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The First Gaza War During the Second Arab Awakening Era

December 5, 2012

By Paola Caridi, author of Hamas: From Resistance to Government

November 20, 2012

It seemed a new chapter in the long, tragic, bloody story of the Gaza Wars. Israeli air strikes versus rockets originated from the Gaza Strip, after Obama’s (re)election and before another Israeli early election round. It seemed as if the clock turned back to December, 2008, to a well known sequence of events: an Israeli raid deep inside the Gaza Strip, a rocket barrage to the southern Israeli communities, targeted killings against Palestinian militants, and then the war. An ugly war.

It seemed again to be the same old story, but this time is different. This is the first Gaza War in the era of the Second Arab Awakening, as the strong message sent by the new Arab governments to Israel, the United States and Europe indicates. Ten among the most important Arab countries’ foreign  ministers were at Rafah border, on November, 20th, to visit Gaza, pay respect to the dead and the injured, and recognize Hamas’ role in the region. Ten Foreign Ministers in the rubble of Gaza, together with the Turkish Foreign Minister.

This is a new regional story in the making, and it is meanwhile the most important difference with the past. Hamas cannot be ignored anymore. It is part of the same Islamist ‘green wave’ that gained electoral consensus after the Arab Revolutions.

Reading the last Gaza War through new lenses would mean drawing different conclusions from the past. First, Hamas is gaining from the crisis, both in terms of internal consensus and regional (if not, international) recognition. It gains from the crisis, after it experienced in the last years an increasing lack of internal consensus in Gaza, due to its role as a regime  Secondly, the Israeli Pillar of Defence Operation put aside Hamas’ internal struggle between the Gaza wing, on one side, and Khaled Meshaal-linked leadership, on the other. Thirdly, the Gaza War marginalized Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority, drawing a new role for the Palestinian political actors. Abbas’ PA, which tried to gain again an international role through the UN bid for the recognition of the State of Palestine, has no part anymore in the crisis. Abbas asked the Arab League to act as a PA proxy, visiting Gaza. Morsi’s Egypt mediated only with Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. And Hamas acted as the only strong Palestinian actor.

As a consequence, we will witness a steady weakening of the PA role and power, and a likely reshuffle of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which is the most important goal in Meshaal’s strategy. There was a turning point, in the recent history of Hamas, which was symbolized by its participation in the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. Hamas asked a reformed PLO to be part of the 2005 Cairo agreement which paved the way to the electoral participation. Hamas is still pursuing the same goal, until now, and the last Gaza War is another step in the same direction. A reformed PLO with Hamas and Islamic Jihad as new members would be the probable protagonist of the new Palestinian story, and the formal death of the already comatose two-state solution.

About Paola Caridi

Journalist and historian Paola Caridi has lived in the Middle East and Jerusalem since 2001. She contributed to the founding of the press agency Lettera22 and has worked with L’EspressoSole 24 OreLa Stampa, and Famiglia CristianaHamas: From Resistance To Government, her second book, was published in Italy in 2009 and in Palestine in March 2010. She maintains a blog, Invisiblearabs, on Arab pop culture and politics.

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