Who benefits from escalation in the Middle East?

Israel's army has intensified its attacks on the Gaza Strip. Air and ground troops have been deployed, but so far no soldiers have entered the area. The move came after Hamas carried out further rocket attacks on Israel on Thursday. Europe's media examine the interests driving the escalation.

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Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

If elections don't produce the desired results...

Leaders on both sides are fuelling the escalation, observes Radio Kommersant FM:

“Two weeks ago, the Palestinian leadership postponed both upcoming [parliamentary and presidential] elections indefinitely. Officially because of Israel's refusal to allow voting in East Jerusalem. But the real reason may be polls predicting a majority for the Hamas Islamists. In Israel too, the political crisis is not abating. After four rounds of elections in two years, the parliament is still unable to form a governing coalition and is moving at full steam towards a fifth election. One gets the impression that there are enough people on both sides who have an interest in the escalation.”

Phileleftheros (CY) /

Sabotage by Netanyahu

Netanyahu has knowingly allowed the situation to escalate, columnist Xenia Tourki explains in Phileleftheros:

“This could have been avoided if the warnings of the army, the intelligence services and the police - who stressed that things could easily get out of hand - had been heeded. Many in Israel claim that Netanyahu failed to act because he benefits from the situation. ... On the one hand, he comes across as the dynamic defender of the Jewish population, thus consolidating his nationalist voter base. On the other hand the efforts [of previous opposition parties] to form a government are being undermined. Because now it's difficult for the Arab Raam party, whose votes are needed, to reach out to the other parties.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The long arm of Tehran

In view of the revival of the talks about the Iranian nuclear programme, the hardliners of the Revolutionary Guard in Iran have the greatest interest in the conflict, Corriere della Sera explains:

“These talks will hardly move forward if Hamas, which is closely linked to the Iranian conservatives, continues to bomb Israeli cities or has just done so. ... A further escalation of the situation would be enough to prevent the White House from reviving the pact with Tehran. The way would be paved for the conservatives, spearheaded by the Revolutionary Guards, to win the elections on June 18.”

Delo (SI) /

Best enemies

Israeli PM Netanyahu and the Islamist Hamas both benefit from each other's presence, comments Delo:

“Hamas has so far survived all wars with Israel. And not exactly because of its military might or the support of the civilian population, which it has been sacrificing (literally) since its first day in power in order to consolidate its violent, authoritarian rule. Hamas has also survived because up to now the Israeli state, led by King Bibi, has needed it as a perpetual alibi for militarisation, restriction of freedoms and demonisation of the Palestinian question.”

Habertürk (TR) /

Hamas's strategy is harming the Palestinians

Columnist Nagehan Alçı criticises Hamas's strategy in Habertürk:

“Why does Hamas keep resorting to rocket attacks when it's obvious that Israel is a death machine? I don't care what others think, but I believe that these attacks only benefit Israel, whereas they cause great harm to the Palestinians. For years, Israel has been trying to legitimise its own violence with reference to these rockets. In the end it's the little children, the innocent civilians and the Palestinian people who suffer.”

Gordonua.com (UA) /

Ignoring an explosive situation

This outbreak of violence was predictable, writes Iliya Kusa of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, an independent think tank in Kyiv, on gordonua.com:

“The beneficiaries of this situation are the radicals. ... They are Jewish ultra-rightists who are now once again emphasising their victim role and saying that all Arabs are extremists and terrorists. ... And the Palestinian Islamists from Gaza, who are demonstrating determination and militancy against the background of the complete impotence of Fatah and Abbas's entourage. ... When the situation escalates to boiling point and everyone recognises this but does nothing, they are either idiots caught up in their own lack of understanding or they have an interest in such an escalation.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Old problems generating new violence

The same fuel has driven the conflict in the Middle East for decades, notes The Guardian

“'Generation blockade' has grown up in Gaza, a tiny strip of land crammed with residents but short on work, power or clean drinking water. Covid, and the desperate inequity of the vaccination campaigns in Israel and the occupied territories, has sharpened the resentment at living under a government that controls without offering protection. The unrest seen in Arab towns in Israel on Monday demonstrates the breadth as well as depth of the rage at the kind of accumulated injustice that recently led Human Rights Watch to accuse Israeli officials of committing apartheid.”

Der Tagesspiegel (DE) /

Looking away will backfire

The Middle East conflict has long ceased to be a strategic priority for Europe and the US, Der Tagesspiegel complains:

“Biden, for example, has yet to appoint an ambassador for Israel, and the embassy remains in Jerusalem. This 'hopeless' situation is an opportunity for the Islamist Hamas, which gives the impression of strength by firing rockets at Israeli cities. This all amounts to a familiar, wretched cycle of terror. ... A robust Western initiative to support Palestinian elections, coupled with the necessary pressure on Israel, could have offered a perspective for change. Whether it can now interrupt the spiral of violence is questionable. But looking the other way is not an option. It would backfire.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Power vacuum in Israel

For Le Monde, the crisis is a result of the weakness of the Israeli government:

“The crisis that began on Monday was not inevitable. It's partly the result of a worrying power vacuum in Israel, where the government is unable to get a grip on the police operations in Jerusalem that have become increasingly frequent over the past month. ... After four inconclusive parliamentary elections in two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption, appears completely isolated. Many ministries lack leadership, and pressing matters are being neglected.”

Echo24 (CZ) /

Different reactions

Echo24 sums up the reactions to the current conflict:

“Western media are voicing outrage about the alleged violation of Palestinian rights and the shelling of Gaza, often without mentioning that this is a reaction to Hamas' rocket attacks on civilian areas. More interesting, however, is who is remaining silent. The Arab states that normalised their relations with Israel last year are not interested in the fate of the Palestinians. They want to trade with rich Israel and unite against a common enemy, Iran.”

The Economist (GB) /

Netanyahu's weakness leaves room for rising tensions

Under different circumstances the Israeli government would have done more to control the situation, The Economist believes:

“Mr Netanyahu is tired and distracted. He has fought four elections in two years, none of which has produced a conclusive result. His rivals are edging closer to a deal that will remove him from power and thus leave him little hope of curtailing his trial on corruption charges, at which witnesses recently began testifying. Were he in a stronger position, he might have done more to rein in the police and his far-right supporters. Soon those decisions might be made by someone else.”

Il Manifesto (IT) /

The conflict extends far beyond Jerusalem

How Washington positions itself will now be decisive, explains Middle East expert Alberto Negri in Il Manifesto:

“The spread of the Palestinian protests to the heart of the Holy City and to other cities beyond that is rousing Arab governments from their torpor. What is interesting, however, is not only the Jordanian, Iranian and Tunisian reactions, but also that of the US - while Italy and the EU either remain silent or repeat the hypocritical mantra of 'no to violence on both sides'. ... Biden has not yet taken a clear stance, nor has he questioned the explosive decisions of his predecessor Trump. ... But he has started to shake Prime Minister Netanyahu awake by initiating dialogue with Iran so that the US can re-enter the nuclear agreement.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Things are heating up again for Israel

Rzeczpospolita notes that the conditions for Israel have changed under Biden:

“Developments are calling into question the Israeli achievements of the Trump era. Fear of popular anger is forcing the new Arab allies to be outraged, and criticism is even being heard from the US government. Moderate, but still significant compared to previous years. Biden's team is under pressure from the left wing of the Democratic Party, which is demanding that the US take the lead in the fight for Palestinian rights.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Put two-state solution back on the agenda

The US government needs to realign its Middle East policy, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung:

“Under Donald Trump, Netanyahu was able to implement his ideas of a 'Greater Israel', while for their part the Palestinians were able to embed themselves in their defensive stance. History shows that peace in Jerusalem can only be achieved through negotiation. The US should use the occasion to revive the model of a two-state solution.”