April 19, 2010 - 12:00am

It seems that the era of relative peace between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel is over. Ever since Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, secured an amnesty for senior members of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fateh, on condition that they lay down their weapons and join the official security forces, calm has prevailed in the West Bank.

That calm is in danger after Israel, in recent days, seized and imprisoned three officers of the PA’s security forces. Israel has charged the three with membership in the brigades in what would appear to contradict the agreement it had reached with Abbas two years ago.

Israel is clearly trying to regain some momentum after having flailed in the wind badly in the past months, surprisingly, considering its otherwise deft management of public opinion.

It had to happen, of course. No amount of clever public relations can ultimately hide the fact that Israel is occupying another people’s land and does all manner of outrageous transgressions of human rights in order to maintain that occupation.

Israel’s deeds are finally beginning to catch up with it as the smokescreen gradually lifts and the spell that the West seems to have been under, especially the US, begins to fade.

It is of course in times like these that the fog of war comes in handy. Time and again, throughout its bloody history, Israel has managed to obfuscate through violence, either by provoking outright wars or simply by escalating a situation so dramatically that all other judgements are momentarily suspended.

That process is beginning all over again now. First, Israel tried with the easy target. The military incursions into Gaza in recent weeks were designed to do just one thing at a time of complete calm on the Gaza border, namely provoke Hamas. It’s an easy target, because Hamas has few strings to play at the moment and the tune of resistance is always a fallback position. Thankfully, and wisely, the movement has so far conducted itself with admirable restraint.

Now it is the turn of the West Bank. Here the incitement is subtler. It has more to do with rendering Abbas illegitimate in the eyes of his own people. If agreements reached between him and Israel no longer provide security, why would anyone believe them?

Israel, angry at Abbas’ refusal to play ball, is trying to start a new game.

Next, undoubtedly, will be Lebanon, where Israel has already laid down the opening card by accusing Syria of providing long-range missiles to Hizbollah. Sooner or later, Israel will provoke someone into retaliation, and then, as Jordan rightly fears, we will have a full-blown conflict again.

But let no one be fooled: it will be, as it always has been, a conflict fought on Israel’s premises and for Israeli reasons and interests.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017