Over 100,000 Palestinians are preparing to participate in their so-called “March of Return”, hoping to breach the border fence and kill as many Israelis in nearby towns as they can. The day of reckoning, according to Hamas, is Monday, the 14th of May, the day commemorating the founding the Jewish State of Israel in 1948, the day the United States will open its new embassy in Jerusalem, and the day Hamas has called for “a day of rage”.
May 14, 1948 was an eventful day. In the morning, the British pulled their last remaining personnel from the country they had called the British Mandate for Palestine since 1920. In the afternoon David Ben Gurion declared the creation of the State of Israel. And in the evening, Egyptian planes began an assault on Tel Aviv.
The Palestinians call that day nakba (meaning ‘catastrophe’) because it recalls the event that triggered the flight of hundreds of thousands of Arab residents from the brand new state, and led to their inability to return in victory. They fled the war that began immediately after the state was founded, when Arab armies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, as well as troops from Saudi Arabia fighting under Egyptian command, attacked the tiny new state in order to destroy it. The fledgling state barely had an army, and what they had was largely manned by civilians. And they faced the military might of five Arab states that included Jordan’s feared Arab Legion. Yet, despite those overwhelming odds, Israel won that war, and the people who now call themselves Palestinians were relegated to refugee status and were forced to stay in UN sponsored ‘refugee camps’.
The United Nations rewarded the Palestinians with their own refugee agency UNRWA), and made them the only refugees in the world whose status was inherited from generation to generation. So although some 700,000 Arab refugees originally fled from the new state of Israel in 1948, some 8 million ‘Palestinians’ now claim refugee status and the ‘right to return”.
The Perfect Storm
Several momentous events are bringing the region into the center of an enormous whirlwind that is likely to affect the future of the Middle East and beyond in ways we can only imagine.
Five separate but inextricably linked events are at the center of this phenomenon:
1 —> US Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel The announcement by President Donald Trump on December 6, 2017 that the United States officially recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and that we will soon move our embassy from Tel Aviv set off an international furor. This decision was based on The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 passed but never acted upon by a succession of U.S. presidents. Trump’s decision to finally act on Congress’ law to recognize the reality in Israel generated far-reaching and dramatic reactions, from governments in Europe, Asia, and throughout the Middle East, and Muslim states in particular rose up in rage. Most dramatically, Hamas essentially declared war on Israel, and began to rally the people of Gaza to march on Jerusalem.
2 —> The Hamas March of Return On Friday, March 30, Hamas began a campaign to assault the Gaza-Israeli border, to demand their ‘right of return’. Every Friday since then, in what they falsely claimed were “non-violent demonstrations”, Hamas has brought tens of thousands of men, women, and children to challenge the border. Many, particularly teenage boys, young men, and even children, have been brought to the border with weapons of various kinds, including wire cutters for cutting through the border fence, burning kites and balloons to ignite Israeli fields and forests, thousands of burning tires to obscure their efforts to infiltrate into Israel, sling shots capable of launching large and potentially lethal stones, hand grenades, and guns. Every week the danger grew. On May 4, dozens of Palestinians broke into the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip, through which truckloads of goods bound for Gaza travel from Israel every day. In their frenzy to destroy everything Israeli, the Palestinians wrecked the very pipelines that carry gas and oil into Gaza for the benefit of the people there. They also destroyed the conveyer equipment which transfers the massive shipments of food, water, and other aid into Gaza. The weeks of marches will culminate on Monday, May 14th, when Hamas hopes to bring hundreds of thousands of Gazans to rush the border, destroy Israel’s defenses there, and then march north to Jerusalem, where they plan to stake their claim to Jerusalem, declare a Palestinian state, and “drive the Jews into the sea”. While these plans are grandiose and driven by blinding hatred of the Jewish state, there is no question that Hamas has convinced many of the people of Gaza that it can be done, and has been stirring them into a frenzy of hate and lust for revenge. They have been convinced it is possible and are therefore likely to try everything they can in order to achieve it. Israel will do whatever is necessary to thwart these plans. If Hamas’ plans are even partially fulfilled, the people of Gaza will meet a military force determined to protect its country at all costs, and the result is likely to be much bloodshed and a great loss of life.
3 —> The Iranian Threat Israel and Iran have traded warnings to each other as Iran’s presence in Syria, just miles from the Israeli border, becomes increasingly threatening. Israel has told Iran unequivocally that it will not tolerate an Iranian threat on its border and will do what is necessary to protect the nation and its citizens. Iran has responded by threatening to destroy the Jewish state. On Thursday night, May 4, 2018 Iranian forces in Syria fired 20 rockets into Israel. 16 of the 20 fell short and landed in Syria, while the remaining four were brought down by Israel’s Iron Dome mobile air defense system and destroyed. Israel’s response was swift and massive. That same night, Israel launched 50 retaliatory raids against Iranian targets in Syria, including intelligence centers, weapons depots, storage facilities, observation posts, and logistics centers in Syria. They also destroyed the rocket launcher that had carried out the rocket attack against Israel. Iran responded with rhetoric, to which Israel responded in kind, warning Iran that it would not tolerate any attack from its forces in Syria.
4 —> Withdrawal from the Iranian Deal When Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the JCPOA, known as the “Iranian Deal” imposed on the US by the Obama administration, the response from world leaders was dismay and anger, and Iran was enraged. But when the UAE supported the move, other leaders soon followed. The jury is out about the scope of world opinion, because it is just too soon to tell. But this will be one more influencing factor on the building pressure in the Middle East.
5 —> The May 15th Opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem The embassy is scheduled to be officially opened on the same day Hamas plans to rush the border. The U.S. is sending a delegation of some 800 representatives from the Trump administration, Congress, and other VIPs. The building has been prepared and Jerusalem is in a state of high alert against any efforts to disrupt the proceedings.
May 14th will be a security nightmare for Israel. In addition to the presence of so many high level Americans in Jerusalem, there are already warnings of an impending attack by Iran across Israel’s northern border, even as Hamas prepares to lead a massive procession of Gazans to swarm and overwhelm its southern border.
Israel, despite its powerful presence in the world of international politics, technology, and military power, is barely the size of Vermont, and would fit easily into Lake Michigan. Yet the events swirling around it are commanding world attention to the increasingly dangerous environment in the region. The outcome is as yet unknown. But history is being written today in the Middle East and this perfect storm of events will shape the future of the region and perhaps the world for generations.
Ilana’s latest book, “Hamas, CAIR, and the Muslim Brotherhood: The Plot to Destroy America” was just released by the Center for Security Policy and is available on Amazon.
A detailed analysis of this unfolding story will be posted on May 15th, following the events described in this article. Stay tuned.
Image: Israeli occupation forces aim at Palestinian protesters in Hizma, West Bank [Shadi Hatem/Apaimages]