By Ali Abo Rezeg
ISTANBUL (AA) – The resilience and steadfastness of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Jerusalem have restored the balance of power between Israel and the Palestinian resistance, according to Munir Shafiq, a Palestinian intellectual.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Shafiq described Israel’s recent botched ground operation inside the blockaded Gaza Strip as a “major victory” against the Israeli occupation.
According to Shafiq, the operation had been aimed at capturing a Gaza-based resistance leader.
“But it ended in a stinging defeat for Israel. I’m not exaggerating; it was a major victory for the Palestinian people and the resistance,” he said.
Last week, seven Palestinians were killed, including a senior Hamas commander, in a botched Israeli ground incursion inside the strip.
Before the Israeli team withdrew from the territory, at least one Israeli officer had been killed by resistance fighters and another was injured.
Over the next two days, at least 14 Palestinians were killed across the Hamas-run coastal enclave by Israeli airstrikes and artillery.
“For the last six months, the situation in Gaza has revealed a new balance of balance of power between the two sides; it has shown the efficacy of public mobilization and mass demonstrations,” Shafiq said.
Since late March, Palestinians in Gaza have converged along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone on an almost daily basis (but especially on Fridays) to demonstrate against Israel’s decades-long occupation.
Since the rallies began almost eight months ago, more than 200 Palestinians have been martyred — and thousands more injured — by Israeli troops deployed along the other side of the buffer zone.
Protesters demand the right to return to their homes and villages in historical Palestine, from which they were driven in 1948 to make way for the new state of Israel.
They also demand an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has gutted the coastal enclave’s economy and deprived its roughly two million inhabitants of many basic commodities.
“The resilience of the demonstrators, coupled with Israel’s recent military and intelligence failure in Gaza, indicates Israel’s waning power of deterrence,” Shafiq said.
According to Shafiq, the ongoing demonstrations have also served to inspire Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem “to rise up against Israel”.
The rallies, he said, have succeeded at two levels: “They have revived Palestinian demands for the ‘right of return’ [to their homes in historical Palestine] while also serving as a model for a popular intifada [uprising] that can work in tandem with the armed resistance,” he said.
“In July of last year in Jerusalem, Palestinians were able to force the occupation authorities to reverse an earlier decision to install security gates outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” Shafiq added.
He went on to note that recent Palestinian protests in the West Bank had also forced the Israeli government to suspend its plans — albeit temporarily — to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, a Palestinian village in East Jerusalem.
“Israel has been forced to retreat in Gaza, Jerusalem and in Khan al-Ahmar, showing how the balance of power has begun to shift in the Palestinians’ favor,” Shafiq said.
In terms of inter-Palestinian unity, the intellectual said: “In the [Hamas-run] Gaza Strip, we’ve seen genuine unity between the Palestinian factions and people. The real problem is with the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership headed by President Mahmoud Abbas.”
To illustrate his point, Shafiq drew attention to a recent boycott by the Palestinian factions of an October meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council, which is dominated by Abbas’s Fatah movement.
Held in Ramallah, the meeting was boycotted by Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the National Initiative Movement.
“The boycott showed that Abbas represents the primary obstacle hindering the achievement of national unity,” he said.
Regarding the apparent desire of certain of Arab Gulf countries to normalize relations with Israel, Shafiq said: “This only betrays the weakness of these Arab regimes and shows how they have been compromised.”
“We’ve already seen how these Arab regimes — especially those neighboring Palestine — have exerted pressure on the resistance on Israel’s behalf,” he said.
“But now that these regimes have revealed their weakness, the resistance must press its cause all the harder and redouble its efforts on behalf of the Palestinian people,” he added.
“These regimes once held the fate of the Palestinian cause in their hands,” Shafiq said. “But this now appears to have changed as these regimes — especially Egypt — have grown weaker and less influential.”
He concluded: “This new balance of power has served to reenergize both the popular resistance and the Palestinian people.”