AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Israel vows a complete siege of the Gaza Strip, we ask an expert on Palestine and Israel, what happens next?
Sally Hernandez, KXAN: What is the relationship between Israel and Palestine?
Ryan Bohl, RANE Network: So it is a complicated relationship because Palestine isn’t governed by a single entity.
When we talk about Palestine, we’re probably talking about what we’re talking about two separate territories, there’s the Gaza Strip, which is on the Mediterranean; very small enclave of about two and a half million people.
And then there’s the West Bank, which is a bulk of Palestine territory.
And where we’re seeing the violence right now is in the Gaza Strip, which has been since 2007, ruled by a militant group called Hamas and Hamas won some elections back then they’ve never held any elections since then. And they are ideologically opposed to the existence of the State of Israel.
And that differs from the West Bank, where that’s governed by the Palestinian Authority, which has a security relationship with Israel and economic relationship with Israel. And they are not actively fighting Israel.
So there’s, and it gets even more complicated than that, the further you drill down, but those are the two broad dynamics right now that we’re seeing.
KXAN: So why is Hamas now attacking Israel?
Bohl: So since 2014, the Israeli government started this relationship with a mosque where they would provide humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, and [at] the Gaza Strip, there’s no way to get in or out of that territory without Israeli say so, so everything has to go through the Israelis.
And so they provide humanitarian aid to Hamas, and in exchange for mosque would agree to limit its escalations against Israel since the last big war in 2014.
Israel’s politicians believed that this strategy was working. They believed that they were moderating Hamas over time. And on Saturday, Hamas proved that they were not moderating–that they were in fact building up for a mass assault.
KXAN: Is this a miss on the intelligence of the Israelis and the US?
Bohl: Yes, absolutely. This is a remarkable failure.
People are comparing it to the failure of intelligence before the 1973 War. And I think that’s apt, it may also be comparable to the failure before 9/11.
Somehow, Mossad and Shin Bet and all of these other organizations that should have known that this was taking place–where at least was possible–missed the buildup and the signs.
And I think it was a failure of imagination that they believed that Hamas would not attempt a ground assault into Israel, because Israel is the regional military superpower such a ground assault was doomed to fail, in terms of taking and holding territory.
And because they had those assumptions, they were caught off guard.
KXAN: When it comes to a ground assault, you see the Israeli military lining up its tanks on the border of the Gaza Strip? Do they go in and what happens once they do?
Bohl: “It seems very likely that we will see a full-scale invasion of the Gaza Strip, we don’t know to what extent the Israelis will decide to penetrate through the strip. It’s a small bit of territory. So if Israel’s army wants to take over the whole strip, they’ll be able to do so this will boil down to politics.
And what they’ll be doing is they will be trying to free the hostages, rescue hostages, avoid civilian casualties, avoid traps that their troops might get caught in by Hamas.
And then they’re going to attempt to dismantle the Hamas government of the Hamas regime.
What they replace it with. We don’t know yet. The Palestinian Authority is not popular in Gaza–is widely despised by many Palestinians on allegations of corruption and working with the Israelis. So they’re not exactly the best option. So Israel may end up stuck re-occupying the Gaza Strip as it did from 1967 to 2005.
KXAN: We saw the rockets raining down on the Gaza Strip and in Israel, the military in Israel, well formed and built who is helping Hamas?
So Hamas gets their funding from a variety of sources but the primary external sponsor is Iran; Iran and Hamas has relationship is complicated.
They’re often described as more of allies rather than proxies. That is, Tehran can’t tell Hamas to do something, and then they’ll automatically do it. It’s a different relationship than what Iran has was, say, Hezbollah in Lebanon, who were also monitoring.
Hezbollah takes orders from Iran–Hamas takes advice. And that’s the way to think about it.
A lot of their armaments come out of the Iranians or comes out of black market smuggling. And many of their rockets are now produced indigenously within the Gaza Strip using what would otherwise be civilian materials.
KXAN: What’s happening in the northern border between Hezbollah and others?
What we’re seeing there’s also a military buildup, it’s unclear to what extent Hezbollah is building up on the Lebanese side, but we do see large amounts of Israeli tanks and artillery, positioning themselves on the northern border.
Now that the point of that positioning is to deter Hezbollah from launching their own offensive against Israel while Israel is invading Gaza.
So the idea with all of those troops there is to ensure that there’s not necessarily a big escalation, who were are obviously seeing back and forth firing and exchange of fire between the two groups that has resulted in both Israeli military and Hezbollah casualties.
That frontier is very volatile. Once the invasion of Gaza gets underway. It’s possible that it destabilizes and we see a second front formally open.
KXAN: Do you think that the war stays within the Gaza Strip?
Bohl: That’s what we don’t know right now.
The most likely place it will spread is to the West Bank, but we’re already seeing an uptick in violence.
Now, the West Bank, of course, as I mentioned before, it’s complicated. And we won’t necessarily see something like this ground incursion that Hamas was able to do.
Instead, we might see a mass uprising very similar to the Second Intifada, or the First Intifada in the 80s, and the 2000s. So that’s where we’re watching for violence.
Next. The other place, of course, is on the northern frontier with Lebanon, where Hezbollah may enter the war–at least partially enter the war–by [raining] down rockets and missile fire on Israeli cities, in order to exact a certain cost for the Israeli forces to be distracted from occupying Gaza.
And again, propaganda and symbol symbolic political points, by striking the Israelis at a time when they are moving against the Palestinians.
KXAN: Is it possible for there to be a truce between Hamas and Israel?
Bohl: So there will inevitably be one and there always are in these conflicts.
And this is the unfortunate part of the cycle of violence as we see escalation, the escalation and then some sort of truce that lasts until the next war.
What we need to see right now is Israel’s political and security imperatives have to be addressed.
And what they’ve decided to announce that they will dismantle Hamas’s control of the Gaza Strip, Once that is accomplished, at least to the satisfaction of Israel’s government, will be in a place where a ceasefire is possible.
And we might see exchanges of prisoners and hostage releases [and] humanitarian aid, all of that is likely.
Now one thing to keep in mind is Israel is a small country, it has mobilized 300,000 troops out of a population of about 9 million. [This is] a huge part of his population that isn’t going to work right now–that isn’t doing anything else but preparing for war. Its economy can’t afford a long war.
So it has a timeline as how long it can stay mobilized before Israel needs to seek a truce.
KXAN: And then what happens to the Palestinians in Gaza?
Bohl: That we also don’t know, because we’re seeing already that the Egyptians have closed the single crossing into Egypt, the Rafah crossing, because they are terrified of the idea that if the Palestinians move into Egypt, they may never be able to return home.
This is a pattern for Arab-Israeli wars, when populations get displaced, they tend not to be able to go back. So the Egyptians are trying to keep them in place.
But if they’re trapped along that wall, between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, they’re exposed to potential airstrikes, they’re exposed to fighting between Hamas militants and Israeli troops. And so civilian casualties might be very high.
They are trapped in a very unfortunate situation. And there really aren’t any good options for them at this moment.
KXAN: Should Americans be concerned about something happening on US soil?
Bohl: So I think there is an escalated chance of potential incidents spilling over here.
We’ve already seen, of course, lots of media reports about scuffling between anti and pro protesters for either side in places like New York City. None of them had been violent so far. But anti-Semitism will almost certainly surge in the aftermath of this.
We’ve already seen that happening in France. And we will possibly also see attacks on Palestinian-Americans potential, especially as the casualty count from the Hamas attack on Saturday continues to go higher and higher.
So we can easily see people taking the law into their own hands or deciding to settle scores over here.