On the eve of Israel’s election, Gaza is the problem nobody wants to talk about

Israeli soldiers keep guard in Jordan Valley, the eastern-most part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank that borders Jordan. (Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2019

On the eve of Israel’s election, Gaza is the problem nobody wants to talk about

  • Many observers agree that the most likely target of any future aggression from the Israeli government will be the West Bank, not the Gaza Strip, capitalizing on the support of US President Donald Trump’s administration

GAZA CITY: With less than a week to go until the Israeli general election on Sept. 17, competition is intensifying between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the Blue and White alliance led by Benny Gantz.
Compared with previous elections, however, the situation in Gaza has been considerably less prominent during campaigning and in the manifestos of all Israeli parties.
Palestinians in Gaza, meanwhile, pay little attention to the outcome of general elections, given that they see little significant difference between the parties’ positions on future relations with the Strip.
Adnan Abu Amer, an expert on Israeli affairs, said both Likud and Blue and White largely ignore the Gaza “problem,” except when their leaders exchange accusations of blame for the continued deterioration of the situation there. Some parties do not talk about Gaza at all, while others highlight the problems without offering any serious solutions.
Amer added that any solutions the politicians do suggest are old options, which often ignore the reality of the presence of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which has a population of 2 million people.
Israeli writer Tani Goldstein, who has researched the policies of Israeli parties on Gaza, said it is a very frustrating issue for them. The persistence of the Hamas regime, the firing of rockets into Israel, and the frequent rounds of escalated tensions and fighting mean the Strip is one of their biggest headaches.
Goldstein, who published the results of his research on The Times of Israel website, said an examination of the policies on Gaza reveals that Israeli parties fail to offer any practical alternatives to existing policies they attack, while some suggest vague, ill-defined solutions with no clear indication of how they could be implemented and others simply ignore Gaza.
Human rights researcher Mustafa Ibrahim said that the manifestos also lack any mention of the “two-state solution,” suggesting the Israeli parties are largely ignoring not only Gaza but all Palestinian-related issues. He added that in speeches, the leaders of Israeli parties only mention Gaza in an attempt to win votes through threats and intimidation.

HIGHLIGHT

Palestinians in Gaza pay little attention to the outcome of general elections, given that they see little significant difference between the parties’ positions on future relations with the Strip.

Amer, Goldstein and Ibrahim agree that Gaza represents a “permanent headache” for the Israeli parties, and it is one for which they have no realistic remedy.
Ibrahim said that should Netanyahu win the election, he might push for support of Egyptian efforts to reach a long-term truce with Hamas, including a prisoner-exchange deal.
Gantz might do the same if he is victorious, as part of a “containment policy,” unless there is a dramatic development that pushes Israelis and Palestinians toward war.
Former prisoner Fayez Abu Shammala, who follows Israeli affairs, said that there is little difference between Likud and the Blue and White alliance in their views on Gaza, other than the details of how they want the problem resolved: Likud wants to isolate and strangle the territory, while Blue and White wants Hamas removed and the Palestinian Authority regain control.
Shammala ruled out any possibility of a war in Gaza following the election, on the basis that military and security chiefs in Israel have learned the lessons of previous conflicts, which were devastating and failed to achieve the desired objectives from an Israeli perspective.
Many observers agree that the most likely target of any future aggression from the Israeli government will be the West Bank, not the Gaza Strip, capitalizing on the support of US President Donald Trump’s administration. This would expand Israeli sovereignty and to all intents and purposes eliminate any hope of a “two-state solution.”


Libya airport hit by drone and rocket fire; 2 Haftar troops killed

Updated 15 September 2019

Libya airport hit by drone and rocket fire; 2 Haftar troops killed

  • LNA has been battling since early April to seize Tripoli from GNA forces

TRIPOLI: An airport near the Libyan capital was hit by a new round of rocket fire and airstrikes, the Tripoli-based government said on Saturday, two weeks after it was closed due to repeated attacks.

Separately, two commanders of the Libya National Army (LNA) were killed in a drone strike while trying to capture the capital Tripoli.

The drone strike took place in the town of Tarhouna, southeast of Tripoli. The town has been the main base of the LNA since it lost Gharyan town south of Tripoli.

The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders — Mohsen Al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab Al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade — died in the strike. A brother of Kani was also killed.

Both armed groups had teamed up with the LNA whose forces control the east with the help of a parallel government and were key to the Tripoli campaign, analysts said.

The Government of National Accord (GNA) accused forces loyal to eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar of being behind Saturday’s attacks on Mitiga airport, but did not report any casualties.

BACKGROUND

The Tripoli government and LNA both confirmed that two Tarhouna-based commanders — Mohsen Al-Kani, head of the Kaniyat armed group, and Abdelwahab Al-Magri, head of the 9th brigade — died in the strike.

A drone airstrike hit the airport early on Saturday morning, followed by “Grad rockets launched by (pro-Haftar) militia,” the GNA said on Facebook.

The former military air base had been Tripoli’s sole functioning airport until a rocket attack on Sept. 1 wounded four civilians including three pilgrims returning from Makkah in Saudi Arabia, the latest in a string of similar incidents.

Authorities responded by diverting flights to Misrata, 200 km to the east, until further notice.

The LNA has been battling since early April to seize the capital from pro-GNA forces.

The two sides have since become embroiled in a stalemate in the capital’s southern outskirts.

Haftar’s forces, which accuse the GNA of using Mitiga for military purposes, say they are targeting “Turkish drones” being launched from the airport to attack their troops in southern Tripoli.

The GNA’s Interior Ministry has identified at least 11 attacks on Mitiga since June 21, not including Saturday’s incident.

The Tripoli-based GNA called Saturday’s attack a “desperate attempt” at revenge for losses sustained the previous day.

Since April, the fighting around Tripoli has killed at least 1,093 people and wounded 5,752, while some 120,000 others have been displaced, according to the World Health Organization.