No 1105 Posted by fw, July 22, 2014
“The current escalation in Gaza is a direct result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement.… Hamas is now seeking through violence what it couldn’t obtain through a peaceful handover of responsibilities. Israel is pursuing a return to the status quo…. For many Gazans, and not just Hamas supporters, it’s worth risking more bombardment and now the ground incursion, for a chance to change that unacceptable status quo. A cease-fire that fails to resolve the salary crisis and open Gaza’s border with Egypt will not last. It is unsustainable for Gaza to remain cut off from the world and administered by employees working without pay.”—Nathan Thrall
Nathan Thrall, Senior Analyst with the Middle East Program of the International Crisis Group, traces the events leading to the current round of horrific civilian casualties in Gaza. He points his finger of blame squarely at Israel and the US for placing Hamas in an unbearable bind.
Click on the following linked title to read his analysis. Alternatively, below is a reposting of the article with added subheadings and text highlighting. In addition, at the bottom of the post is a See Also link to an interview with Nathan, broadcast today by Democracy Now.
Israel, US, EU created obstacles that undermined the June 2014 Palestinian national consensus government
As Hamas fires rockets at Israeli cities and Israel follows up its extensive airstrikes with a ground operation in the Gaza Strip, the most immediate cause of this latest war has been ignored: Israel and much of the international community placed a prohibitive set of obstacles in the way of the Palestinian “national consensus” government that was formed in early June.
Ouster of Morsi in Egypt isolated Hamas, placing it in a desperate situation
That government was created largely because of Hamas’s desperation and isolation. The group’s alliance with Syria and Iran was in shambles. Its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt became a liability after a July 2013 coup replaced an ally, President Mohamed Morsi, with a bitter adversary, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Hamas’s coffers dried up as General Sisi closed the tunnels that had brought to Gaza the goods and tax revenues on which it depended.
Hamas was forced into reconciliation agreement with the PLO, largely on PLO terms
Seeing a region swept by popular protests against leaders who couldn’t provide for their citizens’ basic needs, Hamas opted to give up official control of Gaza rather than risk being overthrown. Despite having won the last elections, in 2006, Hamas decided to transfer formal authority to the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah. That decision led to a reconciliation agreement between Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization, on terms set almost entirely by the P.L.O. chairman and Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel immediately sought to undermine the agreement by preventing payment of Gaza’s civil servants and to block the easing of border closures
Israel immediately sought to undermine the reconciliation agreement by preventing Hamas leaders and Gaza residents from obtaining the two most essential benefits of the deal: 1) [preventing] the payment of salaries to 43,000 civil servants who worked for the Hamas government and continue to administer Gaza under the new one, and 2) [blocking] the easing of the suffocating border closures imposed by Israel and Egypt that bar most Gazans’ passage to the outside world.
In many ways, the reconciliation government could have served Israel’s interests
Yet, in many ways, the reconciliation government could have served Israel’s interests. It offered Hamas’s political adversaries a foothold in Gaza; it was formed without a single Hamas member; it retained the same Ramallah-based prime minister, deputy prime ministers, finance minister and foreign minister; and, most important, it pledged to comply with the three conditions for Western aid long demanded by America and its European allies: nonviolence, adherence to past agreements and recognition of Israel.
Israelis saw that improved West Bank-Gaza ties was a step closer to a two-state solution, which it opposed
Israel strongly opposed American recognition of the new government, however, and sought to isolate it internationally, seeing any small step toward Palestinian unity as a threat. Israel’s security establishment objects to the strengthening of West Bank-Gaza ties, lest Hamas raise its head in the West Bank. And Israelis who oppose a two-state solution understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for any lasting peace.
Still, despite its opposition to the reconciliation agreement, Israel continued to transfer the tax revenues it collects on the Palestinian Authority’s behalf, and to work closely with the new government, especially on security cooperation.
With pro-Western PLO technocrats in control, life in Gaza became worse
But the key issues of paying Gaza’s civil servants and opening the border with Egypt were left to fester. The new government’s ostensible supporters, especially the United States and Europe, could have pushed Egypt to ease border restrictions, thereby demonstrating to Gazans that Hamas rule had been the cause of their isolation and impoverishment. But they did not.
Instead, after Hamas transferred authority to a government of pro-Western technocrats, life in Gaza became worse.
Although Qatar offered to pay Gaza’s civil servants, American law prohibited this arrangement on the grounds that Hamas is a terrorist organization
Qatar had offered to pay Gaza’s 43,000 civil servants, and America and Europe could have helped facilitate that. But Washington warned that American law prohibited any entity delivering payment to even one of those employees — many thousands of whom are not members of Hamas but all of whom are considered by American law to have received material support from a terrorist organization.
When a UN envoy offered a work-around salary solution, the Obama administration caved to a threat by Israel’s foreign minister to sabotage the deal
When a United Nations envoy offered to resolve this crisis by delivering the salaries through the United Nations, so as to exclude all parties from legal liability, the Obama administration did not assist. Instead, it stood by as Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, called for the envoy’s expulsion on the grounds that he was “trying to funnel money” to Hamas.
So, Israel pursues a return to the status quo, and the US leaves Hamas out on a limb
Hamas is now seeking through violence what it couldn’t obtain through a peaceful handover of responsibilities. Israel is pursuing a return to the status quo ante, when Gaza had electricity for barely eight hours a day, water was undrinkable, sewage was dumped in the sea, fuel shortages caused sanitation plants to shut down and waste sometimes floated in the streets. Patients needing medical care couldn’t reach Egyptian hospitals, and Gazans paid $3,000 bribes for a chance to exit when Egypt chose to open the border crossing.
Faced with this intolerable situation, for Hamas the risk of more Israeli bombardment might lead to “a more generous cease-fire” agreement
For many Gazans, and not just Hamas supporters, it’s worth risking more bombardment and now the ground incursion, for a chance to change that unacceptable status quo. A cease-fire that fails to resolve the salary crisis and open Gaza’s border with Egypt will not last. It is unsustainable for Gaza to remain cut off from the world and administered by employees working without pay. A more generous cease-fire, though politically difficult for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would be more durable.
The only way out is a reversal of the West’s obstruction of the Palestinian reconciliation agreement
The current escalation in Gaza is a direct result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement. The road out of the crisis is a reversal of that policy.
Nathan Thrall is a Senior Analyst with the Middle East Program of the International Crisis Group covering Gaza, Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. He has written on American foreign policy, the Arab uprisings, Fatah, Hamas, Hizbollah, Iran, Israel, Palestinian politics, the peace process, and Salafi-Jihadi groups.
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