The coordinator of government activities in the Palestinian territories, Brigadier-General Eitan Dangot, has asked that the government approve an additional 5,000 permits for Palestinian laborers to enter Israel. That’s good for everyone. Politically, it’s good for Israel. Economically, it’s good for the Palestinian Authority. From a security perspective, it’s not a problem. This is evidenced by the fact that those 5,000 permits were listed as part of a package of gestures to the Palestinian Authority that Prime Minister Netanyahu authorized Yitzhak Molcho to offer, when some three months ago he took part in futile talks in Jordan.
But now that elections have been announced, no minister in the Israeli government will vote for something that is likely to create, heaven forbid, an impression that he is doing something on behalf of the Palestinians. Such a vote would basically amount to political suicide. While from the perspective of the security establishment, the 5,000 permits can even be doubled, government ministers, on the eve of elections, fear the stain of being perceived as friendly to the Palestinians.
They’re already trembling with fear that the public will discover the government recently decided to save the Hamas government from economic collapse. No more, no less. Israel today is the primary provider of gas to Gaza at 150,000 barrels per day. This happened after Egypt turned off Gaza’s gas flow, and popular agitation against Hamas began to stir in the streets of Gaza. Energy Minister Landau and Finance Minister Steinitz would certainly be happy to erase that decision from their resumes.
Coming elections are not only a recipe for political stagnation, but also for a contrarian policy: instead of permitting the entry of Palestinian laborers, we’ll permit the construction of 1,000 apartments in Greater Jerusalem. That’s what’ll get us another Knesset seat.
The security establishment is tense. Since Land Day roughly two months ago [March 30, 2012], the Central Command has been at a particularly high alertness level. The present calm in the West Bank is costing the army sleep. It’s clear that things are happening beneath this calm. It’s not possible that while thousands demonstrate in Tahrir Square and anti-Israel demonstrations spread in Jordan and in the West Bank, nothing is happening. And Nakba Day is nine days from now [today, May 15, 2012].
The Prison Service is holding intensive and anxious talks about the future. The establishment is trying to put public opinion to sleep on the matter of the prisoner hunger strike, and the security establishment claims that the strikers are actually secretly eating dried food that they hoarded. But the facts indicate that some 2,000 security prisoners — out of more than 4,000 — are on some sort of hunger strike, which is creating shock waves in the Palestinian street. Ten prisoners have been hospitalized. Enough that one dies for the upcoming Nakba Day to turn into the start of a national uprising.
So yes, it’s true that the prisoner strike, which is meant to influence global public opinion on administrative detention, must not succeed. It’s true that we should not allow the prisoners to hold bank accounts and enjoy multiple benefits. But following the Shalit prisoner-swap deal, there is no more rationale behind prohibiting visits from family members from Gaza. Except that elections are coming...
For now, the West Bank’s coffers are emptying — they are experiencing a deficit of $1.2 billion and 17% unemployment (officially), the Palestinian Authority isn’t paying its suppliers and contractors and it is unclear every month whether it will pay its employees. Even the US president has understood that he needs to circumvent congressional opposition and issue an executive order to transfer some $200 million so that the Palestinian economy floats for several more months. But the Israeli coalition gets in line with the right, not dealing with national interests but rather with counting seats.
It’s not that there’s a vacuum in dealings with the Palestinians. Everywhere we have become dormant, extreme elements are filling in. Today’s quiet is reminiscent of the calm before the first intifada. Except for one difference — we didn’t know how to recognize the signs then. Today we know, but insist on continuing to live in a fool’s paradise.