How Israel deepening the occupation and weakening Fatah led to October 2023 Gaza war

Rafe Jabari
Rafe Jabari
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The October 7th Hamas military operation on Israel had repercussions for both sides. It resulted in significant Israeli casualties, 1,405 Israelis killed, 5,431 wounded and around 230 Israeli hostages. This marked a substantial loss for Israel, undermining the image of its powerful army.

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Israel has responded by bombarding the Gaza Strip, killing more than 7,000 Palestinians and leaving 17,439 wounded while destroying more than 15,749 homes and arresting more than 1,000 Palestinians in the West Bank.

This ongoing confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip since 2008 shows us that neither Israel nor Hamas could achieve a decisive victory because the conflict is between a state actor and a non-state actor.

It emphasizes the failure of the Israeli status quo policy in implementing the Oslo Accords and deepening the occupation.

People react as Palestinians search for casualties at the site of an Israeli strike on a residential building in Gaza City, October 25, 2023. (Reuters)
People react as Palestinians search for casualties at the site of an Israeli strike on a residential building in Gaza City, October 25, 2023. (Reuters)


The PLO gained recognition from Israel as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1993, following the signing of the Oslo Agreements. Israel also gained recognition from the PLO.

The objective of this agreement was to establish a Palestinian state by 1999, based on UNSC resolution 242. However, since 1993, the Israeli government failed to adhere to the Oslo peace agreement fully. Successive Israeli governments chose to retain control over specific territories, borders, and resources and thus deepened the occupation of the lands occupied in 1967. This failure was a significant contributing factor to the eruption of the second Intifada in September 2000.

Yasser Arafat’s death in November 2004 marked a significant shift as Israel accused him of being responsible for the failure of the Oslo Accords. He was succeeded by Mahmoud Abbas, often referred to as the “peaceful man,” who took the reins of leadership within the PLO and the PA. However, the policies of the Israeli government remained largely unchanged, with the continuation of settlement expansion and the humiliation of Palestinians, including PA representatives. The “no peace, no war” Israeli policy seemed to serve the interests of Israelis supported by the Israelis and right-wing movements in the settlements.

In this May 31, 2002 file photo photo Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat pauses during the weekly Muslim Friday prayers (File Photo: AP)
In this May 31, 2002 file photo photo Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat pauses during the weekly Muslim Friday prayers (File Photo: AP)


The unilateral withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza Strip in 2005, without prior coordination with the PA, had significant repercussions. The Israeli government sidelining the Palestinian Authority weakend the PA. Hamas declared a symbolic victory in the wake of these developments. It confirmed its narrative of resistance as the only way to liberate the occupied territories, as with Egypt in 1978 and South Lebanon in 2000.

In a pivotal move aimed at securing electoral legitimacy, Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the PA, organized legislative elections in 2006. Notably, Abbas also welcomed Hamas’ participation in these elections, viewing it as a step towards integrating all political parties within the PA, legitimizing its inclusive character, and advancing the agenda of pursuing peace through negotiations with Israel.

Unsurprisingly, from my field study, Hamas emerged victorious in these elections and was tasked with forming a government under Mahmoud Abbas’s leadership. Initially, Hamas expressed its commitment to adhering to the policies of the PA. However, Israel, the US and EU rejected the integration of Hamas into the PA. This rejection translated into the cessation of conditional financial aid to the PA. Additionally, The Israeli army detained elected parliament and government members affiliated with Hamas.

These sanctions by the US and EU and hostile actions initiated by the Israeli government caused a conflict between Fatah and Hamas. As a result, Mahmoud Abbas accepted the EU and the US proposal to channel financial aid and political contacts exclusively through his office in Ramallah, effectively excluding the Hamas government from the PA.

With their de facto exclusion from the PA, Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip by force in 2007, while Fatah acknowledged this separation by establishing another government in the West Bank. Concurrently, the Israeli government imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian fighters from the armed wing of Hamas take part in a military parade to mark the anniversary of the 2014 war with Israel, near the border in the central Gaza Strip, July 19, 2023. (Reuters)
Palestinian fighters from the armed wing of Hamas take part in a military parade to mark the anniversary of the 2014 war with Israel, near the border in the central Gaza Strip, July 19, 2023. (Reuters)


In response to the blockade, Hamas went back to its initial position that the Israeli government was not willing to achieve peace through negotiations and should return to the resistance strategy.

This led to several wars between Israel and Hamas in 2008, 2012, 2014, and 2021. None of these confrontations resulted in a decisive victory for either side. Concurrently, the Israeli government continued to support the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, which was under Mahmoud Abbas’s authority and weakened the Palestinian Authority. Moreover, the integration of right-wing extremists into the Israeli government and provocations were deeply resented by Palestinians.

Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 77th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2022. (Reuters)
Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas addresses the 77th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 23, 2022. (Reuters)


The status quo in the political process, comfortable for Israel, the US, and the EU, persisted. Thus, Hamas earned more support among the Palestinians and remained the leading actor to challenge the Israeli occupation.

This time, the October 2023 war is a turning point in the political history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The only viable solution is the establishment of a Palestinian state encompassing all territories occupied by the Israeli army in 1967.

The best outcome for both the Israelis and Palestinians is a peace agreement between the Israeli government and both Fatah and Hamas.

Political history has shown that peace agreements with national movements, even those initially labeled as terrorist groups, have been instrumental in resolving conflicts, as seen in various examples, including the Evian Accords, the Paris Peace Agreement, the Good Friday Agreement, and the Doha Agreement. Palestinians believe that the only way to end this protracted conflict is to bring an end to the occupation.

Rafe Jabari is a French-Palestinian political science analyst.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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