After 10 years under blockade, the people of the Gaza Strip have more than enough cause for despair and hatred of Israel. Yet, suddenly, hope stirs. Perhaps the Islamic State (ISIS,) of all organizations, will persuade Israel to remove the suffocating siege?
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The logic is magnificent in its absurdity. ISIS will carry out a terror attack in Istanbul, in which Israelis are killed. The president of Turkey will send a letter of condolence to the prime minister of Israel and the Israeli media will applaud the opportunity to renew relations with Turkey. Israel will then agree to ease the blockade, in order to take advantage of the diplomatic “opportunity” created by the terror attack. It will graciously open Gaza to Turkish experts and a suitable quantity of construction materials. And thus the blockade will dwindle and vanish.
Three of the four stages have already been executed successfully. But this is where the roughly 1.8 million Gazans might just remember that they have been burned by illusory hope before. When two Turkish fire-fighting planes joined the effort to extinguish a fire blazing on Mount Carmel in 2010, people in Gaza talked of “disaster diplomacy” and hope was high that Turkey and Israel would resume their embrace. They didn’t.
Almost six years later, another disaster has rekindled hope in Gaza, leading to the same familiar deliberations: Should Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan be allowed to pluck diplomatic fruit from an attack he couldn’t prevent? What about the potential for damage to relations between Israel and Egypt, which is in a state of panic over the potential Israel-Turkey reconciliation? And, yet again, the civilians of Gaza are turned into hostages, this time not of Hamas and its rift with the Palestinian Authority, but to international considerations, which will determine whether they acquire greater freedom of movement and the ability to rebuild their homes.
Gazans know the position of the Israeli army well – how it has been pushing for the blockade to be eased and for more work permits to be granted. They would like to believe that their distress really can influence the compassionate Jewish heart. That Israel will finally understand that 10 years of blockade haven’t prevented missile and terror attacks and casualties.
They would be glad for someone to solve the paradox for them: On the one hand, Israel views Hamas as being responsible for peace and quiet in Gaza but, on the other hand, it won’t give Hamas the civilian tools to keep that precious peace. Israel collaborates with Egypt against terrorism in Gaza but continues to fan the fires in the enclave.
The Gazans do not understand the Israeli dilemma regarding Turkey. If Israel was prepared to grant concessions and possibly even rescind the blockade for the sake of full diplomatic relations with Turkey, why shouldn’t it just go ahead and lift the blockade on its own, without being seen to have “overpaid” for the relations with Turkey? Erdogan certainly wouldn’t get mad and the president of Egypt wouldn’t accuse Israel of betrayal, since it wouldn’t be for Turkey’s sake that Israel lifts the blockade, but for its own.
The people of Gaza certainly have plenty of leisure to contemplate the paradoxes that distort Israeli policy. More than 38 percent of them are unemployed, rising to 53 percent among the young. Nor are they overly preoccupied with repairing their homes, as the amount of construction materials reaching the Strip meets just 14% of the need.
Israel has no real policy towards Gaza, other than the blockade. It has no clear goals and no action plan, aside from collective punishment, which does not clarify what it aims to achieve. All the Gazans can do is cast their hopes on Erdogan and, primarily, on ISIS – or any other terrorist organization operating in Turkey and happy to target Israelis. Then it’s back to the absurd logic of restored Turkish-Israeli relations bringing about a miracle. Sometimes fantasies do come true.