Many who profess concern for the Palestinians agree that Israel ought to abandon its presence in the West Bank—which remains controlled by Jerusalem, even as most of its Arab residents live under the governance of the Palestinian Authority (PA). But, writes Evelyn Gordon, the Gaza Strip, from which Israel withdrew completely, provides a clear demonstration why West Bank Palestinians are beneficiaries of the status quo:
Take, for instance, casualties. According to statistics compiled by B’Tselem, [a human-rights group dedicated exclusively to criticism of the Jewish state], Israeli security forces killed 5,706 Palestinians in Gaza from September 2005 through August 2019. That’s almost eight times the 756 killed by Israeli security personnel and settlers combined in the West Bank during this period.
Nor is this surprising. Israel’s control of the West Bank means that suspected terrorists can often be arrested rather than killed, though shootouts (with attendant collateral damage) do occur. But in Gaza, where Israel has no troops, it can’t arrest terrorists. Thus the only way to fight terror is through military action, which naturally produces many more casualties among both combatants and civilians.
[Moreover], the number of Palestinians killed by other Palestinians is also much higher in Gaza. . . . No less dramatic is the economic difference between the territories. The first-quarter unemployment rate in Gaza was 46 percent, almost triple the West Bank’s rate of 16 percent. One contributing factor is that while one-sixth of employed West Bankers work in Israel or the settlements, almost no Gazans do. Moreover, Gaza’s median daily wage was just 42 shekels ($12), less than half the West Bank median of 100 shekels ($28) and less than a fifth of the median earned by Palestinians in Israel and the settlements at 250 shekels ($71.50).
[But] would an Israeli departure really turn the West Bank into another Gaza? Unfortunately, the answer is yes—for many of the same reasons that Gaza looks as it does today. First, the most likely scenario is that Hamas would take over the West Bank just as it took over Gaza. That’s the Israeli defense establishment’s assessment, and it’s also the assessment of the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, which is precisely why he has continued security cooperation with Israel despite its unpopularity among the Palestinian public.