Israel, Do Yourself a Favor And Treat Gaza as a State

Article Summary
Israel's refusal to treat Hamas as a de-facto state is a mistake, writes Giora Eiland. Making distinctions between Gaza’s rulership, population and terrorist organizations deprives Israel of a cohesive "enemy state" that can be held responsible for its activities and denied supplies from the object of its aggression.

The time-out between the last round of fire and the one that will come afterward gives us an opportunity to conduct a strategic examination of our policy regarding Gaza. Since the Cast Lead military operation, and more intensely in the recent months, we have been conducting the struggle by using only tactical tools. Each time, we ascertain which organization shot at us and then attempt to pinpoint and hit the relevant rocket launchers. This approach simply perpetuates the situation of rounds of fire every few weeks — and it is doubtful that such a cycle is right for the State of Israel.

Israeli policy should be based on the understanding that Gaza is a de-facto state for all intents and purposes. It has clear geographic borders, a stable government that was elected democratically and an independent foreign policy. Our self-righteous refusal to recognize the Hamas regime is folly. The fact that Gaza is a state, even if it is ruled by “evil people,” is preferable to chaos or even the situation that existed in 2007, when the rulership was formally in the hands of the Palestinian Authority but, in effect, its main military power was Hamas.

We derive three conclusions from this point of view:

  1. Israel must not let itself be dragged into making distinctions between the three players: Gaza’s rulership, Gaza’s population and Gaza’s terrorist organizations. As far as we are concerned, Gaza is a state that is responsible for all hostile activities operated within it. Even the use of the concept “Hamas’ military wing” is erroneous. There is a state, it has an army, and that’s the correct way to view Gaza.
  2. Gaza is an enemy state. One can conduct economic or other types of arrangements with an enemy state, but it is not accepted to continue to supply an enemy with electricity, fuel and other products when that state shoots at you. The world wants us to make the distinction between fighting those who shoot at us and “providing humanitarian aid” for the innocent population. But this is a terrible mistake that allows the Gazan government to evade any real responsibility.
  3. We cannot reach understandings with the international community when there is an escalation in hostilities. Under such circumstances, all we should talk about is a cease-fire. On the other hand, the most convenient time for formulating policy is during a lull in hostilities, such as the one that began this week. And we should make sure that our policy is very clear, to western countries as well as to Egypt.

Our policy regarding Gaza should be based on five principles:

  1. Israel recognizes Gaza, for all intents and purposes, as a de-facto state.
  2. Gaza is not under occupation. The border between Gaza and Egypt (the "Philadelphia Corridor”) is completely open.
  3. The state of Gaza bears responsibility for all hostile activity that emerges from its borders toward Israel.
  4. So long as quiet will reign, Israel will increase the scope of movement in the crossing points and allow for moderate movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank. All shooting toward Israel, or toward the “Gaza envelope,” will lead to the immediate cessation of supplies such as equipment, fuel and electricity.
  5. In the event that fire is opened on Israel from Gaza, Israel will retaliate against the state of Gaza, including destroying targets of the regime.

This policy is more correct than the two other alternatives, those being continuation of the existing condition, in which Israeli deterrence is undergoing progressive erosion, or a military land campaign (“Cast Lead 2”).

A word about Egypt in the Gaza context: There is an advantage to the Egyptian president being a Muslim Brotherhood member, because he can wield more influence on Gaza than could the previous regime. Morsi will also need a great deal of American aid; in addition to military assistance, the United States also provides wheat to Egypt, and its discontinuation would bring the country to real famine. No Egyptian president at the beginning of his tenure would risk that. Thus, American leverage over Egypt is very great. American economic aid should also be linked to vigorous activity on the part of the Egyptian president to curb aggression from Gaza and improve security in the Sinai Peninsula.

Found in: eiland, us, statehood, recognition, muslim brotherhood, muslim, morsi, israel, hamas, gaza, egypt

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