 

More articles by:

Neve Gordon is a Leverhulme Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics and International Studies and the co-author of The Human Right to Dominate.

Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael Duggin
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
Kerri Kennedy
This Holiday Season, I’m Standing With Migrants
Mel Gurtov
Weaponizing Humanitarian Aid
Thomas Knapp
Lame Duck Shutdown Theater Time: Pride Goeth Before a Wall?
George Wuerthner
The Thrill Bike Threat to the Elkhorn Mountains
Nyla Ali Khan
A Woman’s Selfhood and Her Ability to Act in the Public Domain: Resilience of Nadia Murad
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
On the Killing of an Ash Tree
Graham Peebles
Britain’s Homeless Crisis
Louis Proyect
America: a Breeding Ground for Maladjustment
Steve Carlson
A Hell of a Time
Dan Corjescu
America and The Last Ship
Jeffrey St. Clair
Booked Up: the 25 Best Books of 2018
David Yearsley
Bikini by Rita, Voice by Anita
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail