A long-term Gaza ‘truce’ in the current political climate should be viewed as a mistake.
True, Gaza, reeling under the weight of a horrific Israeli siege, is in need of respite. But the intentions of the United States and Israel are overtly sinister. These two countries will not allow for the rebuilding of Gaza, nor will they, in the long-term, spare the Resistance factions of the Strip.
Israeli politicians are divided between those who believe that a truce is in Israel’s strategic objectives — the likes of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — and those who don’t. The latter is championed by Jewish Home party leader, Naftali Bennett — Israel’s Minister of Education and a possible successor to Netanyahu, who told an Israeli annual security conference recently that using the truce as a way to ‘buy time’ will backfire. Bennett enunciated his approach saying: “In our neighbourhood, those who don’t mow the lawn, are mowed by the grass.” In fact, there is little disagreement among top officials and the army brass in Israel regarding the recurring need to “mow the lawn”. It is only a question of when.
Israel is in the process of building an underground barrier, along the fence separating it from the besieged Gaza Strip. There are also massive investments in various other schemes all aimed at tightening the noose around Gaza’s two million inhabitants. These projects, which are partly funded by the US, are yet to be completed, hence Bennett’s statement, “buying time”.
A truce with Hamas, that has no political horizon and will surely divide an already fragmented Palestinian leadership, is certainly in Israel’s interests. In fact, majority of Israelis support the proposed truce which is currently under discussion in Egypt. The mood in Israel, at least for now, is not geared towards a new war. All that matters to the Israeli public, for now, is that the truce should include the release of the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, that Israel believes are held in Gaza.
US motives behind its support of the truce talks are unsurprisingly similar to those of Israel. Israel and the US are working diligently to change the rules of the game entirely. In fact, what is inaptly termed as the ‘Deal of the Century’ is precisely that — redefining the ‘conflict’ altogether so that fundamental issues to Palestinians for any future peace agreement are removed from the agenda.
With unconditional support from the administration of US President Donald Trump, Tel Aviv sees a golden opportunity to redefine what has, for decades, constituted the legal and political foundation of the ‘Palestinian-Israeli conflict’.
Indeed, the new strategy has so far targeted the status of occupied East Jerusalem as an Occupied Palestinian city and the right of return for Palestinian refugees as well. It aims to create a new reality in which Israel achieves its strategic goals while the rights of Palestinians are limited to mere humanitarian issues.
Clearly, Israel and the US are using the division between Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, to their advantage.
A carrot-and-stick approach is being applied in earnest. While for years Fatah received numerous financial and political perks from Washington, Hamas subsisted in isolation under a permanent siege and protracted state of war. It seems that the Trump administration — under the auspices of the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner — is now turning the tables.
True, the subservience of the Palestinian National Authority (dominated by Fatah) and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, have been successfully tested in the past but, under the new administration, the US demands complete ‘respect’, thus total obedience.
Fatah opposes indirect Hamas-Israeli talks on the grounds that any agreement should be facilitated by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), not by individual factions. In truth, what irks Abbas is the fact that his party, which has dominated Palestinian political space for decades, is being increasingly marginalised by its traditional benefactors — Tel Aviv and Washington.
Hamas should, however, be wary of the long-term consequences of its political manoeuvring. It makes no sense that the very forces that invested in the isolation and destruction of Gaza could, at any point, be its saviours.
While the short-term truce signed in Cairo last month was justifiable on humanitarian grounds, a long-term truce that determines the nature and scope of Palestinian Resistance and further separates between the political aspirations of Palestinians in Gaza and those in the rest of Palestine is a political gamble, to say the least.
Sidelining Gaza from the rest of the Palestinian struggle is now a joint Israeli-US strategy predicated on, firstly, choking off Palestinians from badly needed funds and, secondly, developing several tracks of talks involving Palestinian factions separately.
Abbas has little with which to bargain. Hamas has relatively greater political capital — as it has operated with less dependence on the Israeli-US-western camp. But years of relentless siege, interrupted by massive deadly Israeli wars, and political miscalculations have propelled Gaza into a permanent humanitarian crisis.
While a temporary truce between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian groups in Gaza went into effect on August 15, a long-term truce is still being negotiated. Israeli daily Haaretz, citing Israeli officials, has said that a final truce will include a comprehensive ceasefire, opening all border crossings, expanding the permitted fishing area off the Gaza coast and the overhauling of Gaza’s destroyed economic infrastructure — among other stipulations.
Regardless of whether a permanent truce is achieved between Israel and the Hamas-led Gaza factions, the sad truth is that whatever grand illusion is harboured by Washington and Tel Aviv at the moment, it is almost entirely based on exploiting Palestinian divisions, for which the Palestinian leadership is to be wholly blamed.
Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and editor of Palestine Chronicle. His latest book is The Last Earth: A Palestinian Story (Pluto Press, London, 2018).