The Enemy of My Enemy

My son is in Israel right now, studying at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel as part of his curriculum at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy. For most of the last three months we have gotten reports of hikes, field trips and other amazing experiences. Unfortunately, this week he received a first-hand understanding of a reality of Israeli life – the threat of rocket attack from Gaza.

Fortunately no one has been killed in Israel by the hundreds of missiles launched into the country by the Islamic Jihad terrorist group. My son’s program did have to cancel a planned trip to Tel Aviv because of the threat which had reached all the way to the center of the country. Usually rockets only reach communities in the south.

While Ronen only felt inconvenience at a schedule change, Israelis were reminded of the constant threat that exists at their border. At any moment, terrorists can rain down rockets, and while the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system has been effective, there is always the chance that a stray projectile will make it through and do major damage.

Palestinian civilians too felt the danger as Israeli air strikes retaliated against the rocket barrage. Fortunately a cease fire seems to be holding, and the region has gone back to relative quiet after a round of fighting that began after Israel killed a senior leader of Islamic Jihad.

From the outside, these bursts of conflict all seem the same. Some event lights the match, and the fighting burns as each side reacts to the other. It doesn’t matter which terrorist organization is involved, the cycle seems to repeat itself. How many of us can really distinguish between Hamas, Islamic Jihad or Fatah?

Avi Issacharoff argues, however, that this time there is a key difference. Usually when Islamic Jihad fires rockets, Israel responds by striking Hamas targets, since as the rulers of Gaza they have responsibility for keeping their rival group in line. The problem is that Hamas is then drawn into the conflict because they feel they must respond in kind.

This week, Israel only struck Islamic Jihad targets and Hamas stayed out of the fray, leading to a fairly quick ceasefire. Issacharoff suggests that Hamas was happy to have Israel eliminate a trouble-making leader of a rival organization, and that there was even “indications of cooperation between Israel and Hamas”.

Who knows what these developments may mean since neither Israel nor Hamas have ever acknowledged working together; no one wants to admit to talking to the enemy. Perhaps there will be avenues for overtures in the future between Hamas and Israel. At the very least, Israel may have found a successful method of dealing with at least one adversary. Sometimes, even temporarily, the enemy of my enemy can be my friend.

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