Nov 05,2018 -JORDAN TIMES –
Hassan A. Barari
For more than a decade, successive Israeli governments have kept blockading Gaza hoping this would trigger a civil revolt against Hamas. Even the American administrations have subscribed to this idea. During the Bush administration, America used to make the case that Hamas should fail in Gaza while the Palestinians Authority (PA) should succeed in the West Bank so that the Palestinians would opt to support the PA rather than Hamas.
And yet, this policy never paid off. Gazans have not revolted against Hamas. Nor has the PA succeeded in convincing the Palestinians that it would be able to lead them to liberation and independence. Once the Israelis internalised this fact, they resorted to the tactic of keeping the pressure as a means to coerce Hamas to do what Israel wants.
Explicit in the shifting Israeli tactics and strategies is the importance of the people of Gaza. Israel has thought that Gazans would do something but they did not. Zvi Barel, from Haaretz, argues that the inhabitants of Gaza turned into a strategic force that only propped up Hamas rule. The thousands of Gazans who have kept protesting for months is a demonstration of their potent support for the national cause.
Obviously, the consistent public display of protest against Israel is a clear reminder for us all that the Palestinians will never quit their dream of achieving self-determination. The international community can always turn a blind eye to Israel’s policies, but this will not make the Palestinians less believers in their cause. Perhaps, Israel has benefited from the Arab Spring and the preoccupation of the Arabs on other issues. Nevertheless, the Palestinian cause is still the central cause for the Arabs and can always recapture the regional attention.
I am not sure that Israel seeks to change the behaviour of Hamas. On the contrary, pressuring Hamas all the years has backfired. Indeed, Hamas has sent a clear message that it seeks reconciliation with Israel. Signals of their acceptance of the two-state formula were sent on various occasions. Israel could have lifted the siege on Gaza and this would most likely have changed the attitude and behaviour of Hamas.
But, let us get to the bottom of the issue and ask if Israeli is really ready for peace based on a two-state principle. Israeli policies of expansion and its settlement policy have chipped away at the two-state formula. To be sure, Israel cannot offer the Palestinians the concessions necessary for establishing an independent Palestinian state without generating an internal conflict that the government cannot simply survive. Needless to say, Israeli prime ministers always place political survival above making peace.
Seen in this way, one is confused. Does Israel want Hamas to change its attitude to make peace with Israel? What are the objectives of the siege placed on the Gazans? Perhaps, the best option for Israel is to keep Hamas under siege, arguing that Hamas is a violent movement. This pretext may spare the Israeli government the need to justify its current policies. While a deal with Hamas is possible, power dynamics in Israeli society would not allow for the government to go that direction.