What Stands Behind the New Palestinian War Against Israel? | Opinion

For the past two days, on an hourly basis, the attacks on Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza and the attacks on Israeli Jews by Israeli Arabs grow worse. What on Sunday was a story limited to Arab violence against Jews and Israeli police in three main focal points in Jerusalem, as well as a few dozen rocket launches against southern Israel from Hamas-controlled Gaza, had by Tuesday night been transformed into a full-on war.

By Wednesday, Hamas had launched more than 1,000 rockets, mortars and missiles at southern and central Israel—including 137 launched toward the south in just a five-minute span on Tuesday, and a hundred rockets lobbed toward central Israel in just over an hour on Tuesday night. By midnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, three Israeli women had been killed by rocket attacks that struck their homes. Schools were closed throughout southern and central Israel, and millions of Israelis spent Tuesday night huddled in bomb shelters.

Starting Monday night, many Israeli Arabs began burning Jewish schools, synagogues and cars in mixed Jewish-Arab cities. Jewish bystanders were subjected to attempted lynchings by Israeli Arabs in Jerusalem, the Galilee, Lod, Ramle, Haifa and Acre. After a night of rioting, a few dozen Arabs from Ramle arrived at the emergency room of a local hospital. They threw rocks at medical staff and patients—forcing the hospital to evacuate the ward—and threatened to murder the Israeli Arab doctors and nurses, whom they accused of "collaboration" with Israel. The anti-Semitic violence in Lod on Tuesday was so extreme that the government was forced to impose a curfew on the city for the first time since the 1960s.

So, how did we arrive at this point?

There are two sources of the violence. The first is Palestinian incitement. The second is the support the Palestinians receive from the Biden administration.

Several weeks before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began four weeks ago, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) launched a campaign of incitement across its media organs.

Israel, Fatah and the PA claimed, was defiling and threatening the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. The Temple Mount is the site where both the Jewish Temples stood. It is the single holiest site in Judaism, and it is also the third-holiest site in Islam.

Fatah's incitement campaign served two purposes. First, it deflected public attention away from PA President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to cancel the recent elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and to the PA presidency. Abbas is now in the 16th year of his four-year term—the last PLC elections were held in January 2006. Pressured by the public, Abbas had announced that elections would finally be held beginning this month. But since all the opinion polls since 2006 have shown that Hamas will win any new PA election, Abbas set out to find a way to blame Israel for his refusal to hold elections. He insisted that Israel agree to permit Jerusalem Arabs to vote in Jerusalem itself. Israel refused, maintaining that Jerusalem Arabs could vote in either the PA-controlled areas or online. Abbas then canceled the elections and promptly blamed Israel.

At the same time, Abbas began stirring up passions by disseminating lies about alleged Israeli encroachments on Al-Aqsa and inciting terrorism. By doing so, Abbas was able to ratchet up his standing with the broader Palestinian public.

Hamas, for its part, wasn't going to abandon the incitement stage to Fatah. So it joined in the incitement about Al-Aqsa and then opened a new incitement front pertaining to a 50-year property dispute in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in northeastern Jerusalem.

In 1875, the chief rabbis of Jerusalem purchased buildings in the neighborhood and registered their purchase with the Ottoman—and later, British—authorities. In 1948, with the Jordanian conquest of the neighborhood, the buildings were listed under Jordan's "Register of Enemy Property" and leased to local Arabs. After Israel liberated and unified Jerusalem in 1967, the Jewish landowners registered their buildings again with the Israel Land Authority and began a process that has dragged on ever since of attempting to restore sovereign control over their properties. The Arab tenants, for their part, recognized the Israeli Jewish ownership of the buildings in a 1982 lawsuit. But in the ensuing 39 years, they have appealed every court ruling requiring them to vacate the premises.

In February, the Jerusalem District Court upheld a lower court ruling that required the Arab tenants to vacate the premises and the properties to be transferred to the Jewish owners. The Arabs appealed to the Supreme Court of Israel, which was initially set to hear the appeal last week.

Israel's Iron Dome defense system intercepts Hamas-launchedrockets
Israel's Iron Dome defense system intercepts Hamas-launched rockets MAHMUD HAMS/AFP via Getty Images

Hamas (and the PA) seized on the legal drama for two reasons.

First, it advances their anti-Semitic agenda. The case itself is straightforward: Owners of buildings are seeking legal redress to force illegal squatters to vacate their properties. The only reason there is controversy over this situation is because the owners happen to be Jewish. If they were Arabs, it is plainly obvious that no one would care. So by pretending that this property dispute is proof of Israel's supposed malevolent repression of Palestinians, Hamas is mainstreaming its own anti-Semitic agenda. Every activist, politician, government and international organization that supports the illegal squatters is thus toeing the Hamas line and embracing the agenda of anti-Semitic discrimination.

The second reason Hamas focused on Sheikh Jarrah was to provide an excuse to launch a new war against Israel. Between the Temple Mount and Sheikh Jarrah, Hamas was able to present itself as the grand protector of Jerusalem. Last week, the leaders of Hamas revealed their plans in public declarations. Beginning on May 9—Israel's Jerusalem Day, commemorating the reunification of the city in 1967—Hamas announced it would launch a war if Israel dared to evict the illegal squatters.

The Palestinian war now being waged against Israel from Gaza, and all throughout Israel by Israeli Arabs, is therefore the direct product of a weeks-long Palestinian incitement campaign.

This then brings us to the second cause of the war: The Biden administration's hostility toward Israel and support for the Palestinians.

In the past, as American leftists and Europeans automatically sided with the Palestinians and embraced their anti-Semitic narratives, U.S. administrations could be counted on to reject the libels and stand with Israel. The Trump administration, for instance, presided over the four most peaceful years of Israel-Palestinian relations since the early 1980s.

That unprecedented tranquility didn't owe to Hamas and Fatah putting down their guns or ending their production of missiles and rockets. It owed to then-President Donald Trump's unyielding defense of Israel and rejection of Palestinian terrorism, terror funding, incitement and anti-Semitism. It owed to Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and his moving of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Fatah and Hamas realized that if they launched assaults against Israel, then the U.S. would back an Israeli military operation to crush them.

Side benefits of the quiet included the Abraham Accords, which normalized ties between Israel and four Islamic states, and a new spirit of coexistence between Israeli Arabs—who now felt more comfortable than ever with their citizenship in the Jewish state—and Israeli Jews.

Since its first days in office, the Biden administration has taken actions and issued statements to signal that it is replacing Trump's support for Israel with support for the Palestinians. President Joe Biden restored U.S. funding to the PA despite its unceasing support for, and funding of, terrorism. Biden also reinstated U.S. funding of United Nations agencies, such as UNRWA, that work with Hamas and disseminate Nazi-like anti-Semitism. Biden announced the U.S. intends to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council, an organization whose primary function is to demonize and condemn Israel.

During the weeks leading up to the outbreak of Arab violence against Jews in Jerusalem, the Biden administration said nothing about the Palestinian incitement. On the contrary, in a series of statements by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and State Department spokesmen, the administration adopted the anti-Semitic Palestinian narrative that the Jewish property owners in Sheikh Jarrah should be denied possession of their properties simply because they are Jews.

In a stunning statement Tuesday, as Hamas rained down rockets on Israeli civilian targets and the Israeli military responded with surgical air strikes against Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza, State Department Spokesman Ned Price drew a moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinians. Price said: "Israel has the right to defend itself and respond to rocket attacks. The Palestinian people also have the right to safety and security, just as Israelis do."

The message Price sent to Hamas, Fatah and the Israeli Arabs assaulting Israeli Jews is that the U.S. is on their side. They can attack Jews and blame Israel and the Jews for their aggression, and the Biden administration will fund them, defend them and even adopt their anti-Semitic narratives. Palestinians are now certain they will be rewarded, not punished, for their aggression.

So long as this remains the Biden administration's position, we can expect the latest Palestinian war against Israel to continue. Indeed, so long as this remains the administration's policy, the danger that the Palestinian war will escalate into a regional onslaught against Israel by Iran's proxies across Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen will only increase.

Caroline B. Glick is a senior columnist at Israel Hayom and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, (Crown Forum, 2014). From 1994 to 1996, she served as a core member of Israel's negotiating team with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.