In the last blog, I suggested that a world is ending in the Middle East. Actually, that’s not new. Simply following the history of Israel is a continuous story of endless change. The Romans changed the name to Aelia Capitolina and it stated that way for well over 200 years. Helena, the mother of Constantine started the trend in the other direction and the name changed back to Jerusalem. In recent times everyone from the Turks to the Germans to the British have claimed the city of Jerusalem. As recently as June of l967, Israeli soldiers recaptured the entire city and united Jerusalem under Jewish control. Change is a worn word in this portion of the Middle East.
Exactly what form change takes in the Egyptian world is now under duress. The struggle remains up for grabs. The situation is no less volatile in Israel.
The Israeli Air Force strike that killed Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari set off the rocket exchange that leveled most of the Hamas offices in the Gaza strip and seriously depleted their rocket supply. No rockets have been fired since the cease fire. At that point, PLO leader Abbas sought a nonmember observer state status at the United Nations. One hundred and thirty-eight General Assembly members voted yes and the Palestinians broke into wild celebrations in the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu dismissed the UN vote as meaningless and suggested retaliation would follow. It now has as Israel plans to start 3,000 new houses in the disputed area. What’s really happening? Shake up or shake down?
Of course, how this action is viewed depends on which side of the issue you already stand on. I attempt to view each situation as objectively as I possibly can. And there is more to the Israel action that meets the eye.
Construction in the El area will connect the large Jewish Ma’ale Adumim settlement to Jerusalem. The Palestinian cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem will be cut off making the continuous Palestinian state endorsed by the United Nations virtually impossible. Whether Israel proceeds is still in question as the United States stopped a similar effort back in 1994. However, the area makes a serious bargaining chip. With an Israeli election coming on January 22, Netanyahu felt pressure to act quickly.
Israelis do not consider this area as settlements because they believe Jerusalem, including East Jerusalem is their capital and property. Most of the rest of the world considers East Jerusalem as occupied territory.
PLO leader Abbas may have strengthened his diplomatic stature with the U.N. vote. The rise of the popularity of Hamas has proved to be a problem for him. However, Israel’s counter move could close the window on a 2-state solution. Israel’s response signals that the Palestinians have actually lost ground in this latest exchange. Even Professor Zakaria al-Qaq at Al Quds University said, “maybe the Palestinians got something on paper and morally, but he got nothing on the ground.”
Change is in the wind, but where is it going? Don’t count on who is the winner in this latest exchange in Israel. The shake up may yet prove to be a shake down.