Why Israel Is Letting Hamas Get into the Fossil-Fuel Business

While Israel has begun to tap into its offshore natural-gas fields, the reserve off the coast of the Gaza Strip remains unexplored, due to a 1999 agreement that puts it under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA)—with the stipulation that it cannot be developed without Jerusalem’s permission. The Israeli government granted that permission last month. Elai Rettig and Benny Spanier examine the decision:

When Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, Israel didn’t want revenue from the field to fall into its hands, so it blocked further progress. New negotiations began over a year ago through Egypt, and a breakthrough occurred last week. Egypt wants to sponsor the project, and most of the gas will be sold to Egypt’s energy sector, and perhaps also exported to Europe [in liquid form].

There are various reasons why Israel might have approved a deal that will most likely benefit Hamas. . . . One possibility . . . is that this is part of a larger Egyptian/Israeli effort to calm the political situation in Gaza between its warring factions (Hamas vs. Islamic Jihad). There’s also a plan to build a new harbor in Egypt to bring more goods into Gaza and help its economy. Although, officially, only the PA in the West Bank will receive the gas revenue, there’s no denying that Hamas will get some of it too. If that were not the case, it would not allow the field to be developed. Israel’s approval might be a reward from Jerusalem to Hamas for helping it oppose Islamic Jihad militants during the last round of violence in Gaza in May 2023.

A [further] reason for Israel’s approval could be incentives provided by other parties in the region. They may have conditioned impending political or economic agreements with Israel on concessions to the Palestinians like this one. Motivations could include a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia or an energy trade deal of some kind with Turkey.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Natural Gas, Palestinian Authority

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security