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A Bit More on the Gaza Strip Diplomacy / Prof.B.Rubin
Elsewhere, I have explained in great detail the changes in Israeli policy as well as the implications of Western policy in the Gaza Strip: economic normalization meaning also normalization of the existence of a Gaza Hamas-ruled statelet. Israel, seeing that there is not going to be any "rollback" to remove Hamas from power has basically accepted a containment startegy of limited the military weaponry and capability of Hamas.
The U.S. government and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair as the Quartet negotiator have been critical of Israel's concessions as insufficient. While Israel is offering 130 truckloads a day of non-military goods and construction material only for demonstrably non-military projects, the U.S. and European governments want 400 trucks a day, which is what some aid agencies say is needed.
In addition, they want the Gaza Strip to be able to export goods, mainly agricultural, in order to make money.
On one level, the whole debate is absurd since they could just ask Egypt to open the border to this extent. But, of course, the intention is to pressure Israel. Ironically, if they demanded Egypt let more sent in, this would run up against Cairo's argument that it doesn't want to strengthen a revolutionary Islamist statelet on its own border.
It is amazing to see the extent to which the Western politicians are simply 100 percent deaf to the strategic implications of these issues. They don't want a Hamas regime attacking Israel or one that's military strengthened, but they just don't understand that any Hamas regime is going to attack Israel eventually--and not that far in the future.
The concept that a Hamas regime is going to spread revolutionary Islamism, subvert Israel, make any peace agreement impossible, strengthen Iranian influence in the Arab world, or do a half-dozen other things damaging to regional stability and Western influence does not seem to be crossing their minds.
It is easy to call Western leaders and diplomats names (fools, idiots, etc.) or to make fun of them. Yet on this specific failure such a response seems especially appropriate.
Israel has looked for a policy that preserves its security to the maximum extent, undermines Hamas as much as possible, and reduces international criticism, in that order of priority. Thus, the cabinet has approved an altered strategy on the Gaza Strip.
The main principle can be summarized as placing the emphasis on anything that can be used for military purposes against Israel but easing up on the destabilizing effort. This makes sense since the international community's protection of the Hamas regime--despite the fact that it is a revolutionary Islamist, terrorist, genocide-intending, anti-Western client of Iran that will fight Israel and subvert Egypt in future--makes its overthrow impossible any way.
The June 20 cabinet decision states:
"Israel’s policy is to protect its citizens against terror, rocket and other attacks from Gaza. In seeking to keep weapons and war materiel out of Gaza while liberalizing the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza...."
Thus, the first principle is:
1. Publish a list of items not permitted into Gaza that is limited to weapons and war materiel, including problematic dual-use items. All items not on this list will be permitted to enter Gaza.
This is a great contraction of previous lists. A range of construction materials--cement, which can also be used for military bunkers; pipes that can be used for making rockets--must be watched closely. Hence, point 2:
2. Enable and expand the inflow of dual-use construction materials for approved PA-authorized projects (schools, health facilities, water, sanitation, etc.) that are under international supervision and for housing projects such as the U.N. housing development being completed at Khan Yunis. Israel intends to accelerate the approval of such projects in accordance with accepted mechanisms and procedures.
The theory is that international agencies will make sure the materiels are used for building nice things, not pillboxes and reinforced bunkers. No doubt Israel will report on whether this promise is kept (though reports to the contrary will probably be ignored)
The land crossings will be expanded to admit more materials at a faster rate for sending into the Gaza Strip, and procedures for letting people leave to get medical treatment or other purposes will be streamlined..
What does Israel get in exchange?
The decision states: "The current security regime for Gaza will be maintained. Israel reiterates that along with the U.S., EU and others, it considers Hamas a terrorist organization. The international community must insist on a strict adherence to the Quartet principles regarding Hamas." In other words there will be the continued political isolation of Hamas which, by the way, is still holding Gilad Shalit captive.
What does Israel give up? The entire strategy of trying to reduce Gaza's economy and the rewards that Hamas can give its supporters. In other words, while Hamas's military capacity is kept as low as possible it can politically consolidate and stay in power for decades. While this represents a considerable "retreat" it is not so meaningful in practice since--as noted above--nobody is going to help Israel or allow it to overthrow the regime in Gaza.
As if that's not bad enough. Obama administration officials and Quartet negotiator Tony Blair complained that Israel had didn’t give enough unilateral concessions. It should be clear by now that no matter what Israel does this U.S. government will never return the favor but simply line up for the next unilateral concession. Israeli governments will bear this in mind; Western media will fail to understand why Israel rejects demands by those who neither keep their promises nor provide benefits for increased risks.
So, this is the future: A revolutionary Islamist statelet, an outpost of Iran, a base for spreading terrorism and subversion, a source for genocidal antisemitic propaganda has been established for the long term on the shores of the Mediterranean. For all practical purposes, one could have made this declaration tentatively two or four years ago. Now it is clear.
Some people might find the above paragraph to be controversial. But it is all obvious. Hamas will be in power in the Gaza Strip for a long time. Who is going to remove it? It is a client of Iran. Certainly it is under embargo for arms but it does function a lot like an independent state for daily practical purposes. It will return to war against Israel at the first opportunity. It teaches its people to kill Jews and wipe Israel off the map and to be terrorists. That doesn't mean all Gazans support it, but those who don't can do nothing about it. Moreover, the Hamas regime receives indirect aid due to the Palestinian Authority paying much of its civil service and Western projects designed to help its people.
Yes, of course there are limits on what it can do given its size and the pressure still put on by Egypt and Israel. But indeed the above paragraph is an accurate description. Putting it bluntly sounds harsh, but the reality is harsh indeed.
And what could be more ironic than the fact that Western governments frantic for an Israeli-Palestinian peace have just helped put one more gigantic roadblock in the way of such an outcome? Even without Hamas ruling almost half of those under Palestinian rule, the Palestinian Authority probably wouldn't be able to make peace. The consolidation of a Hamas state makes that inability a certainty.
While a change in Israeli policy can be said to mark this new era, the outcome should not be blamed on the Israeli government since the situation was already in place and made inevitable by Western policy. The world has no idea what it has done, how many bad things and how much bloodshed will arise from this failure. In future, it will become very familiar with this reality. People will write about this being true in five or ten years. You are reading about it right now.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal.