Gaza negotiations are futile; conflict is inevitable
Opinion: The clock is ticking toward another military confrontation in Gaza as militants demand cash and generous economic concessions but are not willing to offer Israel any concrete guarantees regarding security and the Israelis being held hostage in the Strip.
April 10 will not only be the day following the Israeli elections, it is also the date when the last batch of Qatari money will enter Gaza. Israel will be occupied with the formation of a government coalition while in Gaza, the local mafia will be racking their brains trying to figure out how to continue milking more money from whomever possible.
And when the mafia is concerned, if they don’t get their protection money — they will burn down the house. Therefore, the day after the elections kicks off the final moments before an inevitable round of fighting in Gaza.
Israel and Egypt are working to extend the deadline as long as possible. Talks are still underway with the Gaza mafia over toning down the intensity of the disturbances emanating from the Strip in return for cash. Prime Minister Netanyahu, in the midst of a close election campaign, won’t admit to the cabinet or the public all that Hamas is really being offered.
Concessions to the Palestinians will harm the prime minister’s image and he does not even intend to deliver on much of what is purportedly on the table. In addition, the Egyptian offer contains nothing new, much of it has been discussed already in recent years and have not been implemented — and that is not expected to change if the present government is reelected.
But the Palestinians, especially the leadership of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) taking part in the discussions alongside Hamas, are more than glad to publicize the negotiation particulars. Moreover, consultations with Israeli security officials confirm that Palestinian media reports do indeed match the list of issues that were discussed and not categorically rejected; which might explain why such an effort is being made to conceal the concessions being made to Hamas in contrast to the eager proclamations about the intelligence success in the North.
The document consists of 10 paragraphs and the first is about (what else?) money. Hamas is demanding at least another six months of revenue flow from Qatar. Israel and Egypt would prefer the money come from the Saudis, so as not to allow the Qataris to expand their influence in the region. But the Saudis are not interested and it seems that Qatar will indeed remain the primary sponsor.
Hamas wants $30 million: $10 million for UN infrastructure projects in Gaza, $10 million for poor families and $10 million for civil servant salaries. For this reason, the UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov is in Gaza working to advance the construction of diesel storage containers for Gaza’s power plant.
The section dealing with fishing demands of Israel to expand the fishing zone for Gazans to 15 miles out. But at the same time, Israel is concerned that Hamas may try to attack the gas rig off the coast of Gaza. Another section demands that Israel issue another 5,000 entry permits to Gaza merchants. In fact, most of those “merchants” are actually day laborers for the towns in the Gaza vicinity.
The document also seeks the creation of an industrial zone near the Karni and Erez crossings between Israel and Gaza that would employ some 15,000 Gazans. In the long term, Israel is also supposed to examine constructing a gas pipeline into Gaza and increasing the electricity quota.
The Egyptians are being asked to complete the Rafah Crossing for cargo by the end of the month in addition to funding the construction of a cancer hospital in Gaza. Israel is demanding a return to the time that there was a 300-meter security corridor along the border and the end to all hostile action along the border fence.
Both sides acknowledge that the document is only meant to buy time. The militants in Gaza refuse to make any concessions to Israel and the document lacks any mention of the Israelis missing in Gaza and believed to be held by Hamas. So even if concessions are made to Hamas, they would be marginal ones that would not meet the needs and wishes of either side. The only thing left for the incoming government to do is sharpen its swords.