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

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood