Ten­sions ris­ing with Pales­tini­ans

Is­rael government faces de­te­ri­o­rat­ing sit­u­a­tions in both Gaza, West Bank.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - Byjosef Fe­d­er­man Is­rael leader Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu urged to ease sit­u­a­tion.

JERUSALEM — The ris­ing con­fi­dence and bel­li­cos­ity of Ha­mas mil­i­tants in the Gaza Strip, com­bined with rapidly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­la­tions with Is­rael’s would-be peace part­ner in the West Bank, are rais­ing con­cerns in Is­rael that a new Pales­tinian upris­ing could be near.

A num­ber of prom­i­nent voices urged Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu on Sun­day to take steps to ease the ten­sions and bol­ster the West­ern-backed Pales­tinian pres­i­dent, Mah­moud Ab­bas. Ne­tanyahu’s po­lit­i­cal ri­val, former Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert, warned that re­newed vi­o­lence might not be “far off.”

But the Is­raeli leader stood tough. Poised for re-elec­tion, it ap­pears un­likely he will float a bold new ini­tia­tive any­time soon.

“We in the government have no il­lu­sions. We want a true peace with our neigh­bors. But we will not close our eyes and stick our heads in the sand,” Ne­tanyahu told his Cab­i­net.

Over the past month, Ne­tanyahu has taken a se­ries of steps that ap­pear to have un­in­ten­tion­ally em­bold­ened the ri­val Pales­tinian lead­er­ships in Gaza and the West Bank.

In mid-Novem­ber, Is­rael car­ried out an eight-day mil­i­tary of­fen­sive in Gaza in re­sponse to months of in­ten­si­fy­ing rocket fire from the Ha­mas-ruled ter­ri­tory.

Although Is­rael claimed to in­flict heavy dam­age, the op­er­a­tion failed to halt the rocket fire be­fore an Egyp­tian-bro­kered cease-fire took hold and Ha­mas emerged in­tact. Ha­mas has claimed vic­tory, won new­found recog­ni­tion across the Mid­dle East and boosted its pop­u­lar­ity with the Pales­tinian pub­lic.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple took to the streets of Gaza over the week­end to wel­come the move­ment’s ex­iled leader, Khaled Mashaal, as the Is­lamic mil­i­tant group cel­e­brated its 25th an­niver­sary with ral­lies, speeches and dis­plays of weapons.

It was the first time Mashaal has ever been to Gaza, and his pres­ence in the sea­side ter­ri­tory was a re­flec­tion of the group’s ris­ing clout.

Mashaal, known as a rel­a­tive prag­ma­tist in­side the move­ment, showed no signs of mod­er­a­tion dur­ing the three-day visit.

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