A Lull of No Return

A cease-fire in Gaza is part of the system of divide and conquer that will enable Israeli control over the long term.

Israelis' opinions on the "lull" in the Gaza Strip usually divide along the usual left-right split. Between those who support a show of force to break the Hamas government in Gaza and end the Qassam rocket attacks, and those who believe in a confluence of interests between Israel and Hamas through Egyptian mediation.

One of the causes delaying such an agreement is Israel's difficulty in accepting that Hamas has proved it controls the Gaza Strip and operates a military force that skirmishes with the Israel Defense Forces and leaves the impression that it is Israel, and not the Palestinians, that needs a cease-fire.

Israel's wish to achieve a deal is therefore viewed as a weakness, and those who oppose negotiations are viewed as being to the right of the government. The debate relates to the immediate situation: Who benefits from the cease-fire, which is considered temporary? Is it Hamas, which will now have time to increase the range of its rockets, or is it Israel, which will be able to develop a defense against the rockets?

In the background hover the fears that the cease-fire, even if unofficial, grants Hamas legitimacy and thereby harms the Israeli interest of ending Hamas rule in Gaza and renewing the Palestinian Authority's control there.

The struggle against Hamas unites the majority of Israelis and international bodies who are partners in the blockade of the Gaza Strip. But it is worth examining this struggle in the long term and integrate it into the historical process now underway. Such an examination would reveal that paradoxically the right, which strives to destroy Hamas, needs to support the cease-fire and the establishment of Hamas control in Gaza. And the left, which supports a single state led by Fatah, needs to object to the establishment of a separate government in Gaza.

The cease-fire accompanied by an agreement on the crossings, and in particular the opening of the Rafah crossing, will help Hamas to cement its control over Gaza. They will establish their own organization, which will grow and spread and become permanent - and distance themselves from the government in the West Bank. It seems that the cease-fire, even if it is fragile, will mark a point of no return in the splitting off of the Gaza Palestinians into a separate authority.

It is possible to pretend that the main battle is against Hamas, which seeks the destruction of Israel. It is also possible to blame Israel, whose consistent policies led to the detachment of Gaza and the Hamas takeover. It is also possible to claim that the split between the West Bank and Gaza is structural and the Palestinians of the West Bank always feared being flooded by Gazans, and that is why they never protested too loudly against the nonimplementation of the safe passage between Gaza and the West Bank.

Whether we give Israel credit for a sophisticated strategy that produced results, or whether we call the result a coincidence, it is clear that the additional split in the Palestinian people serves long-term Israeli interests.

The isolation of a million and a half Gazans allows indirect, outside control. This could be replaced - after a long period of violence and blockade - by a policy of nonintervention, and even indirect aid for economic development, as a way to divert human resources from violence to constructive channels.

The accessibility to the outside world, by land and sea, and an efficient and uncorrupt government are likely to turn that piece of land into the Palestinian state.

The other Palestinian canton, whose area is geting smaller and smaller due to the spread of the settlements, now has 2 million people and is considered the heartland of the Palestinian people. But it is quickly turning into an adjunct of Israel for all practical purposes, and it is experiencing political processes similar to those experienced by Israeli Arabs since 1948.

These processes will be exposed when the Palestinian Authority falls apart on its own, once the Gaza cease-fire gives it a fatal blow.

This is the system of divide and conquer that will enable Israeli control over the long term. Its cornerstone is the isolation of Gaza. This is the way to view the cease-fire in Gaza, and then we will see who is the true right or left.