Large-Scale Economic Projects Won’t Save Gaza

For some time, Israeli and foreign analysts have suggested various schemes to ameliorate the Gaza Strip’s deteriorating economic situation, including, for instance, the construction of an offshore port that could be used for exports and imports without compromising Israel’s ability to keep the Hamas government from importing arms. Mohammed Samhouri, drawing on his own experience as a leading Palestinian economic adviser in the wake of the 2005 Israeli withdrawal, doubts such plans can work:

[The evacuation of] Gaza—which took all [parties] by surprise when first announced in December 2003 by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon—was largely motivated by Israel’s own strategic interests [and] was all but inevitable: a point often neglected in writings on the subject. Unlike the occupation of the West Bank, the prospect of a long-term Israeli occupation of Gaza had never existed or made strategic sense. Neither the geography nor the demography of the place would have allowed for a prolonged Israeli presence. . . . It was only a matter of time.

By contrast, Hamas presented the disengagement as a victory that proved the effectiveness of its armed resistance. . . . In the rush to capitalize on its self-proclaimed victory, . . . Hamas competed against the secular Fatah party in the Palestinian legislative elections of January 2006, which—contrary to predictions—it ultimately won. And so, as the last Israeli soldier left Gaza in the early morning hours of September 12, 2005, Gaza was in effect sealed and delivered to Hamas. . . .

The disengagement plan has failed to alter Gaza’s prolonged misfortune. One can list many reasons for this outcome. But one lesson is clear: technical solutions to Gaza’s complex problems, absent a supportive political and security setting, are not likely to work. . . . Yet this lesson and its policy implications don’t seem to be well understood today. For instance, despite the growing realization that deterioration in Gaza’s living conditions is fast approaching a breaking point, and may have even passed it, the proposed solutions to the crisis, whether from the Israeli military establishment or from the current U.S. administration, are all in the form of a list of [large-scale economic and infrastructure] projects to save Gaza’s collapsing economy.

Vital as such undertaking may be for addressing Gaza’s mounting socioeconomic difficulties and the chronic shortages in its basic public services, these projects . . . can only be implemented if Gaza’s political and security situation is stabilized first.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Ariel Sharon, Gaza Strip, Gaza withdrawal, Hamas, Palestinian economy, Politics & Current Affairs

As Hamas’s Power Collapses, Old Feuds Are Resurfacing

In May, Mahmoud Nashabat, a high-ranking military figure in the Fatah party (which controls the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority), was gunned down in central Gaza. Nashabat was an officer in the Gaza wing of the Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, a terrorist outfit that served as Fatah’s vanguard during the second intifada, and now sometimes collaborates with Hamas. But his killers were Hamas members, and he was one of at least 35 Palestinians murdered in Gaza in the past two months as various terrorist and criminal groups go about settling old scores, some of which date back to the 1980s. Einav Halabi writes:

Security sources familiar with the situation told the London-based newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that Gaza is now also beleaguered by the resurgence of old conflicts. “Many people have been killed in incidents related to the first intifada in 1987, while others have died in family disputes,” they said.

The “first-intifada portfolio” in Gaza is considered complex and convoluted, as it is filled with hatred among residents who accuse others of killing relatives for various reasons, including collaboration with Israel. . . . According to reports from Gaza, there are vigorous efforts on the ground to contain these developments, but the chances of success remain unclear. Hamas, for its part, is trying to project governance and control, recently releasing several videos showcasing how its operatives brutally beat residents accused of looting.

These incidents, gruesome as they are, suggest that Hamas’s control over the territory is slipping, and it no longer holds a monopoly on violence or commands the fear necessary to keep the population in line. The murders and beatings also dimension the grim reality that would ensue if the war ends precipitously: a re-empowered Hamas setting about getting vengeance on its enemies and reimposing its reign of terror.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Fatah, Gaza War 2023, Hamas