The Gaza Strip – The Third Way

General (res.) Shlomo Gazit
on June 25, 2018

Readers of this column will find it difficult to believe that fifty years ago, after the Six-Day War, when the deliberations about the future of the territories that fell into our hands in the war began, there was a wall-to-wall consensus — the only area for which there were no doubts — that the Gaza Strip would become a part of Israel.

How does one explain this to Israelis today?

  • The population of the Gaza Strip was less than 400,000 at the time, of whom about 60% were Palestinian refugees. We believed they would ultimately leave the area as part of a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.
  • The assumption was that the Gaza Strip could not exist as an independent political entity, and the alternative to its annexation to Israel was the return of the Egyptians to this area. Thus, Egypt would be forced to skip over the Suez Canal and over the Sinai Peninsula, and return to an unmediated military neighbor, with all that this implies.
  • The Gaza Strip does not have the ability to exist as an independent political entity, hence the choice will necessarily be between Israel and Egypt.
  • We did not understand that the mass of the Palestinian refugees would be the most hostile and active in its opposition to Israeli rule.

The peace treaty with Egypt convinced us, beyond any doubt, that Egypt did not seek to regain responsibility for the fate of the Gaza Strip, especially since over the years, Israeli settlements were established in the area, linking the territory to Israel.

We did not allow conditions that would allow the Gaza Strip to develop into an independent political entity, an entity capable of standing on its own.

In 1987, twenty years after the Six-Day War and ten years after the peace treaty with Egypt, the first intifada broke out in Gaza. For those who were still in doubt, it was made clear that Israel was not seeking to take the burden of power there, and eighteen years later (and a dozen years after the Oslo Accords), Prime Minister Ariel Sharon initiated the disengagement. Israel left the area and abandoned it to its fate.

I have written this several times — Israel has cut itself off from the Gaza Strip, but the Strip has not detached itself from us. We did not allow conditions that would allow the Gaza Strip to develop into an independent political entity, an entity capable of standing on its own. Moreover, Israel has indeed left the area, but we are preventing the establishment and the ability to establish a viable entity — the Strip remains closed with no land, sea or air exit under local control, and at least from the point of view of the Palestinian leadership.

The political campaign of the local leadership is successful – in world public opinion the Gaza Strip is still under Israeli occupation, and the confrontations, tunnels, rockets and kites are all part of the struggle of local residents to liberate themselves from the yoke of occupation.

The choices facing Israel are three:

  1. Repeated occupation of the Gaza Strip, with the aim of re-establishing a military government and occupation regime.
  2. Continued ping-pong of military confrontations with the clear knowledge that these are not permanent solutions.
  3. A total withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, in coordination with Washington, Cairo and the Security Council; complete elimination of the existing closure; and involvement and partnership in an attempt to establish an independent entity capable of rehabilitating itself.

We knew and tried the first two alternatives. Is it not time to try the third way?

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