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How can Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas be our partner for peace
if he doesn’t control Gaza and Hamas is so powerful? This is the question that
most people ask me every time I assert that peace is possible and that an
agreement is within reach. What is the purpose of reaching an agreement with
Abbas only regarding the West Bank – are we now talking about three-states for
two peoples? I believe that we must reach an agreement with Abbas regarding all
of the core issues – statehood, borders, security, Jerusalem, refugees, water,
economics, etc. The agreement will state that the West Bank and Gaza are one
integral territorial unit, just as stipulated in the Interim Agreement from
September 1995. The permanent status agreement will indicate that the agreement
for the establishment of the state of Palestine recognizes Gaza as part of the
state, but it will also stipulate that the implementation of the agreement with
regard to the Strip will only take place when there is a regime change that
allows for the unification of the two territories under one government which
recognizes all of its obligations under the peace treaty.
in the West Bank and Gaza is on a steady decline. The decline in Gaza is even
more significant than in the West Bank, mainly because the people there have had
firsthand experience with the repressive regime. While Hamas was elected by
popular support, it no longer enjoys that support and an overwhelming majority
of Palestinians in general, and in Gaza in particular would like to see a
The problem is that the change is not likely to come via the
ballot box. Hamas won the elections because the people were fed up with Fatah –
with its corruption, with its false promises, with its lack of ability to govern
– and after elections, Fatah turned over control to Hamas, which consolidated
its full control by a coup d’état in June 2007.
Many Palestinians who
voted for Hamas (which did not run under the title “Hamas” but under a party
called “Change and Reform”) wanted to punish Fatah for its bad behavior. Almost
no one thought that Hamas would win, but it did and now it is not prepared to
SINCE THOSE 2006 elections, Palestinians have been
punished by their own bad choice. For the general dissatisfaction with Hamas to
turn into a mass popular uprising, certain things need to happen that will
motivate the people of Gaza to take the great risks necessary to bring about a
Palestinians must be given a clear choice between the end
of the occupation and the creation of a state in the West Bank as opposed to the
continued repressive regime and no hope offered by Hamas. .
that as the negotiations progress, positive changes must take place on the
More roadblocks must be removed; more authority over greater land
areas must be given to the Palestinian authority – mainly in Area C.
Palestinians must see agreement on borders and the beginning of settlers moving
back into Israel or into the settlements that will be part of the blocks annexed
to Israel by agreement. The political climate of peacemaking needs to earn a
positive dimension that enables people to understand that it is really
In Gaza, additional elements of the economic siege must end.
It is not enough to simply allow more goods to enter. Raw materials for
industrial production and for export need to enter and finished goods need to be
able to reach markets in Israel, the West Bank, the Arab world and Europe.
Ninety percent of the closed factories need to reopen so that 65% of people who
are unemployed can get back to work.
The working class represents the
majority of Gazans who are moderate people. These are not the fanatics who
support Hamas. These are the people who would be happy to work in Israel and
with Israelis if they had the chance. It is time to allow them to get back to
work. It is time to allow labor from Gaza to come back to work in
The textile and furniture subcontracting relationships that
existed between many Israeli and Palestinian companies and employed thousands of
Gazans must resume.
LASTLY THE construction of the physical link between
the West Bank and Gaza must be started immediately. There is no reason
until there is an agreement. The preference of the security
establishment is a
tunnel linking the two areas. This would provide the highest degree of
along the route and would also enable the Palestinians the highest
control and sovereignty. The entrances and exits can be monitored by
NATO personnel or others against smuggling of weapons and explosives.
tunnel will not reach Gaza until there is a regime change there but the
will know that it is close. (Israel will ensure that Hamas will not
tunnel on its own, completely aware of its great expertise in tunnel
If all of that were to be implemented, forces in Gaza would be let loose
would dislodge Hamas from control. It is unlikely that this will take
without the use of force. The use if force, if necessary, must rely
Palestinians and be based on a Palestinian strategy.
These forces could
be within Gaza, even from among the thousands who serve in the Hamas
forces and want a change.
It could reach a point where Palestinian forces
call for support from their brothers in the West Bank, or from Egypt and
or even from the international community. When the people of Gaza are
and ready to take real risks to bring about a regime change, they will
help from their own people and from others.
Israel can lend a hand from
There are those Palestinians who believe that national dialogue
will lead to reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. I believe that this
possible and even likely, but only if there is no peace process. If the
process fails, there is likely to be a true Palestinian national
will lead to unity against the common enemy – Israel. If peace is real,
no possibility for unity between the national forces who want peace and
Islamic fundamentalists who don’t.
Peace means the demise of Hamas in
popular support and the end of its regime in Gaza.The writer is the
co-CEO of the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information
(www.ipcri.org) and an elected member of the leadership of the Green