Gaza's future

Officials hinted that Netanyahu needed to stay in Israel so he could be available if there was a breakthrough in the negotiations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whispering in a cabinet meeting on July 23, 2018 (photo credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY / POOL)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu whispering in a cabinet meeting on July 23, 2018
(photo credit: ALEX KOLOMOISKY / POOL)
On Sunday, the security cabinet will meet to discuss a possible deal with Hamas that has been in the works for several weeks.
According to details of the deal that is being brokered by Egypt and the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov, Hamas and Fatah will reconcile and reunite and in exchange, Israel and the international community will increase aid to Gaza and possibly begin allowing Gazans into Israel for work. The situation seems to be serious.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled his planned trip to Colombia next week to attend the inauguration of newly-elected president Ivan Duque. Officials hinted that Netanyahu needed to stay in Israel so he could be available if there was a breakthrough in the negotiations.
In another sign that a deal might be close,  Israel and Egypt allowed senior Hamas official Saleh al-Arouri, known to have directed terrorist attacks in the West Bank from Turkey, into Gaza to help finalize the reconciliation. Israel’s interests are threefold. Firstly, it wants assurances that the weekly protests along the border are stopped, as well as the daily kite and balloon arson attacks. In addition, it wants to retrieve the Israelis – alive and dead – who are being held by Hamas in Gaza.
And lastly, it seeks a long-term ceasefire with Hamas. Israel knows that ultimately if Gaza continues to deteriorate, it will be the one to pay the price.
On the one hand, according to defense officials, there is a correlation between the Gaza’s humanitarian and economic situation and the launching of rockets into Israel. When there is no economic future, Hamas feels it has less to lose. When the opposite is true, Hamas is more restrained.
This does not mean that if hundreds of millions of dollars are suddenly poured into Gaza, Hamas would moderate its views, lay down its weapons and recognize Israel’s right to exist. But, it does make it realize that it has what to lose in terms of physical assets, control and public support.
On the other hand, a reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas carries with it the possibility that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will reassert his control over Gaza and further clamp down on Hamas and other terrorist groups there like the Islamic Jihad.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has managed the recent Gaza crisis well. While many Israelis are upset with the ongoing aerial arson attacks which have already burned more than 30,000 dunams, Israel has managed to steer clear of a large-scale military operation in Gaza.
This is part of the government’s understanding that a large-scale military operation in Gaza would not change the reality there. It would weaken Hamas and destroy much of its terror infrastructure, but it would not change the long term reality in southern Israel. Hamas would be deterred for a period of time and would then renew its attacks against Israel and bring us back to the brink of a military clash once again after two, three or four years.
However significant, Israel’s role in all of this is also limited. As long as Hamas does not cease its desire to destroy Israel and does not stop its attempts to do so, there is only so much that Israel can do.
As The Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh reported recently, Hamas leaders are split on what to do. Some want to reach a deal; others want to continue the conflict.
If Hamas accepts the deal, its rivals will accuse it of selling out to Israel and the US.
On the other hand, rejecting the deal which would lead to the improvement of Gaza living conditions could potentially prompt desperate Palestinians to revolt against Hamas.
Ultimately, the people of Gaza will have to decide. Do they want a better future or one of more war and bloodshed?


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