ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Gaza Contradictions Into 2013

Gaza Contradictions Into 2013

30 November 2012

By Yisrael Ne'eman.

Now that the eight day "Pillar of Defense" operation is over once again Hamas, Israel and the Middle East find themselves facing multiple contradictions on two levels, one as concerns international diplomacy and the second when relating to bilateral Palestinian-Israeli relations (more about this in the next article). Most blatant is the move by Fatah's Abu Mazen for international recognition of non-member state status in the United Nations to be presented today, November 29th, exactly 65 years after the vote on the UN Partition Plan in support of the two-state solution, one Arab and one Jewish. The Arab bloc voted against the resolution in 1947.

 

The Americans and Europeans are pro-Fatah, support Abu Mazen and stand behind the two state solution. Interestingly Hamas opposes the Fatah move at the UN because it implies recognition of Israel. At best they favor a temporary two state arrangement as a step by step process for Israel's elimination. For Hamas such a move is anathema since it is seen as legitimizing non-Islamic (Jewish) territorial control over waqf lands in the Middle East. Any and all such negotiations and compromises are condemned in Articles 11, 13, and 32 of the Hamas Covenant. Israel also opposes the Palestinian Authority bid for non-member state status believing it must be achieved through direct negotiations between Ramallah and Jerusalem. Rather amusing but Israel and Hamas find themselves on the same side but for totally different reasons. Hamas demands Israel's destruction and will not tolerate any compromise while Israel wants a directly negotiated settlement with the PA, not one imposed through international diplomacy.

 

Back to Gaza we see the two non-Arab Middle Eastern powers Iran and Turkey vying for influence in a mini-battle for power. The Turks as Sunnis appear to have the upper hand. Egypt as the Arab world's most populous nation and the only one bordering Gaza claims an even greater stake in the territory, especially since the Jihadi activists in the Sinai Peninsula both influence and are impacted by events in the Strip. Furthermore the Egyptian – Turkish rivalry for control in the Arab world has continued on and off over some 200 years since Mahmet Ali challenged the Ottomans. Yet, supposedly everyone is "on the same side". In truth international rivalries inside the Gaza Strip are continuing and intensifying.

 

Along the 14 kilometer Rafiah land border the Gaza blockade is Egyptian, yet few remember this most important fact. Israel supplies fuel, water and basic foodstuffs according to agreement from her side of the frontier into the Strip. At times this supply line is disrupted by Islamic terrorists, including Hamas. Even President Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood dominated Egypt does not want to be drawn into a clash with Israel, at least for the time being. On the other hand Hamas actions in Gaza appear far too radical even if ideologically they are in line with Egyptian Brotherhood doctrine. Hamas is heavily influenced by the Salafists and even Al-Qaeda who believe in continual Jihad against Israel. Morsi and those more centrist types in the Brotherhood fear being outmaneuvered at home and losing power to the extremists. The Salafists did get 25% of the overall vote in the Egyptian elections of 2011 – 2012. Lest one forget Islamism in the Palestinian arena set the inspirational tone for the other wings of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Egypt. Further radicalization in Gaza can easily spread to Cairo and Morsi will be outflanked to the right.

 

What is most contradictory here is that despite all efforts by everyone trade and military contraband between Gaza, Sinai, Iran and terror organizations continues to flourish through the hundreds of tunnels passing under the border. Economic and military pressure on Gaza will only work if the tunnels are destroyed, and no one wants to take that task.

 

Egypt is seen as having brokered the Hamas-Israel cease-fire in the name of US and Western interests. The Egyptian army is financially dependent on the Americans for billions of dollars in aid. Egypt did America's (and Israel's) bidding and those in power may be forced to pay the price or outmaneuver the West to save their own rule. Morsi's American tango will backfire if he does not move swiftly to erase any images of being a Western lackey, a definition the Salafists/Al Qaeda could certainly adopt. Halting the right wing fanatics can only be done by further consolidating power and this can only be accomplished by eradicating any vestiges of the previous Mubarak secular dictatorship. Better yet the liberal democratic activist elements most responsible for sparking the revolution can be repressed simultaneously. First Morsi reigned in the military and now he is overriding the Mubarak era secular judiciary. Morsi and the Brotherhood claim such concentration of power is necessary to ensure future democratization of Egypt. In reality he is crushing all secular opposition, whether of the Mubarak shade or the liberal democratic type. Here the Salafists are appeased, at least for the meantime. The Pillar of Strength operation acted as a catalyst for an inevitable process whereby the Brotherhood conquers the center in the post revolutionary era, unless of course the right wing rises and overthrows the regime. The liberal democrats do not stand a chance. The Salafists on the other hand may be absorbed within the ruling Brotherhood framework, at least in part, as the regime moves towards a Sharia legal system.

 

So where does this leave the West? Political diplomatic realism demands continued support of Egypt provided the Gaza-Sinai border with Israel remains quiet. At best this can work for a few years. Paradoxically, US/European gratitude will allow for the destruction of liberal democratic forces in Egypt.

 

The Pillar of Strength operation has ramifications well beyond the immediate Israel-Hamas issues. Such matters will be discussed in the next article.