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(photo credit: AP [file])
Since the beginning of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the Palestinian people have been a victim to the interests of stronger regional powers. To a large extent, the Palestinian national movement is a product of this relationship. The declared purpose of the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948 was to help their "brethren" in Palestine, but in practice there is no doubt that Arab countries sought to capture parts of Israel for themselves.
Instead of establishing a Palestinian state after the 1948 war, the West Bank was annexed to Jordan. The fate of the Gaza Strip was not different, and it remained under Egyptian rule until the Six Day War in 1967. During their rule, the Palestinian refugee camps were used by the Egyptians as a human bank for the establishment of fedayeen units which terrorized the Negev in those years. The fate of Palestinians in other Arab countries was not much better. Palestinian refugee camps have existed in Lebanon and Syria for more than 60 years. Palestinians live there without citizenship or dignity.
BENEATH THE surface of the Gaza Strip, under the smoke, various regional interests are at stake and, as usual, the Palestinians are paying the price. Iran keeps on arming Hamas to assault Israel. It is said that Iran is prepared to fight to the last Palestinian. Syria hosts the leadership of Hamas for exactly the same purpose. From the relatively safe and distant Syrian capital Damascus, it is easy to decide to fight one of the strongest armies in the world.
The Egyptians' refusal to allow a plane from Qatar with humanitarian aid to land at El-Arish testifies to their sentiment toward their "brethren" in Gaza. Egypt's objective has changed little, as it seeks to preserve Gaza as a weapon against Israel, without being affected itself. Its "help" to its "brethren" in Gaza amounts to anti-Israel rhetoric and diplomacy rather than humanitarian aid, electricity, water, etc. Not to mention trying to solve the refugee problem, which could be achieved simply by resettling them several miles south of Gaza in El-Arish or elsewhere in the barely populated Sinai Peninsula.
Israeli policy toward Gaza needs to take these factors into account. The links which existed once between Gaza and Ramallah no longer exist. That link was neither desirable for Israel nor was it viable. Furthermore, even under the rule of Fatah in the Gaza Strip, countless rockets were fired, but the IDF remained with its hands tied. Therefore, replacing the rule of Hamas in Gaza should not be one of the goals of the current Gaza War. The moral aspect of such a step - the capture of Gaza by our soldiers to hand it over to Fatah - is creepy.
WITH FATAH again in control of Gaza, Hamas would be able to fire its rockets without the statelike responsibility it has now. The relative calm in the West Bank is due to the power balance between Hamas and Fatah. Fatah continues to exist only because of IDF control. Keeping this situation intact should be an Israeli interest, at least at the present.
Any long-term solution for Gaza lies in solving the refugee problem. The solution should be based on the principle that Israel is not responsible for them. Rehabilitating the refugees in the Gaza Strip is not a viable solution. The responsibility should fall on Egypt and in the Sinai Peninsula. Israel must act so that Egypt starts taking responsibility for the Gaza Strip.
Israel's policies toward the Strip should be based on the following principles:
â€¢ Isolating Gaza from Ramallah - this link was problematic to begin with, and is no longer viable.
â€¢ Maintaining the rule of Hamas in Gaza while weakening it, thus serving the following goals: maintaining the balance between Fatah and Hamas in the West Bank, creating relative calm there; and maintaining the statelike responsibility that Hamas has in Gaza.
â€¢ Creating an affinity between Gaza and Egypt, which gives hope for a long-term viable solution in the future.
Fifteen years of Palestinian self-rule have shown that there is an element in the Palestinian national movement that causes instability. Its leadership has proven time after time that its lack of pragmatism leads to disaster after disaster.
The writer, who works for a hi-tech company, is a member of the
Institute for Zionist Strategies Young Leadership Forum. This op-ed represents his views and not those of the institute.
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