Analysis: Israel's ongoing Gaza connection

The so-called "disengagement" from Gaza two years ago is the source of Israel's dilemma this weekend.

Disengagement88 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Some 70 percent of Gaza's electricity comes from Israel. So, too, some 40% of its water. Gaza's agricultural and other exports go out via the border crossings into Israel, as well. The misnomer that was the so-called "disengagement" from Gaza, two years ago, is the source of Israel's dilemma this weekend, as Hamas seeks to bring stability to the Strip, having murderously wrested full control there. Having Hamastan on the Israeli doorstep is bad enough. For Israel to itself facilitate the thriving of Hamastan, by ensuring, for instance, an uninterrupted supply of power to the new Islamist government is blatantly self-defeating. But the government is concerned, too, that were it to shut off the electricity, and close off the other dependencies that have been maintained despite the ostensible disengagement, it would create a humanitarian disaster in the Strip for which it would be held responsible internationally. It would dearly love to see Egypt take some of the responsibility for the grim new reality. But Egypt, in a sense, was a prime enabler of the internal Palestinian Authority coup of the past week, having failed to thwart the relentless flow of arms into the Strip. Entrusting the Egyptians now with a greater responsibility for a flow of basic assistance into the Strip, and for the flow of exports out of it, even were Cairo to agree, is a recipe for yet more serious arms smuggling - a further influx of weaponry that would plainly cost Israel heavily. For now, it seems, Israel is inclining toward a further maintenance of the post-disengagement connection to Gaza, a maintenance of humanitarian assistance. It may be that this is achieved in contact with a Hamas-tolerated Fatah representation at the border crossings, or in direct contacts with Hamas itself. The next few days will tell. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert flew out to Washington overnight for talks with George W. Bush, doubtless bent on working up a new strategy with the American president. In a congratulatory phone call to President-elect Shimon Peres late last week, Bush is reported to have spoken of the need to ensure, on the one hand, that terrorists not be allowed to thrive and, on the other, that moderates be encouraged. These may be admirable sentiments, but they represent no panacea when the relative moderates have themselves relentlessly engaged in terrorism and failed to strive concertedly for reconciliation, and when they were rejected by their own people as corrupt. The Palestinian public voted Hamas into office last year, knowing its vicious history and its uncompromising outlook. Those voters should not have been surprised by its brutality these past few days. Now Israel and the international community must grapple both with how to save the Palestinian people from the leadership that it freely chose, and how to protect Israel, a year after it faced off against a fundamentalist takeover north of the border, against a fundamentalist takeover to the south.