Editorial

The Risk of War in Gaza

Israel must immediately initiate a major change in policy concerning Gazans. Otherwise, it will be directly responsible for the next war

Palestinians carrying gas canisters walk down a street in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, February 4, 2018.
SAID KHATIB/AFP

IDF chief Gadi Eisenkot’s stark warning that the economic collapse of Gaza could lead to a military confrontation in the near term couldn’t have been clearer. One would think that the certain link between terrible economic distress and a violent eruption would be self-evident. But the Israeli government still subscribes to the notion that the worse the Gazans have it, the more likely the Hamas regime will weaken.

This belief threatens the security of the State of Israel. Even if one ignores the moral aspects of the distress, the poverty and the lack of any diplomatic or economic possibilities, the policy of closure and the struggle against continued Hamas rule are tainted by irreconcilable contradictions.

More than a decade of blockading Gaza has proven that the Israeli formula doesn’t work. The Hamas regime hasn’t weakened; on the contrary, it is even accorded legitimacy by Israel itself, which considers it responsible for whatever happens in the Strip. At the same time, it isn’t allowing Hamas to manage the civilian infrastructure in Gaza and allow its two million residents to live a normal life. Israel is seeking to overthrow the Hamas regime through a civil revolt, but that hasn’t happened yet. Moreover, it has no policy for who will manage Gaza if Hamas falls.

At last week’s conference of donor nations, Israel indeed presented an ambitious plan that included the construction of electricity and desalination infrastructure at an estimated cost of a billion dollars, but it set two impossible conditions: The donor countries would have to finance the plan, and it could only be implemented under the supervision of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel is demanding that the donor nations pull its chestnuts out of the fire, as if they are responsible for the distress in Gaza. But even if those countries would agree to this, they and the residents of Gaza would turn into hostages of the PA’s ability to assert control there. Meanwhile, Israel is struggling against any cooperation between Hamas and Fatah, without which the PA would have no power in the Strip.

These arguments erode Israel’s claim that it is not responsible for the disaster taking place in Gaza. If a military confrontation in Gaza erupts, it will be impossible to accept the excuse that Hamas alone is responsible for it. The government must immediately initiate a major change in its policy, to allow the construction of factories, to grant many more work permits to Gaza residents, to permit foreign investment and to broaden export permits. Otherwise, it will be directly responsible indeed for the next war.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.