By Dow Marmur
Jerusalem (Oct. 10, 2017) – The much heralded reconciliation between Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since Israel’s withdrawal in 2005, and Fatah, which rules the West Bank, should be good news not only for Gazans, who live under terrible conditions that may now improve, but also for those who advocate a two-state solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
If Gaza and the West Bank will be part of the same government, a Palestinian state becomes a more realistic possibility assuming that a treaty will include a passage through Israeli territory between the West Bank and Gaza as a tunnel, a road or an overpass or, more likely, a combination of all three.
But it’s too early to celebrate. Critics fear that Hamas wants the Palestinian Authority to take over Gaza because the terrorist regime has failed the population there. By letting the Palestinian Authority be nominally in charge, Hamas would be able to concentrate on its terrorist activities and become an even greater menace on Israel’s southern border. It would come to emulate the terrorist organization Hezbollah operating out of Lebanon along Israel’s northern border.
Analysts speculate that if he’s convinced that that’s the case, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, will not accept such a “reconciliation,” even though the president of Egypt seems to be the broker. Abbas will be satisfied if Israel will continue to be blamed – many say with some justification – for much of the plight of the population in Gaza. Critics tend to ignore Israel’s security concerns, which it uses as a reason (or an excuse) for virtually sealing off Gaza from the rest of the world.
It’s thus also possible, alas, that Israel will put up new obstacles for peace because, in addition to fearing Hamas insurrection, its current government policies seem to point to a desire to annex more and more of the West Bank territories where there’re Jewish settlements, which, of course, will make peace even more unlikely. The current U.S. ambassador in Israel may have had that possibility in mind when he stated, according to media reports, that the settlements occupy no more than two percent of the West Bank thus implying that the world need not make much of a fuss about the annexation attempts.
We’re given to understand that the U.S. State Department wasn’t amused by the ambassador’s statement. And President Trump – the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House, according to Prime Minister Netanyahu – is reported to have stated that the prime minister of Israel is much more difficult when it comes to peace negotiations than the president of the Palestinian Authority.
That characterization rings true for many of us, but we’ve nobody to represent us around the cabinet table in Jerusalem. Progressive groups in Israel may launch campaigns, organize marches and demonstrations but the real power lies with the right-wing parties in government. And they seem determined to hold on to the territories and pass legislation that will make annexation legal in their eyes.
But if Trump is determined to show the world that he and he alone knows how to make peace in the Middle East, he may put enough pressure on the government of Israel to make it modify its increasingly reactionary stance. For some of us this is the most optimistic prognosis and proof that Netanyahu is indeed right: Donald Trump is the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House.
So let’s hope that Gaza will become part of the Palestinian Authority and that life there will improve. This outcome may indeed make it possible for a Palestinian state to live side by side with Israel.