Following the escalation of hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians, government officials finally relented, giving Palestinians a modicum of respite after so long.
After so much struggle these past few days, Palestinians finally managed to secure a small victory. Last night, crowds of Palestinians banded together outside Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate to celebrate the removal of barriers that was forcibly put there by the Israeli government. The famous entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City had been a popular meeting venue during the Muslim sacred month of Ramadan, where people would have gathered to break their fast and spend the rest of the night in celebration. Following the escalation of hostilities between the warring parties, the Israeli government had decided to bar the gate, preventing Palestinians from gathering up in the place. Events of the past few days however changed the whole equation drastically.
It all started with the Lehava’s march. The Israeli far-right ultra-orthodox ultra-nationalist group had organized a demonstration in response to a supposed video showing Palestinian teenagers striking ultra-orthodox Jews within the premise of the city and Lehava had decided to respond with a show of force. Chanting “death to Arabs” and marching down the Old City, Lehava’s people eventually ran into some Palestinians and as expected the fighting broke out. Riot police were dispatched to keep the things under control but when the dust settled, Palestinians and a handful of riot police were the one being transported to hospitals.
Despite the repeated calls from the UN and other international institutions, the situation escalated. Seeing Palestinians as the only victims of a pseudo-pogrom by Jewish alt-right, militants in the Gaza Strip fired rockets toward Sderot, a city in southern Israel in retaliation. Though the attackers were not identified, Israelis are certain that Hamas was behind the attack. Israeli officials said that some of the rockets had been intercepted mid-way and the rest landed in uninhabited areas. Still they were quick to say that they would not shy away from retaliation if attacks do continue. It didn’t take too long for them to respond in kind however, as they understood it was more important to save face in this kind of situation. This time a couple of air raids on Hamas position was deemed the proper response. Nevertheless, the political climate prompted cooler heads to prevail.
In spite of all that hostility, it would appear that the Israelis finally relented on some grounds, removing the barricades and allowing Palestinians to resume their religious customs right at the place where they did originally. The transition wasn’t as peaceful as it sounds though. For all we know, Palestinians who were in a celebratory mood suddenly brought out their Palestinian flags, began waging it around right in the face of police. As expected, Israeli police officers weren’t amused and once again a fight broke out between the two over the confiscation of the flags. Though fortunately there were no wounded this time, this latest incident clearly indicates what kinds of problems plagues the whole city at the moment.
At any rate, this latest concession by the Israeli government is likely to boost people’s participation in the upcoming election next month. Both Fatah and Hamas are once again considered as serious contenders though thanks to the events described above it is far likely for Hamas to have the edge over its traditional rival. That of course won’t be in Israel’s best interests. Considering that Netanyahu has a little more than a week to form his coalition, it would be counterproductive for him to alienate religious fundamentalists such as Lehava whom he needs their support desperately. With these two opposing groups at the helm of their respective governments, chaos is bound to follow sooner than later. That problem won’t be resolved unless one of them fails or in an unlikely case where Netanyahu can strike a deal with other groups, eliminating his need for far rights support. The picture shall get clearer by the end of Netanyahu’s deadline, but until then Palestinians can at least rest knowing that in the end all that sacrifice was not in vain.