The call of Hamas for a third intifada is “mostly semantics,” according to Asaf Romirowsky, an adjunct scholar at the Foundation for Defense for Democracies and the Middle East Forum.
“We’re already there,” Romirowsky said. “It’s already the status quo.”
Hamas’ kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenage boys is just one indication that the terrorists are already well into a third uprising, according to Romirowsky, who has spent decades immersed in Middle East policy and who will be speaking at Congregation Poale Zedeck on Thursday, July 17 on “Israel and the Changing Dynamics in the Middle East.” The evening is co-sponsored by Poale Zedeck and AIPAC.
Given the fluidity of the current political situation in the Jewish state, the topic of Romirowsky’s upcoming talk “was left broad enough to discuss things on the spot,” he told The Chronicle in a phone interview prior to his arrival in Pittsburgh.
But he intends to focus on the latest events in and affecting Israel, including the rise of ISIS and the threats posed by Iran, Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Romirowsky predicts that while Israel will continue to retaliate for the murder of Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach “with surgical attacks and attempts to get to Hamas leaders,” the Jewish state “is not looking to escalate the environment.”
Meanwhile, he noted, Hamas is calling for “more and more kidnappings because they know it’s successful; they get a huge return on their investment.”
As Israel demonstrated in its exchange of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners for Gilad Shalit in 2011, the kidnapping of Jews is a tried-and-true negotiation strategy for terrorists, according to Romirowsky.
“The methodology never disappears from the Islamic Jihad and Hamas dogma,” he said. “For them, [the Shalit negotiation] was considered a legitimate negotiation with Israel without recognizing Israel’s right to exist. It’s a conscious, tactical decision made by these groups.”
Another ongoing challenge facing Israel is the international community’s attempts at “leveling the playing field” between the Palestinians and the Israelis by creating a moral equivalency through the use of rhetoric, he said.
When Israel is forced to respond to heinous acts of terrorism — such as the recent murders of the three Israeli boys — “it’s always a question of ‘proportionality,’” Romirowsky noted. “That’s the rhetoric. That’s the language that’s being used.
It feeds very well to the belief that Israel is the source of all problems in the Israeli/Palestinian dynamic, that Zionism is the problem.”
While he doesn’t expect to see a full-blown war as a response to the kidnappings and murders, Romirowsky said, “significant measures are being taken to show Hamas and its affiliates that Israel will not accept these kinds of actions.”
Causing a “disarray” in Hamas leadership has been effective in the past in buying Israel a period of military calm, he said.
Politically marginalizing the terrorist group in Palestinian society should be an end goal, he said.
“An element of politics needs to be also used when putting pressure on the Palestinian leadership,” Romirowsky opined. “There will be a lot of pressure on Abbas to disband from the unity government.”
That pressure will come from outside groups, he said, that will want to stop funding the Palestinian Authority if the money is going to fund Hamas, he said.
Romirowksy, who was involved in the Oslo peace accords, does not see the failed peace talks between the Israeli and Palestinians renewed any time soon.
“These latest actions are all signals to Israel that it doesn’t really have a partner for peace at this point,” he said.
Abbas, he said, does have the “potential to be a partner for peace,” but he is the object of significant pressure from the younger element of the Fatah party, who criticize the successor of Yasser Arafat of taking Fatah “off track.”
“Abbas has the potential, but he hasn’t stepped up to the plate,” he said.
The landscape of the environment has changed, Romirowsky said, with cleavages in Palestinian society between Fatah and Hamas, exacerbated by outside forces, such as Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates.
“All that has radicalized the environment you’re facing,” he said.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)