It’s not often that we get a chance to say something positive about Bibi. This time we have to praise him for doing the right thing in looking for a long-term deal with Hamas in Gaza. Even though the usual barbs are already being aimed – such as, Since when does he have any ideology? – it’s not ideology that’s motivating him, but the desire to bring quiet to the south. It’s inconceivable that every other summer there will be a war in Gaza, with any two Hamas operatives shelling our communities in the south any time they feel like it. Along comes Tony Blair, presumably hungering for a Nobel Peace Prize, who happens to be in the neighborhood, telling us that in the absence of a permanent settlement it would be best if Israel and the fiefdom of Gaza reach a partial arrangement. Seemingly, this is a brilliant idea in a season in which nothing else is happening.
Israel doesn’t need another bloody war such as Operation Protective Edge, which subdivides the conflict. Reaching a deal is not just in Israel’s interest but is also in the interest of Khaled Meshal and tens of thousands of Gazans who are homeless and without work. Will Abu Mazen be angry? Let him be, he’s on his way out anyway. He is gradually losing his hold on the Palestinian Authority in areas that are becoming lawless. His meeting with Zionist Camp chairman Isaac Herzog was pathetic. The host forgot to hoist the Israeli flag in honor of a visit by the Prince of Peace from the House of Herzog.
The Palestinian Authority president is fulfilling his commitments to Israel but is not really stopping terrorist activity, which is slowly creeping into Israel from the West Bank. From our perspective Abu Mazen is not a dominant player in the peace process, other than providing some token cooperation. The knives and stones could become a murderous intifada within Israel itself. The more Jewish blood is spilt, the more seriously Israel might consider Tony Blair’s proposal to relate to Gaza as a “state.” Those who rule there will have no choice but to come to the negotiation table.
Hamas’ military machinery may be rehabilitated but there is a real need to urgently rehabilitate infrastructure and improve the state of Gaza’s economy. There is currently so much resentment there among large segments of the population that a rebellion against the ruling government could erupt. Egyptian President Sissi’s army is dealing severe blows to Gaza, increasingly isolating it from the rest of the world. Iran, enjoying significant new cash injections, is not hurrying to supply the millions required to rehabilitate the Strip.
The more interesting aspect of Blair’s initiative is the involvement of Turkey, or to be more specific, of Erdogan, in the idea of saving Gaza. While noting this, we should mention the numerous denials flying about like the autumn birds. “There are no contacts with Turkey regarding Hamas,” came the denial from Jerusalem. Should one believe it? Perhaps. On one hand, only last month a Hamas operative was expelled from Ankara. On the other hand, Meshal was recently Erdogan’s guest. In any case, in the opinion of a knowledgeable expert, this is the time to repair our relations with Turkey, especially if the idea of a new approach to Gaza captures our Oriental imagination.
When Sharon conceived the idea of disengaging from Gaza, the undersigned had the luck or privilege to hold that signal interview with him about the evacuation of 21 Jewish communities. It was clear to me at the time that Sharon’s aim was to neutralize Gaza as a center of terrorism. He didn’t succeed in that. Shortly after the evacuation, mortar shells were lobbed at his own ranch. We didn’t act every time we thought the time was right to do so. It didn’t always work, but mainly, we didn’t always want to.
The term “there is no one to talk to” is bankrupt. We talked to Sadat, we talked to Assad and to Arafat. We’ll probably end up talking to Hezbollah leader Nasrallah and to Iran’s leader Khamenei as well. Maybe even with Obama. Certainly with Hamas. Who knows? Maybe we’ll end up with three states for two peoples. Actually, it’s four states, since the hilltop youth also want one.