Palestinian Hamas militants take part in a memorial service for senior militant Mazen Fuqaha, in Gaza City March 27, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
The Palestinian Authority this week escalated its struggle with Hamas aimed at regaining control of the Gaza Strip, by further reducing the supply of electricity to its some 2 million residents to just about three hours a day.
The PA found Israel to be a willing partner in increasing the pressure on the Hamas terrorist regime. As the PA and Israel endlessly quibble about resuming the stalled peace negotiations, at least both appear determined to first oust Hamas in order to free Gazans from its deathly grip.
In acceding to Abbas’s request to reduce the supply of current to Gaza, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that Israel does not seek a confrontation with the Islamist movement.
“The issue of electricity in Gaza is a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,” Netanyahu said at a ceremony in Be’er Ya’acov. “Hamas is demanding that the PA pay for the electricity, and the Palestinian Authority is refusing to pay. It is an internal Palestinian dispute.”
The world must know by now that Hamas would have the money to pay for the Strip’s power needs, and to rebuild the homes its people lost in the 2014 conflict, if it didn’t divert its foreign-donated resources to rebuilding the attack tunnels destroyed by Israel and otherwise preparing for war.
The world should also know by now why Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 did not lead to the establishment of enlightened self-rule, but rather to the creation of an Islamist terrorist state on its southern border that still loudly declares its deluded commitment to Israel’s destruction.
In that sense, Israel’s agreement to reduce Gaza’s electricity supply to a crisis-level three hours a day was actually long overdue. The crisis, brought on by Hamas’s refusal to pay for its power – in both senses of the term – is not Israel’s responsibility. There is no reason why Egypt, which has a 12-kilometer border with Gaza, cannot supply the electricity Gaza needs.
Hundreds of trucks cross from Israel to Gaza each day delivering vital supplies from foreign donors, while Egypt floods Hamas tunnels that would smuggle food and medicines in addition to the weapons Hamas provides its terrorist affiliate in Sinai. There is no reason, for example, why Egypt cannot allow trucks into Gaza from its territory.
While this crisis is severe for the people of Gaza, there might now an opportunity for Israel, the PA and the international community to be proactive and force Hamas to give up its irredentist delusion that it can destroy Israel and replace it with a caliphate. Israel should do this, though, without getting sucked into another vortex of violence by, for example, Hamas resuming rocket attacks on its civilians.
One way is pursuing talks with Egypt and the European Union to avert a humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip.
Egypt has already offered to relieve its part of the siege on Gaza in exchange for Hamas agreeing to a list of security demands.
The list includes a demand that Hamas hand over 17 men wanted by Cairo on terrorism charges, the cessation of weapons smuggling into Sinai, and the provision of information on the movement of terrorists into Gaza via tunnels, the London-based Arabic daily Asharq al-Awsat reported. Having Egypt take over responsibility for supplying Gaza with its needs should be an Israeli interest.
The enclave’s sole power plant stopped running in April, after Hamas ran out of fuel and refused to purchase more from the PA over what it said were exorbitantly high taxes.
While Gazans sit in the dark, Ramallah has cut its monthly healthcare budget for the Strip by about 90%, from some $4 million to $500,000, leaving patients without medicine and vital equipment.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser, told The Jerusalem Post: “The people of Gaza cannot do anything to change the situation. Hamas is a despotic, cruel regime which does not allow the people to voice any opposition.”
It is unclear what the long game is here. Will the people of Gaza rise up against their Hamas rulers and attempt to overthrow them, or will this cut in electricity actually lead Hamas to allow the PA to return to the Gaza Strip? Or, will this situation lead to a renewal of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, which could decide to initiate a war to divert attention away from the Islamist movement’s failures?