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Israel/Palestine: Background to the present conflict

category mashriq / arabia / iraq | imperialism / war | opinion / analysis author Sunday July 27, 2014 22:26author by Ilan S. - Anarchists Against the Wall; A-Infos; Ahdutauthor email ilan.shalif at gmail dot comauthor address Tel Aviv Report this post to the editors

Egypt insists on dissolving the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. Israel "just" wants to sabotage the yielding/compromise by Hamas to the Palestinian West Bank Authority. The relevant political context for the present round begins in November 2012, with the agreement between Israel and Hamas under Egyptian sponsorship. [Italiano] [Português]

Background to the present conflict

Egypt insists on dissolving the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip. Israel "just" wants to sabotage the yielding/compromise by Hamas to the Palestinian West Bank Authority.

The relevant political context for the present round begins in November 2012, with the agreement between Israel and Hamas under Egyptian sponsorship (Hillary Clinton was present as "chaperone").

The November 2012 transaction took care of two things:

  1. a cease-fire between the two sides and
  2. the opening of crossing points for the passage of goods and people (the official crossing points have been "supplemented" throughout the years by up to 1,500 "illegal" tunnels dug under the border, which have supplied everything the official crossing points were unable to supply, together with most of the income to the Hamas regime from funds of supporters and taxes).
Overall - according to Israeli security officials - Hamas fulfilled its part "nicely": it did not open fire, and most of the time worked to prevent other organizations from opening fire. Hamas has sent its men to take action against Palestinian organizations that intended to open fire against Israel, something not many people know. In exchange, Hamas expected a significant easing of the closure.

This did, in fact, happen (though less than what was promised and expected, but still tolerable) as long as the Muslim Brotherhood were in power in Egypt.

But once Sisi took power in Egypt (summer 2013) and abolished the Muslim Brotherhood government, the crossings were closed again and again and more importantly, the tunnels from Egypt - which were the greatest source of supply and income for Hamas - were gradually closed. By gradually cutting off the tunnels beneath the closed border, Sisi has strangled the Gazan people and Hamas' system of government.

Hamas found itself in a state which progressively got worse: on the one hand it was providing a type of security for Israel (which the Israeli prime minister Bibi Netanyahu was so proud of), and on the other hand the closure was getting worse (and reached a level where Hamas could no longer pay salaries to 43,000 government officials and military force members who Hamas had recruited to manage the Strip). The Hamas government was thereby on the verge of collapse. As a result, Hamas gradually decreased their chase after other organizations and allowed them to increase the rate of shooting mortars, missiles, etc. It also explains why it has responded to the Israeli provocations with all its power.

This is the context that forced Hamas to make an agreement with the PLO/Fatah in April.

Hamas thereby agreed to turn part of its power over to Abu-Mazen (president of the Palestinian Authority of the West Bank), mainly the responsibility for government salaries in Gaza. There is debate between them about which of the 43,000 will continue in their positions and what the role of the 70,000 Palestinian Authority officials who were removed from power in the Gaza Strip in the Hamas takeover of 2007 will be. Throughout these years, they have received salaries from Ramallah to stay at home and should now return to office. But the hottest unsolved question between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is the debt of salaries which have not been paid for several months. The status of Hamas' 20,000-strong armed force has not been settled either. Abu-Mazen claims it is not his responsibility, and that Hamas will have to solve it.

There are all sorts of problems and unfinished business with the agreement, but the most immediate pressing obstacle is the back payroll. And the minimal condition for Hamas to stop the fighting is a return to the previous arangement of re-opening all 1,500 or so tunnels.

Hamas have said they have found who will pay - Qatar. But Israel and the Western powers together with the various banks involved - each for various reasons, some justified and some less - have refused to transfer the money.

The UN offered its services to resolve the problem, but Israel decided to block the involvement of the UN diplomatic envoy and actually put a veto on this channel. The result: tens of thousands in Gaza, including the security/military wing of Hamas, have not got their salaries for months on end.

As Hamas did not stop all the shooting by dissident organizations, Israel started to escalate the confrontation with Hamas and even more so following the kidnapping of the three settler youths, using it as an excuse (although it has recently declared officially that Hamas was not involved).

At present, the Egyptians - who seek to annihilate Hamas - are refusing to return to the arrangements which were in place before Sisi started to strangle the Gaza Strip leading to Hamas' surrender to the Palestinian Authority (arrangements which Israel, on the other hand, will probably support).

Panicked by the "unity agreement" that endangered the continuation of divisions among the Palestinians, Israel started the war in the hope of forcing Hamas to find a different option. It will probably support such a solution and may even yield to some more "openness", as it wants the continuation of Hamas' independent rule in Gaza, giving the public the explanation that the alternative will be chaos or rule by the Jihadists.

Both Israel and the Egyptians do not want the agreement for Hamas' surrender to the Palestinian Authority to be resolved: Egypt, because it saves Hamas from total collapse and Israel, because it would diminish the ability of Hamas to split the Palestinians.

In a surrealistic way we can see the war not as one between Israel and Hamas but a war between Israel and Egypt. Egypt wants to destroy Hamas and Israel wants to restore its power.

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