The Israeli government has acceded to a request by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to reduce the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip as long as the latter’s Hamas government refuses to share in the costs. It’s sad to discover that only when there’s an opportunity to hurt Palestinians does Israel’s government show no hesitation about cooperating with the PA and manage to see a partner in its leader, Abbas.
But Israel is deluding itself if it believes it can shun responsibility for what happens in Gaza. It’s still the occupying power there, even if its soldiers are no longer in Gaza’s territory.
The cruel closure it has imposed on Gaza for more than a decade, its denial of freedom of movement to some 2 million Gaza residents, either to the West Bank or abroad, its control over the population registry and the limitations it places on humanitarian aid aren’t just a clear demonstration of direct rule. They are also bringing the territory, which is already boiling and bubbling, to the point of explosion.
The Israel Defense Forces are well aware of the threat lurking at Israel’s door, and the government is likewise aware of the danger. The IDF made a calculation and found that even from a strictly economic standpoint, Israel would be better off paying Gaza’s electricity bills than being dragged into a war. The prolonged sanctions game hasn’t toppled Hamas, but our politicians refuse to listen to the military professionals.
There’s no need for convoluted explanations to understand that a further reduction in Gaza’s power supply will severely worsen the already difficult situation there. Hospitals are cutting back on vital services, Gaza’s already limited economic activity has been further reduced, and untreated sewage will not harm Gaza residents alone, but will also reach Ashkelon. This worsening crisis is liable to be the spark that ignites a new and unnecessary violent conflict between Israel and Hamas.
But this danger doesn’t bother Abbas, who is motivated by his political rivalry with Hamas. He apparently believes that another deadly military confrontation won’t undermine his own status, that of his Fatah party or that of residents of the West Bank, and that the missiles won’t reach his headquarters in Ramallah.
Israel, in contrast, won't be able to say its hands are clean if sick people, including babies and the elderly, will die in Gaza because of the hospitals’ prolonged power outages. And it certainly won't be able to hide beneath Abbas’ apron and say its cruelty relied on a seal of approval from him.
Israelis, and especially those living near Gaza, don’t need another round of violence breaking out because of the power struggle between Hamas and Fatah. The Israeli government must order the supply of electricity to Gaza to continue, and make it clear to Abbas that internal Palestinian battles won’t be waged on the back of either Israel’s own citizens or the people living under its control.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.
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