Islamic Jihad mulls military action to foil US peace plan

As the United States gets closer to officially revealing details of its Middle East peace plan, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad says it and its allies are ready to do whatever is necessary to stop the lopsided deal.

al-monitor Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants participate in a military show in Gaza City, Gaza, Oct. 4, 2018.  Photo by REUTERS/Mohammed Salem.

Jun 12, 2019

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Armed Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip are determined to stop the US administration's proposed peace plan for the Middle East and have the means to do so, according to Ziad al-Nakhla, secretary general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad movement.

Several times recently, Nakhla has alluded to escalation and the use of military force to stop the plan, which is expected to be unveiled soon by the administration of US President Donald Trump. Nakhla's statements come as his movement’s military wing, Al-Quds Brigades, has shown significantly developed military potential, especially in the round of escalation between Israel and the Gaza Strip last month.

He said May 30 on Lebanese Al-Manar TV that many leaders in the region want to close the Palestinian cause dossier, and this could play out in favor of the US plan. Nakhla pointed out, however, that despite the disparity in the balance of power, the Palestinian people have the ability to thwart the plan, which the United States has dubbed the "deal of the century."

“If Palestinians are not part of the deal, then the deal is born dead. The Palestinians have the right to reject any deal that does not respect their historical rights,” he added.

On May 24, he had stressed that the armed Palestinian factions have enough strong cards to derail the plan. His movement is ready to defend Palestine, he added.

The United States is expected to reveal details of the plan at the Peace to Prosperity conference aimed at encouraging investment in Palestinian areas. The conference is set for June 25-26 in Manama, Bahrain, and while Palestinians have voiced their rejection of the conference, some Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have said they will be attending. Others, such as Egypt and Jordan, had yet to RSVP as of June 10.

Khader Habib, an Islamic Jihad leader, told Al-Monitor the movement and its supporters are determined to keep the deal from being implemented. He said the peace plan aims to liquidate the Palestinian cause and deny Palestinians their historical and permanent rights. Palestinians across the spectrum reject the deal.

He did say that the movement might resort to diplomatic and political steps, but should such steps fail, then the military option would be a must. He stressed that the Islamic Jihad is developing a national plan against the US proposal. The plan will involve all Palestinians and will be submitted to the Palestinian forces for approval.

“The movement is ready to foil the deal by force if necessary. The resistance has the strength to put an end to the US and Israeli hegemony," he said. “The resistance is developing its capabilities to liberate Palestine, and it will spare no effort to defend our cause."

Habib said the deal can't be allowed to come to pass, as it would allow Israel to impose sovereignty over the Palestinian territories in cooperation with the US administration, which he said seeks to colonize the Arab and Islamic region to plunder its resources and blackmail its people.

Habib said the Islamic Jihad isn't the only movement willing to confront the deal militarily, as the group has armed partners such as Hamas.

“As long as Israel is sitting on our land, the chances of escalation remain possible, and the choices of resistance and development of combat tools remain the most appropriate,” he said.

Ibrahim Habib, a security expert and lecturer at Ribat University College, told Al-Monitor the Islamic Jihad and the other armed factions are sparing no effort to close ranks, unite positions and confront the US proposal. However, he added, the situation on the ground is different, as the deal is not a local issue, but a regional one. He said the threats from the Islamic Jihad “are blowing things out of proportion.”

He stressed that the deal can be shut down through Palestinian unity, without military force, and explained that if Palestinians refuse the deal then it would only be natural for it not to proceed in its entirety.

Military action could pose a great political and field risk for Gaza, especially considering Israel's obvious power advantage over the Palestinian factions. He said he doesn't expect an escalation in the near future, especially with tensions so high in Syria and Iran.

Palestinian forces have to diversify their options when confronting the deal, Ibrahim Habib said. That some Arab countries have agreed to attend the Manama conference, he said, is a sign that the Palestinian leadership is politically helpless and running out of cards to impede the conference. He called for a diplomatic approach and for mobilizing the international and Arab communities.

Political analyst Hani Habib told Al-Monitor that the Islamic Jihad's threat indicates that mounting tension with Israel will make it difficult to implement the US peace plan, especially with regard to the partial annexation of the West Bank.

He said the United States has put off revealing the details of the plan to minimize opposition by saying it's not yet official. But he said the world is aware that the most significant items of the deal have already been implemented: US backing for Israel's annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights, the relocation of the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the suspension of US funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

The Manama conference will only amount to simple financial compensation for Palestinians, Hani Habib said.

He added that neither the Israeli nor Palestinian sides want a war scenario. Israel wants to preserve the Palestinian division, but a war would unite all Palestinians, he added.

“The Palestinian political movement may play a role in disrupting, [but] not foiling, the plan. An alternative must be found, especially in light of US arrogance,” he said.

Editor's note: This article has been updated since its original publication.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

More from  Palestine

Gaza caught between full lockdown or collapse of health sector amid COVID-19 surge
Hana Salah | Coronavirus | Dec 4, 2020
No Christmas cheer in Bethlehem this year amid coronavirus pandemic
Aziza Nofal | Coronavirus | Dec 3, 2020
Palestinians radio silent on Netanyahu’s visit to Saudi Arabia
Ahmad Melhem | Israeli-Palestinian conflict | Dec 1, 2020
Palestinians in quandary about new visitors from Gulf
Daoud Kuttab | Jerusalem | Nov 26, 2020