What if Gaza ends where it began?

Gaza continues to be immolated. Israeli airstrikes killed another 8 people overnight, which means nearly 2100 people there have been killed since the fighting began, and it’s becoming clear that the IDF is systematically targeting what little economic infrastructure Gaza has actually developed. Hamas executed 18 alleged spies yesterday, and one of their rockets killed a child in a southern Israeli kibbutz. It seems to me there’s been a palpable loss of interest in what’s happening in Gaza in the few days since the last temporary ceasefire was broken, but admittedly it’s only been a few days, and the intensity of the fighting also seems to be lower so far. Still, this can’t continue indefinitely.

Egypt is calling for an open-ended ceasefire while talks go on, while Hamas is trying to pressure Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to join the International Criminal Court, which would undoubtedly bring both Hamas and Israel under investigation for war crimes. Hamas is already a global outcast, so they’ve got a lot less to lose under such an investigation than the Israelis do. Meanwhile, proposals for a lasting Gaza peace deal are being floated by Egypt (Hamas rejected this one) and US and European members of the UN Security Council. Both plans seem to be pretty similar on the major points: Gaza’s borders, including its maritime border, will be opened under international observation, Israel will provide for rebuilding Gaza, and in return the Palestinian Authority will replace Hamas as Gaza’s controlling political authority. The UNSC version would have the advantage of putting a Security Council resolution behind the proposal, which would allow Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas to present the deal to their own governments as something of a fait accompli.

The thing is, if these proposals are really laying out what a final agreement will look like, and Israel’s main win is going to be a PA takeover of Gaza, then Israel has some explaining to do, since they could have gotten the same win by doing nothing at all. The Palestinian unity government that was sworn into office in June, the one that adopted the PA position toward talks with Israel in full, would have accomplished the goal of putting Gaza under PA control (after some political wrangling, to be sure) without all the loss of life and property we’ve seen in the interim. Netanyahu denounced that unity government for incorporating Hamas, despite the fact that the terms on which it was formed represented a capitulation by Hamas, not a victory for them. Now, if Netanyahu accepts a peace deal that essentially looks like status quo ante bellum, then he’s got to explain why Operation Protective Edge was about anything more than an opportunistic move to kill a couple of thousand Gazans for the heck of it.

To be sure, it’s not at all clear that this hypothetical UNSC deal will come to fruition. Hamas may now reject the idea of a PA-led unity government, after Abbas basically cooperated with Netanyahu to tamp down any unrest in West Bank while Gaza was being pummeled. Israel may ultimately demand more Palestinian concessions than the very compromised Abbas can deliver. But if the Gaza crisis ends where it began, then somebody will have to explain why 2000+ Palestinians had to die to get nowhere.

Author: DWD

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