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It is the period after another round of fighting between Gaza and the IDF. This is the fourth war since every last Israeli soldier and civilian withdrew from Gaza in August of 2005. This recent 11-day war, “Operation Guardian of the Walls” follows “Operation  Protective Edge” in 2014, “Operation Pillar of Defense” in 2012 and “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008.

Israelis are quite adept at picking up the pieces, sweeping away the physical rubble of their homes as they sweep their psychological rubble under the rug and getting on with their lives, as though almost nothing happened. What we always hear Israelis say, during times of peace, as well as war, is “yihiyeh b’seder,” or it will be alright.

As an American, I have often marveled at the Israeli character marked by resilience and tenacity, at Israel’s ability to squeeze the juice out of life, like a freshly squeezed Jaffa orange and to relish every moment of calm; to work hard and to play hard and to dance with gusto at every personal celebration.

However, what most Israelis know deep down inside is that this is simply another “war between wars,” what the IDF likes to refer to as “mowing the lawn.” I had the honor and privilege of sitting in a sealed room during this latest war, with my daughter and her young family who live here.  It is not a pleasant experience as you hear the bone-chilling alarm, followed by the deafening boom.

Over the 11 days this month, Hamas launched 4300 rockets aimed at Israeli communities, of which over 600 fell on their own people in Gaza. It is well known that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad hide behind their civilians to launch rockets at Israel, while Israel uses its defenses to protect its civilian population.  Hamas has created a network of rockets in schools, hospitals, apartments and even in the AP Press Building, as Matti Friedman, an editor at AP, courageously wrote about in The Atlantic in 2014.

This is not about “the occupation,” as is often claimed. I was here in 2005 during the Gaza disengagement when every last one of the 9,000 Jewish residents of Gaza was painfully evacuated. Young IDF soldiers were taught to act as robots and not feel any empathy as they ripped Jewish residents from their homes.

The reasoning by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the time was that it would give the Palestinians an opportunity to prove to the world that they can peacefully manage their own sovereign state, and that it would prove how far Israel would go for peace, even without a negotiating partner.

Immediately after the evacuation in 2005, there was a brief power-sharing period between Hamas and Fatah, the armed forces of the Palestinian Authority. This was followed by a brutal period of internecine warfare, in which Hamas attempted to kill Fatah members, and actually threw them off tall buildings, with Fatah members screaming, “You are treating me like a Jew!”  Some Fatah members ran to the IDF, which helped them safely relocate to the West Bank.

This was followed by an election that Hamas easily won. Ariel Sharon’s experiment failed miserably.

Currently, we are in the situation where Israel has been backed into a corner, and where Qatari-funded and Iranian-backed Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad call the shots. Qatar supplies most of the cash, and Iran supplies some of the cash, the missiles and the know-how. Because these terrorist groups feel that Iran has replenished their arsenal of missiles they can and will attack again.

One is grateful to President Biden for saying throughout the conflict that “the United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks from Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist groups that have taken the lives of innocent civilians in Israel.”

However, President Biden and his administration have inevitably returned to the failed foreign policy paradigm of many previous administrations by refusing to acknowledge that the PA, particularly Fatah, is part of the problem and not necessarily part of the solution.

Both Fatah and Hamas were furious that the center of gravity had been taken away from under the  Palestinians’ feet  during the Trump years, and that the Abraham Accords saw Sunni Arab nations making peace with Israel.

The knowledge that Fatah was about to lose the Palestinian elections was vital in this most recent war. When Mahmoud Abbas realized that he was about to lose the long-overdue election—the first in 15 years—he called it off, using the pretense that the Israeli-Arabs living in Jerusalem would not be entitled to vote. This is nonsense; they could be bused to the West Bank to cast their votes, as they had been previously.

Then both the P.A. and Hamas used the emotional, red-button issue of Jerusalem, and that “the Al-Aqsa Mosque is under attack” to whip up their people to attack Israel.

Shortly after that, six missiles were fired from Gaza into Jerusalem.

President Biden, in his laudable refusal to deal with Hamas, has tried to offer Mahmoud Abbas as an alternative. Biden mentioned in his speech after the ceasefire that he had been in constant contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, as though President Abbas could actually control the decisions of their rival, Hamas. 

As Khaled Abu Toameh recently wrote  “In the past few weeks, thousands of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank have been demonstrating in support of Hamas, especially after it fired thousands of rockets and missiles at Israel.

Holding Hamas flags and posters, even in PA-controlled territory including Ramallah, “The demonstrators have been chanting slogans praising Hamas and Islamic Jihad (Iran’s Palestinian proxies) for targeting Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities during the 11-day battle with Israel.”

Fatah and the P.A. are no longer relevant to the Palestinians. Abbas is petrified of stepping foot in Gaza, According to Abu Toameh, he is considered “traitor,” “U.S. agent” and “an Israeli collaborator.”

Even the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, because he was appointed by the P.A., had to be escorted out of the Mosque with shouts that “the dogs of the Palestinian Authority must go away.”

It is only in the United States that Mr. Abbas is considered relevant. The IDF is helping to keep Mr. Abbas alive in the West Bank, and he fears an election or a hostile take-over.

Many are debating whether it was Israel or Hamas that won this last war.  Hamas believes it won by causing millions of Israelis to cower in their shelters. Israel feels it won because it did tremendous damage to their network of missiles. The true winner in all of this is Iran, which controls Lebanon through the IRGC and Hezbollah and ultimately resupplies Hamas with the missiles for the next round of fighting.

The tragedy is that neither Hamas nor Israel won and both sides suffer.

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About the Author

Sarah Stern
Sarah Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).

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