Gaza’s Tunnel War Continues On All Fronts

April 24, 2016

 

Gaza’s tunnel war continues on all fronts – on Egypt-Gaza border, on Israel-Gaza border and on home front.  While Egyptian
army flooded again a Hamas tunnel, the Israel army discovered the first terror tunnel inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. 
terror tunnelsHamas says its smuggling and terror tunnel network is twice as large as the Viet Cong’s was at the height of the Vietnam War. On home front Hamas smuggles in cement, diverts from construction and humanitarian donations, and even raids civilian construction sites in order to rebuild its tunnels.

 

The new tunnel flooded again by Egypt

Palestinian media reported Monday morning [18th Apr. 2016] that the Egyptian army flooded a Hamas tunnel in the southern part of Gaza Strip. Seven Hamas terrorists are missing. The tunnel flooded was a commercial tunnel, used by Hamas to smuggle commodities into Gaza Strip, and not a military tunnel. The collapse happened after the Egyptians performed another one of their routine flooding of the area with sea water – or some say with sewage.

Egypt, historically the Palestinians’ major backer, has brokered several truces between Israel and Gaza factions and tried to heal past rifts between rival Palestinian factions.  But Egypt has intensified a blockade of Gaza  by largely sealing the border since 2013. Egypt has destroyed and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants launching attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel. Recently Egypt accused Hamas of involvement in last year’s assassination of Public Prosecutor Hisham Barakat.  (More in Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened )

 

New terror tunnel with sturdier construction methods

The tunnel flooded by Egypt appeared to have been a commercial tunnel used to smuggle people and goods in and out of the Strip, as opposed to the “terror tunnel” located in southern Israel, which could have been used to carry out attacks on Israeli civilians and soldiers.

It is the first such tunnel discovered inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014. During the Operation Protective Edge at least 34 tunnels were discovered and destroyed by Israeli forces. The tunnel was located approximately 100 feet (30 to 40 meters) below ground and extended “tens of meters into Israel,” IDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said. It was discovered close to the border fence, he added. Though the tunnel was found just over one week ago, news of its discovery was forbidden from publication by the military censor. [Source: The Times of Israel ]

The newer tunnels, as now discovered one, built after Operation Protective Edge benefit from sturdier construction methods, improving structural integrity, which make them less likely to collapse due to rainfall. The wall of the tunnels discovered during Operation Protective Edge consisted of pre-cast concrete slabs placed vertically, with reinforced concrete arches above them to prevent the tunnel from collapsing due to the weight of the soil above it. In this type of construction, the wide vertical slabs are the weak point, and that is why Hamas is now building its tunnels using long, narrow concrete slabs laid horizontally, one on top of the other, within a metal frame. This structure is much stronger and more durable. It can withstand not only the pressure from the soil overhead, but also explosions and fighting inside the tunnel. It also allows for safer working conditions on rainy days when water seeps into the work area. Too much rainfall could cause the soil above a tunnel built using the pre-Protective Edge method to collapse, as seen several times in recent months. The new structure makes it far less likely that the tunnel would collapse. [Source and more in Ynet ]

 

Israel’ anti-tunnel campaign

Israel has started testing a secret new weapon for defeating the tunnel systems which the Palestinian Hamas and Hizballah are busy digging for surprise attacks against Israel. Now, according to Foreign Policy magazine, it appears Israel has found that solution. Western sources reported on 11th March 2016, that the new weapon, dubbed the  “Underground Iron Dome,” can detect a tunnel, then send in a moving missile ton blow it up.

Beside ‘Underground Iron Dome’ part of Israel’s anti-tunnel campaign are military robots [e.g. Talon 4] and the Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) built by Roboteam, to explore the labyrinth of tunnels and concealed shafts supporting subterranean arms depots, command posts and cross-border attacks from Gaza. [More in Underground Iron Dome i.a. Against Hamas’ Terror Tunnels ].

Hamas officials are convinced Israel has developed new technology to detect the tunnels, and that it feeds the relevant data to the Egyptians. However, some Palestinian outlets claimed the true source of Israel’s tunnel discovery was not a technological breakthrough but rather one man: Mahmoud Jasser Awad Atawna who had been an active member of Hamas’s tunnel operations until he fell into the hands of Israeli forces a few weeks ago.

Tunnel war infograph by Ari Rusila

 

Gaza’s tunnel war – a short history

Gazans have been using tunnels regularly since the mid-1990s, when they were dug under the Gaza-Egypt border in Rafah for smuggling purposes. By 2001, and again in 2004-2005, Hamas terrorists used tunnels to plant explosives under IDF installations. In 2006, Hamas dug a tunnel into Israel near Kibbutz Kerem Shalom, ambushed a tank unit, kidnapped Corporal Gilad Shalit—who would be held in captivity for five years—and killed two of his fellow soldiers. By 2009’s Operation Cast Lead, Hamas’ use of tunnels had evolved into a clear threat. In 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF targeted the tunnels as much as it did Hamas’ rocket capabilities. In 2013, a large tunnel was discovered that led to an Israeli town. It was clearly intended for a large-scale terrorist attack. An even bigger tunnel was discovered later that year.

During Protective Edge, a major tunnel infiltration aimed at the residents of a kibbutz near the Gaza border was thwarted just as terrorists were emerging on the Israeli side. Four more such attacks would be interdicted, some with the Hamas fighters having already crossed into Israel. One attack was successful; five Israeli soldiers were killed. During Operation Protective Edge at least 34 tunnels were discovered and destroyed by Israeli forces. Hamas even used a tunnel to try to kidnap a soldier after a ceasefire had come into effect. The tunnel extended for over a mile, some of it deep into Israeli territory

The original tunnels on Egypt-Gaza border were and still are used to smuggle arms and commercial goods from Egypt to Gaza. Hamas substantially expanded this infrastructure after 2007 and Israel’s imposition of a sc, blockade. At the time, it is estimated that there were as many as 2,500 such tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt in the area of Rafah. There are estimates that as much as $3 billion in goods were moved annually from Sinai into Gaza.

A second type of tunnel is the tactical or “defensive” variety. These are meant to assist Hamas in its next war if Israel sends in ground troops. They form a subterranean web underneath Gaza, and give fighters and commanders freedom of movement, allowing them to evade capture, hide from aerial assault, and maintain the element of surprise. Rockets, launchers, and ammunition are also stored in these tunnels, so Hamas can continue firing even while under aerial attack. Hamas commanders are said to have personal tunnels for themselves and their families.

It is the third type of tunnel, however, which is most worrying—the terror tunnels. Given Israel’s security fence and buffer zone on the border, Hamas was left with essentially two options for launching attacks on Israel—going over the fence, via rockets and mortars, or going under it. And since Israel’s anti-missile capabilities have advanced to the point where the rocket threat is largely neutralized, Hamas shifted its investments underground.

The human intelligence capabilities and other covert efforts in Gaza are the key element to detect tunnel entrances. Hamas too is aware of this and reportedly executed dozens of tunnel diggers in the past to prevent them from leaking information to Israel.

There is one aspect with Hamas’ tunnel strategy related to Gazans daily life and wellbeing. Roughly 9,000 homes were destroyed during Protective Edge, and very few have been rebuilt. According to declassified intelligence reports, these supplies are routinely stolen by Hamas in order to serve the group’s terrorist purposes. Hamas smuggles in cement, diverts from construction and humanitarian donations, and even raids civilian construction sites in order to rebuild its tunnels.

[Source and good background article: Your Complete Guide to Hamas’ Network of Terror Tunnels by Dan Feferman ]

tunnel-price-en

Bottom line

  • The flooded smuggling tunnel is the last example that Egypt is implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling via its border with Gaza causing also the collapse of Hamas’ financial base.
  • The first tunnel discovered inside Israeli territory since the end of the war in the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 proves that Hamas now has developed a much stronger tunnel structure than before.
  • Hamas officials are convinced Israel has developed new technology to detect the tunnels, and that it feeds the relevant data to the Egyptians.
  • Besides technology there is indications that the IDF’s intelligence on Hamas’s military wing in Gaza has increased greatly over the past two years and that it is today well integrated with other IDF elements.
  • According Channel 2 report (March 2016) the Israeli security establishment estimates that Hamas is not presently seeking a military escalation with Israel. The report noted that the assessment stands despite the terrorist group’s continued digging and armament of underground tunnels. Also despite the newest find, IDF does not expect escalation in Gaza in near future.

 

More background in

Underground Iron Dome i.a. Against Hamas’ Terror Tunnels ,

Gaza Update: Hamas Downfalling – IDF Prepared ,

Hamas’ Relations With Egypt Worsened ,

Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption and

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!


[This article first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila ]


Israel-Greece-Cyprus Alliance as New Mideast/EastMed Game Changer

April 12, 2016

Israel-Greece-Cyprus alliance aims to “promote a trilateral partnership in different fields of common interest and to work together towards promoting peace, stability, security and prosperity in the Mediterranean and the wider region.” (Cyprus – Israel – Greece Trilateral Summit Declaration )

Israel-Cyprus-Greece allianceThe signing of an agreement of cooperation between Israel, Greece and Cyprus in Nicosia in February has tremendous implications for the future of this strategic region and for Israel. The trilateral Israel-Greece-Cyprus alliance is a potential game changer at a juncture when new regional alignments are forging in the Middle East after the lifting of sanctions against Iran. The new alliance gives Israel much-needed strategic depth.

Publicly all three countries say that this alliance is not against any other country, meaning specifically Turkey. However the reality probably is the opposite. Of these countries, Israel is the only major military power. Both Greece and Cyprus have major economic problems, and although members of the EU, are not in any significant way protected by their EU-NATO alliance. Although EU and US are very concerned about the fake “occupation” by Israel of the Palestinians , the northern third of Cyprus is still occupied by Turkey after 30 years, and the EU and US are doing nothing about this.

The context of latest geopolitical developments in Mideast is based to dramatic events in 2015 which have brought into focus following aspects turning the Eastern Mediterranean into one of the key areas for global security:

  • The refugee crisis due to chaotic conditions in Syria, Libya and beyond;
  • The growing hold, upon Mediterranean shores, of totalitarian Islamism in its various forms – Iran’s camp; Daesh aka Islamic State; and the Muslim Brotherhood (with Turkey and Qatar as allies).
  • The prospects for cooperation in the field of energy.
  • Russia replacing US as key outside player (related to Israel sure there is influential Jewish diaspora in US but same time there is one million immigrants from ex-USSR living in Israel)

Mideast trends by Ari Rusila 

EastMed Bloc

The improvement in relations between Greece and Israel started in 2010 with socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou, continued in 2012 with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, and is being followed today by the leftist Tsipras. The Greek-Israeli relationship, which has flourished under a remarkable variety of political regimes, also enjoys broad support among the Greek public. Israel has a strong defense and military relationship with Cyprus as well that started (surprisingly) during the tenure of Communist President Demetris Christofias, and that continues at full speed under current conservative leader Nicos Anastasiades.

From an Israeli perspective, the recent strengthening of alliance ties with Greece and Cyprus constitutes a win-win situation. A new geopolitical bloc is emerging that has military and political significance, and stands as a counterweight to Turkish ambitions. The past months have been characterized by an unprecedented and noteworthy flurry of diplomatic activity between Jerusalem, Athens and Nicosia that suggests the emergence of a new geopolitical bloc in the region.

In late January, the Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon paid an official visit to Athens, hosted by his Greek counterpart, Panos Kammenos. (This was the second official visit of an Israeli Minister of Defense to Greece. In late 2012, Ehud Barak visited Athens.) Ya’alon’s visit to Greece serves to illustrate the intensive security and military relationship between Israel and Greece that began several years ago. This involves frequent joint air force exercises (with other countries occasionally participating), as well as joint maneuvers of the two navies. Israeli military planes have been forbidden from flying over Turkey ever since the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident, so they use Greek airspace on their flights to Europe and the United States instead. An Israeli military attaché has been stationed in Athens since the summer of 2014, and he is also accredited to Cyprus. Strikingly, Ya’alon did not hesitate while in Athens to publicly accuse Turkey of supporting terror rather than fighting it, specifically alleging that Turkey buys oil from ISIS.

Also in late January, a government-to-government conference was held in Jerusalem between the cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Greek government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Tsipras arrived with a large delegation of ten ministers. This was the second government-to-government meeting of the two countries (the first was held in October 2013 with conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras), and the second visit of Tsipras to Israel within two months. . (One should note, that Greece is only the second country other than the US with which Israel has signed a ‘status of forces agreement’.)

game changer logoThe following day, 28th January 2016, a trilateral summit was held in Nicosia with Netanyahu, Tsipras, and President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades. The summit was followed by a significant joint declaration. The joint statement published in Nicosia following the summit describes seven areas of cooperation: energy, tourism, research and technology, environment, water, immigration and the fight against terror.

(Source and more:   A New Geopolitical Bloc is Born in the Eastern Mediterranean: Israel, Greece and Cyprus by Ambassador Arye Mekel, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, also as PDF )

 

EastMed Pipeline

The core of this new alliance is the EastMed Pipeline project from Israel and Cyprus via Greece that would export the Eastern Mediterranean gas to the European market. Israel now has very major finds of natural gas in the Mediterranean off Haifa, and Cyprus has some wells too nearby. Israel is far better positioned to exploit these finds and Cyprus is being helped by Israel in developing their finds. Also, such wells need security from attack and Israel has established a military command purely for this.   Greece in its dire economic situation, also with the addition of tens of thousands of Muslim migrants invading the country, needs help. Israel is prepared to supply natural gas to Greece at discounted prices. This is good for both countries. Other countries might later be included in this alliance (possibly Egypt, Jordan, Italy and Bulgaria).

EastMed pipelineNew technologies used to explore and produce oil and gas lying under Mediterranean waters have led to the discovery of hydrocarbons in volumes that, once commercially available, will reshape the energy map of the Middle East and perhaps, of the Europe too. A changed energy panorama will inevitably alter the geopolitical landscape, thus creating new opportunities. The US Geological Survey estimates that some 122 trillion cubic feet of natural gas could eventually be found in the Levantine basin, in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, a volume that would make the region an important player in the world of energy. The costs of developing these resources will be high, as a typical development well drilled in that basin will cost between $80-90 million and a gas pipeline to Europe is expected to cost as much as $15-20 billion.

Related to hydrocarbons, Israel and Russia are about to agree cooperation in the East Mediterranean. Israel would agree to end talks with Turkey’s erratic Erdogan on sale of Israeli Leviathan natural gas to Turkey to displace Russian Gazprom gas which still supplies 60% of Turkish gas despite sanctions. According to unnamed diplomatic sources, Putin envisions an investment between $7 billion to $10 billion to develop Israeli offshore gas fields. In addition the Israeli military establishment “prefers maintaining military cooperation with Russia over potential Israeli gas sales to Turkey if they hurt Russian interests and anger Putin.” (Some background in Realpolitik: The Energy Triangle As Game Changer For The Eastern Mediterranean )

Turkey down Kurdistan up

Ankara has been at a standoff with Moscow in recent months, ever since Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet on the Syrian border last November, and Russia responded with crippling sanctions and Turkey began normalization talks with Israel. These talks were largely motivated by Turkey’s desire to buy gas from Israel. However the Turkish authorities have yet to close the Hamas terror headquarters in Istanbul, and according to reports the country continues to purchase oil from Islamic State (ISIS) despite global criticism. In light of these reasons, as well as anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic comments by senior Turkish officials, the sources estimate that the negotiations are destined to fail. (Source Arutz Sheva )

kurdistanWhile Turkey as well Iran see the growth in strength of the Kurds in the region as a threat to its internal stability – around three million Kurds live in Iranian territory – Russia supports Kurdish independence, since they have been the most effective and trustworthy fighters against ISIS.

Israel, on its part, was the first state to declare its support for an ‘independent’ Kurdistan. In 2014, Netanyahu said: “We should … support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. Kurds are a nation of fighters [who] have proved political commitment and are worthy of independence.” This January, Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called for an independent Kurdistan between Iran and Turkey, and an enhanced policy of cooperation between Israelis and the Kurds. When Iraqi Kurds defied Baghdad in 2015 and began direct sale of the oil in their region, Israel became the major buyer. The oil revenues allowed the Iraqi Kurds to finance their fight against Islamic State (ISIS). A Financial Times report estimated that Israel had purchased 19 million barrels of Iraqi Kurdish oil worth roughly $1 billion between May and August last year [2015].

Turkey has been opposing the establishment of an ‘independent’ Kurdish state, has been supporting Hamas which, in turn, aims at ‘destroying’ Israel and has also at least indirectly assisted Daesh. These actions have instrumental in bringing Israel and Russia closer. Despite Turkey’s attempts at normalizing its relations with Israel, Jerusalem continues to prefer Russia.

The declaration of an autonomous Kurdish-dominated territory along the Turkish border backed by Moscow is a major geopolitical shift in the Syrian situation. On March 17 delegates representing different ethnicities and nationalities–Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians, Syriacs, Turkomans, Armenians, Circassians and Chechen–along with representatives from the Syrian People’s Defense Units or YPG, and the YPJ womens’ defense   units declared a formal Federation of Northern Syria which would incorporate 250 miles of mostly Kurdish-held territory along the Syria-Turkey border. On February 7 of this year a curious event took place little noticed by western media. The Syrian Kurds, represented by the Democratic Unity Party (PYD), the main political organization, were welcomed by Russia to open their first foreign office in Moscow.

Russia replaced US

On 15th March 2016, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin visited Moscow to hold talks with President Vladimir Putin on Syria and the circumstances that led to Russian pull-out. According to Israeli media, the two leaders also discussed continued military coordination between Jerusalem and Moscow in Syria. Rivlin later held talks with Prime Minister Medvedevin in which Russian government sought more imports of agriculture products from Israel to replace Turkish products blocked following sanctions on Ankara. An Israeli official told local media that “over the last few months, we had regular contact with the Russians at the highest level, and that will continue.”

Israel, for its part, risked a diplomatic crisis with Australia last month by abruptly canceling an official visit by President Reuven Rivlin, who instead headed to Moscow for an urgent meeting with Putin. And this occurred just after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu canceled a planned meeting with Obama in Washington, without even bothering to communicate that officially to the White House. Russia’s smart use of hard power to achieve specific, achievable objectives in Syria has made Russia a focal point for the major actors in the Middle East – creating a serious geopolitical challenge for the US.

Several weeks ago, Putin said he plans to meet with Netanyahu in the nearest future, noting that Russia and Israel have “many issues” to discuss. Israeli media reported that Netanyahu plans to travel to Moscow later in the month, allegedly on April 21, to meet with Putin. (Source e.g: Asia Times )

 

Totalitarian Islamism – Iran’s camp; Daesh and the Muslim Brotherhood

The problems facing the Mediterranean security architecture are more acute than ever not only because of the chaotic conditions and criminal conspiracies discussed above, but also due totalitarian Islamism. In general, they can be categorized as belonging to three variants on the theme of Islamism, bitterly hostile to each other: Iran’s camp; Daesh (ISIS) and the Muslim Brotherhood with two influential allies, Turkey and Qatar. These can be described as enemies to many post-modern European, acting brutally and in open defiance of the laws of war and the most elementary norms of human conduct. These forces are by now gaining ground on Mediterranean shores.

islam-anti-free-speech-death-threats-montageThe presence of several common threats, emanating from political and social chaos and from the rise of Islamist forces, is not the only reason for like-minded nations in the Mediterranean region to enhance their cooperation with each other, this is driven to some extent by growing doubts about the willingness and ability of the United States to provide a stable security environment, in the face of the mounting challenges and threats. Also of great importance in shaping the agenda for national policies and regional alliances is the range of serious economic challenges many of them face, and the equally significant opportunities which are bound to arise if trade relations are allowed to develop in a relatively stable environment. Of particular importance is the potential for cooperation in the field of energy, once it can be fully realized.

The relations between Egypt and Hamas are one core question in (partial) Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Besides planned Hamas-Israel ceasefire deal Egypt has a decisive role if sc ‘Sinai option’ (more in Sinai Option again ) will go further as partial solution to conflict. Also even without these kind progress Egypt’s actions with Rafah crossing have great importance for welfare of Gaza population. (More in Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel! ) Egypt has officially accused Hamas of training the terror operatives who assassinated Egyptian Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat last year. Egyptian authorities say Hamas is also actively assisting Wilayat Sinai, the Daesh’ (Islamic State movement’s) branch in northern Sinai, and that this aid involves training its operatives in Gaza and treating its wounded fighters in Gaza hospitals.

(Source and background analysis: The BESA (Begin-Sadat) Center at Bar Ilan University has issued a report written by Col. Dr. Eran Lerman on the Eastern Mediterranean and Israel’s role in the development of a new strategic alliance, also as PDF ).

islam violent and political islam

Conclusion

According New Eastern Outlook the fast approaching prospects of an economically stronger Iran seem to have pushed the Israeli policy makers to strike an ‘energy deal’ with Greece and Cyprus—a deal that is supposed to have strong economic as well as politico-strategic underpinnings at various levels of polity. Israel’s agreement with Greece and Cyprus regarding the development of the vast hydrocarbon reserves that have been discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean, the January 28 declaration has some special significance.

In principle, EastMed Pipeline could also help connect Syria and the Kurdish regions with the European market. To be sure, the EastMed Pipeline project is getting a head start over any definite plans by Iran yet to access Europe’s gas market.

From an Israeli perspective, the recent developments with Greece and Cyprus constitute a win-win situation. The strengthening of ties with these countries creates a new geopolitical bloc that could, to some extent, stand up to Turkey. This bloc has both military and political significance. Greece is ready right now to assist Israel within the European Union, as it proved recently when it led the opposition to labeling settlement products. This represents a sharp change in Greek policy within the European Union. Cyprus almost automatically supports the Greek position, which gives the Greeks a double vote within EU institutions.

Turkey from its side is sliding to isolation and losing ground as regional superpower while Russia is back at the center of the Middle East geostrategic game. As the Americans created a vacuum in their withdrawal Russia replaced it fast. Related to Syria one possible option, which Russia has championed, would be a federal system: Assad’s Alawites could control territory in the West, running from Latakia in the north to Damascus in the south, and an autonomous Syrian-Kurdish region could be established in the northeast, with the rest of the country being left to the Sunni opposition.

Israel-Cyprus-Greece allaince

 


How Islamic State oil flows to Israel

December 3, 2015

enLogoOil produced by the Islamic State group finances its bloodlust. But how is it extracted, transported and sold? Who is buying it, and how does it reach Israel? 

See more at:

How Islamic State oil flows to Israel

By Al-Araby al-Jadeed staff

Date of publication: 26 November, 2015 

 

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Luxury Alongside Poverty in the Palestinian Authority by The Jerusalem Center, November 5, 2015

November 23, 2015

In communities throughout the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, a surprising degree of luxury exists alongside the poverty. This study By The Jerusalem Center, November 5, 2015 ,   includes “A Photo Album of Palestinian Luxury in the West Bank,” offering a more complete picture of living standards there. The truth is that alongside the slums of the old refugee camps, which the Palestinian government has done little to rehabilitate, a parallel Palestinian society is emerging.

Researchers:  Yael Kaplan, Ryan Hartney, and Andrew Felsenthal

Nimetön (69)

House of Palestinian businessman Mohamed Abdel-Hadi

Contents:

Introduction

Palestinian Quality of Life in the West Bank – Indicators

A Photo Album of Palestinian Luxury in the West Bank

 

Source and original article: 

Luxury Alongside Poverty in the Palestinian Authority by The Jerusalem Center, November 5, 2015


Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

November 17, 2015

Israeli-Palestinian conflict maps by Ari RusilaThe Israeli-Palestinian peace process – or lack of that – is now at the  crossroads.  To start or not direct  negotiations, between Israel and Palestinian Authority or at regional level,  with or without preconditions, with or without facilitators, with 2-State
solution as only aim or not, or would unilateral actions be the better option  than keep the status quo.  Is there  Intifada-3  going on or not?   A massive peace effort – the Madrid  Conference and the Oslo Accords – ended the First Intifada; a massive military  campaign –  Operation Defensive Shield –  ended the Second Intifada; how it will end the Intifada-3 if it really  starts?  These are some questions around  the conflict.  With this analysis I try  to clarify main options to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict in relation to  current situation.

Throughout two decades of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process,” direct negotiation with aim of ‘Two-State’ solution has been perceived as the only paradigm of international community and it has been the main option for Israeli and Palestinian authorities. To keep negotiations ongoing has came de facto as the goal in itself instead of the means to reach an agreement. The failure to reach an agreement has given excuses to the politicians on both sides, allowing them to blame the other party for failure to progress, and destroying the belief that an agreement is possible in the foreseeable future.

Main options to solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict by Ari Rusila

As possible solutions for Israeli-Palestinian conflict there has been besides 2-State solution also binational ‘One-State’ solution, partial solutions like Sinai an Jordan Options and different variations of ‘Three States’ solutions. One of course easy ‘solution’ is zero-option – ‘frozen conflict’ or ‘status quo’ scenario which can be implemented also through pseudo-talks. Today also unilateral actions – instead vain negotiations – can pave way towards some solutions.

 

One-State Solution

Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one.state solutionOne State scenario means “Isralestine”, a binational state to West from Jordan River or federation/confederation. Omer Bar-Lev – an MK for the Zionist Union – claims that Israel’s approach to security lacks creativity and initiative. He hits the nail on the head by concluding the one-state dilemma as follows:

If Israel wants to be a democratic state, which it does, then it has to either grant them full citizenship rights, which will subsequently destroy Zionism (one state for two nations) or separate from the Palestinians (two states for two nations). In that case, Israel can keep the Zionist spirit. Then, it is for the Palestinians to decide to create their Palestinian State, which is in their interests and they will make their own decisions. (Source: Fathom)

Indeed one-state option in my opinion would destroy Israel as ‘Jewish homeland’ as both democracy and ‘Jewish Israel’ could not survive in this solution. Failure of negotiations or lack of unilateral actions is shaping Israel and West-Bank more and more towards de facto ‘1-State’.

 

Two-State solution

To this day, I cannot understand why the Palestinian leadership did not accept the far-reaching and unprecedented proposal I offered them. My proposal included a solution to all outstanding issues: territorial compromise, security arrangements, Jerusalem and refugees.

( How to Achieve a Lasting Peace: Stop Focusing on the Settlements By Ehud Olmert Israel PM 2006-2009)

A bit provocative 2-state vision

A bit provocative 2-state vision

A couple of decades the international community has preached a doctrine of ‘Two states for two peoples’, without any progress for its implementation. Sure also in my opinion a two-state solution might be possible. The final status agreement – negotiated compromise – has been very close at least since Beilin-Abu Mazen understandings / agreement / plan (1995) where nearly all issues were agreed. The Olmert proposal (2008) was probably the last serious try (both plans can be found from my document library ). These plans have been refined many times and serious work can be seen e.g. in leaked Palestine Papers/PaliLeaks (More in ”Pali-Leaks, land swaps and desperate search of peace).

23boundar_map-popup (2)

The endgame with 2-state solution will probably be according The Clinton Parameters . The key element with 2-State Solutions are negotiated borders based to pre-1967 armistice lines with land swaps;  the state of Palestine as the homeland of the Palestinian people and the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people; Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount/Haram, and Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall and the space sacred to Judaism; Palestine defined as a “demilitarized state”, solving the refugee question by giving limited return to Israel, return to the new State of Palestine or rehabilitation refugees in host country.

 

Sinai Option

Sinai OptionGreenWith “official” 2-State Solution there is other 2-State options such as Gaza and Palestine option (more e.g. in Gaza State Under Construction, West Bank Remains Bystander ). With this version Israel and Hamas could negotiate a deal which could lead to Gaza State while the future of Palestine state in West-Bank would stay unclear. This (part) solution could be stronger by combining it to recently again proposed Sinai option.

According Middle East Monitor (MEMO) report Egypt offers Palestinian Authority’s President Abbas a Palestinian state in Sinai.   Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi offered Palestinian Authority 620 square miles of land adjacent to Gaza in exchange for relinquishing claims to 1967 borders for the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state. PA President Abbas reportedly rejects proposal. Speaking in a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah, Abbas said: “The plan, which was proposed in 1956, included annexing 1,600 square kilometres from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip in order to receive Palestinian refugees.” He continued: “The plan is being proposed again, but we refused it.” One idea with offer was to resettle “Palestinian refugees” in the Sinai. At its core, the Egyptian initiatives proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to three – five times its current size (360 km2 ) and settling all the Palestinian refugees – who want to move – in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized.

israel-palestinian-state-mediterranean-red-sea-west-bank-removalThere is also some versions of Sinai option created by outside NGOs such as “The Institute for the Study of Globalization and Covert Politics”, which might have conspiracy theoretical approach on issue.  Anyway ISGP proposes that under United Nations and NATO supervision and with financial support of the world community, humanely transport ALL Palestinians from the West Bank to a newly-created Palestinian state consisting of the south of Israel and preferably a small part of Egypt’s largely uninhabited Sinai Desert. In order to help make Palestine a viable state, extend its borders from Gaza on the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea.

More about ‘Sinai Option’ in my article:  Sinai Option again .

 

Three-State solution

I have long been advocating Three State (return) Option – described also as no-state option – as the most pragmatic solution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this 3-state scenario Amman rules the Cairo West Bank and Cairo runs Gaza. This scenario includes a Jordanian option meaning recognition and development of Jordan as the Palestinian State – Israel, the United States and the international community will recognize the Kingdom of Jordan as the only legitimate representative of the Palestinians. Jordan will once again recognize itself as the Palestinian nation-state.

3-state return option by Ari RusilaFor 19 years, Judea and Samaria were part of Jordan, its population Jordanian citizens, and the geographic juxtaposition between Israel and Jordan should make delineating the border between the two countries in an agreement considerably easier than reaching a deal on a border between Israel and a Palestinian state that might be established in the area. If three state solution will be implemented so Israel would receive security guarantees from Jordan’s monarchy, which made peace with Israel in 1994, rather than from a politically enfeebled Palestinian president as well from Egypt, which has peace deal with Israel since 1978, rather than from outside supervised Hamas.

Related to Egypt this ‘3-State’ solution can include sc ‘Sinai Option’ and it is possible to agree some level autonomy to so formed ‘Great Gaza’.

Three-State [Return] proposal would eliminate the main logistical complication pertaining to the communication between the two parts of the Palestinian state. In addition two separate states for Palestinians would accord more realistically with a key current political reality. The idea of 2-State solution is to create a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, with a free flow of people and commerce between the two; however this kind of corridor effectively cuts Israel in half; sure connecting tunnels or bridges could be a solution, but these too are a logistical challenge.

From my point of view this solution is both pragmatic and doable and now more actual than ever as two-state solution is more and more utopia and road map towards it has been death for years. (More in A Jordanian-Palestinian Confederation Is On The Move and The Three-State Option could solve Gaza Conflict )

The three-state solution essentially replicates – with some minor land swaps – the situation that existed between the 1949 Armistice Agreements and the 1967 Six-Day War.

 

Roadmaps to solution

In my opinion there is three main pathways to solution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict and they are following:

  • (Re)starting negotiations,
  • Constructive unilateralism, and
  • Cold Peace

Israeli-Palestinian conflict roadmaps to peace

(Re)starting negotiations

(Re)starting negotiations has two alternatives which are

  1. start negotiations between Israel and Palestine Authority – local approach leading possibly to 2-State solution
  2. restart negotiations between Israel, Egypt and Jordan – regional approach leading to 3-State solution

Both of these alternatives can be implemented directly between shareholders or they can be implemented with help of outside facilitators (USA, Arab League, UN).

I would like to conclude that instead of rigid high-flown statements and dead road maps international community should facilitate the Middle East peace process through following three principles

  • Negotiations will be restored without prior conditions.
  • The talks should be implemented by local stakeholders, not under supervision of outside powers
  • The international community – outside powers – should support any common agreed outcome of talks e.g. with financial aid programs

This approach means that an outcome – which I describe with term ‘quality peace’ – is not possible to achieve imposed from top to field e.g forced by international community or other outsiders; with that kind of approach one can only freeze the conflict not solve it. The only way for ‘quality peace’ is through motivation or at least commitment of individual, clan, community, ethnic groups, wider society or state to resolve conflicts through dialogue by acceptance and at least tolerance of differences. (More in my articles Peacemaking – How about solving Conflicts too? and Quality Peace )

quality peace by Ari Rusila

 

Constructive unilateralism

Already 2012 then Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Israel should consider imposing the borders of a future Palestinian state, becoming the most senior government official to suggest bypassing a stagnant peace process.

The plan titled “It’s in Our Hands,” by Omer Bar-Lev – an MK for the Zionist Union – calls for Israel to unilaterally define its own borders to ensure its security, would keep control of all of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley and bequeath about 60 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians, evacuating 35,000 Jewish settlers — less than 10 percent of the total.

An example from history

An example from history

According BWF  – an Israeli NGO Blue White Future – Israel should prepare for a reality of two states for two people, most notably by declaring that it does not have claims of sovereignty over most of the occupied territories, and by planning and acting accordingly, including preparing for the relocation of settlers residing east of the security fence to Israel proper. BWF proposes that the international community should adopt a paradigm that allows all stakeholders – Israel, Palestinians, the US and the other players – to take independent steps that will advance a reality of two states. (More in Constructive Unilateralism: Leftist Approach to Israel-Palestine Conflict )

A possible Hamas-Israel Deal can pave the way for Cold Peace Solution (More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal ); the final outcome can be 2- or 3-State solution.

Cold Peace

Israel could also independently implement a ‘Cold Peace Solution’, a minimal level of peace relations, to ensure its character as a Jewish and democratic state, by fixing a border between Israel and a future Palestinian state in the West Bank unilaterally. Creating a reality of two states for two peoples by separation into two nation states so that Israel annexes all Judea and Samaria (West-Bank) inside security fence and draws all outposts inside fence on the route of a permanent border on the basis of agreed-upon land swaps or independently in case negotiations does not take place. In the event that negotiations are not renewed, the temporary border will become permanent. As long as there is no agreement, the IDF and Israel would retain control of the outer borders and surrounding areas of the territories to be evacuated by Israelis who would be resettled within the state’s new borders. With this kind of unilateral “cold peace” solution Palestinians can do whatever they want in remaining territory but however this ‘Cold Peace’ in my opinion might – in the course of years – develop to permanent state of affairs and thus end Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An example could be the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel signed in 1979 which most Egyptians view as a cold peace; retrospectively not so bad deal anyway.

In my opinion the situation now is leading Israel toward a de facto binational future toward one-state solution and this might be the worst option for both sides. If negotiations now fail so I think that unilateral moves might not be so bad idea. If three-state option can not now replace the buried two-state solution so then the way forward for Israel seems to be annex the main settlements to Israel, finalize the security fence and wait if and when the Palestinian side and international facilitator want negotiate about some details based on this reality on the ground.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila


Article Analysis: Resolving The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila

 


Sinai Option again

November 11, 2015

Sinai OptionGreenJerusalem Post reports   that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was quoted on Monday [9th November 2015] as claiming that Israel and Hamas have been conducting direct negotiations to expand the Gaza Strip so that it would include some 1,000 square kilometers of Sinai. Abbas, who was recently visiting in Cairo, told that the idea of slicing off land from Sinai to expand the Gaza Strip was first proposed by ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

Abbas said that he knows the names of the Hamas and Israeli negotiators, but did not mention them. He said that former British prime minister and Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair is supervising the purported negotiations between Israel and Hamas. Abbas told that he opposes the idea of annexing any part of Sinai to the Gaza Strip.

History of the Sinai option

The Sinai option indeed is not a new option to solve Egypt-Gaza-Israel conflict. According Middle East Monitor (MEMO) report [01 September 2014 ] Egypt offered Palestinian Authority’s President Abbas a Palestinian state in Sinai.   Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi offered Palestinian Authority 620 square miles of land adjacent to Gaza in exchange for relinquishing claims to 1967 borders for the purpose of establishing a Palestinian state. PA President Abbas reportedly rejected proposal. Speaking in a meeting of Fatah leaders in Ramallah, Abbas said: “The plan, which was proposed in 1956, included annexing 1,600 square kilometres from the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip in order to receive Palestinian refugees.” He continued: “The plan is being proposed again, but we refused it.” One idea with offer was to resettle “Palestinian refugees” in the Sinai.

At its core, the Egyptian initiative proposes expanding the Gaza Strip to five times its current size and settling all the Palestinian refugees in a state to be established there. Under the initiative, this state will be demilitarized, Army Radio reported. In addition, the report continued, the Palestinian Authority would be granted autonomy in the Palestinian cities in the West Bank in exchange for relinquishing the Palestinian demand to return to 1967 borders. The U.S. was involved and even greenlighted the initiative, Army Radio reported, adding that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also brought into the loop, but did not brief the cabinet on it.

trilateralscenario1A similar idea was floated some eight years ago by Israeli academics, but it was rejected outright by the regime of then-Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Experts surmise that Sisi’s generous offer stems from Egypt’s current difficulty in controlling terrorist groups based in the Sinai Peninsula. Source: Israel Hayom

According Middle East Eye (MEE)   the scheme became the centrepiece of the 2004 Herzliya conference, an annual meeting of Israel’s political, academic and security elites to exchange and develop policy ideas. It was then enthusiastically adopted by Uzi Arad, the conference’s founder and long-time adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, the current prime minister. He proposed a three-way exchange, in which the Palestinians would get part of Sinai for their state, while in return Israel would receive most of the West Bank, and Egypt would be given a land passage across the Negev to connect it to Jordan. (This and more plans in Herzliya Papers )

According to the reports, the territory in Sinai would become a demilitarised Palestinian state – dubbed “Greater Gaza” – to which returning Palestinian refugees would be assigned. The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas would have autonomous rule over the cities in the West Bank, comprising about a fifth of that territory. In return, Abbas would have to give up the right to a state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The plan probably originated with Giora Eiland, Israel’s national security adviser from 2004 to 2006. According Eiland’s Plan in 2004 that Israel hoped would be implemented after the withdrawal of settlers and soldiers from Gaza – the so-called disengagement – a year later. Under Eiland’s terms, Egypt would agree to expand Gaza into the Sinai in return for Israel giving Egypt land in the Negev. Eiland’s plan also stipulates that the Palestinians would be granted sovereignty over 89 percent of the West Bank as part of a final settlement to the decades-old conflict. ( More about Eiland’s Plan also in my document library )

According the Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat (HQ in London but with strong ties to the Saudi royal family) the Egyptian source said a similar proposal was put to Morsi when he came to power in 2012. A delegation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders travelled to Washington, where White House officials proposed that “Egypt cede a third of the Sinai to Gaza in a two-stage process spanning four to five years”.US officials, the report stated, promised to “establish and fully support a Palestinian state” in the Sinai, including the establishment of seaports and an airport. The Brotherhood was urged to prepare Egyptian public opinion for the deal.

My conclusion           

Nimetön (60)There is some speculations that, were Isis’s influence to expand further in Gaza or Egypt’s adjoining Sinai peninsula, Hamas could end up forging a common cause — openly or otherwise — with either Israel or Egypt; co-operation between Hamas and Egypt, and between Hamas and Israel might be the outcome.

In my opinion annexing part of Sinai to Gaza as might partly solve Arab-Israeli Conflict. In addition Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’ and beyond. (More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal )

Related articles:

Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal


[Sinai Option again  first appeared in Conflicts By Ari Rusila]

logotC


Gaza Blockade – It’s Egypt not Israel!

October 3, 2015

Longstanding restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza have undermined the living conditions of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza. Many of the current restrictions, originally imposed by Israel in the early 1990s, were intensified after June 2007, following the Hamas takeover of Gaza and the imposition of a sc blockade or siege. The situation has been compounded by the restrictions imposed since June 2013 by the Egyptian authorities at Rafah Crossing.

Gaza vs Rafah

Kerem Shalom vs Rafah 2015

Despite restrictions there has been whole time – even during conflicts/wars – movement of commodities as well Palestinians to and from Gaza via Israeli border crossings. During last months movement of goods has increased via Kerem Shalom Crossing at Israeli border to/from Gaza but is almost non-existent via Rafah Crossing at Egyptian border. Besides official border crossings Egypt is now implementing measures which will totally block unofficial traffic aka smuggling.  In my opinion Egypt not Israel is blocking Gaza.

 

The Rafah Border Crossing

The Rafah Border Crossing lies on the international border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip that was recognized by the 1979 Israel–Egypt Peace Treaty and confirmed during the 1982 Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. The crossing was managed by the Israel Airports Authority until Israel evacuated Gaza on 11 September 2005 as part of Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan. It subsequently became the task of the European Union Border Assistance Mission Rafah (EUBAM) to monitor the crossing. Though Israel and Egypt allow limited imports into Gaza, the economy of Gaza largely relies on illicit trade that flourishes via an alternative “tunnel economy.” Hamas enriches itself at the expense of the Palestinian Authority (PA) by collecting tolls from tunnel operators and import taxes on goods brought into Gaza. This second economy increases ordinary Gazans’ reliance on Hamas rule, which most would prefer to see end. Making peace deal only between Israel and the PA does not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ignoring Gaza further incentives Hamas to oppose peace with Israel and any deal its Palestinian adversaries conclude.

Since former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was ousted in June 2013, the Egyptian military has been trying to eliminate the smuggling tunnels beneath the border in the southern Gaza Strip, destroying them and expanding the buffer zone.  Egypt has demolished tunnels e.g. by exploding them, Egyptian army also fires tear gas or throws wastewater inside the tunnels to kill diggers. Rafah crossing with Egypt has been closed almost permanently since October 2014, heavily restricting those who can enter or leave the Gaza Strip. Egypt closed the border after relations soured between the Gazan and Egyptian leaderships after the overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the ensuing crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its followers. Egypt has linked instability in the Sinai peninsula to Gaza causing it to isolate the strip. Since 17th September 2015 the Egyptian army has been pumping large volumes of Mediterranean Sea waters  into the buffer zone that it began building two years ago, along 14 kilometers of the Palestinian-Egyptian border. The move is the latest attempt to destroy the tunnels dug by Palestinians under the city of Rafah over the years of the Israeli blockade. (Source and more e.g. in Al-Monitor )
rafah_tunnel-e1406588938670 (2)

2014—15 Egyptian demolition of homes and terror/smuggling tunnels

In 2008 and 2009, according to media reports and the US Defense Department, the US Army Corps of Engineers trained Egyptian troops to use advanced technological equipment that measures ground fluctuations to indicate tunnel digging. In August 2013, the US Defense Department awarded the defense company Raytheon a $9.9 million contract to continue research and development in Egypt on its version of this technology, which is known as a laser radar vibration sensor.

The tunnels were first constructed immediately after Israel’s disengagement from the Sinai Peninsula, as part of the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt. But digging got more intense after Israel declared a blockade on Gaza after Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian elections. Hamas’s government started to flourish on what economists called the booming “tunnel economy” until current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi joined Israel in trying to destroy it.

In October 2014 Egypt announced that they planned to expand the buffer zone between Gaza and Egypt, following a terrorist attack from Gaza that killed 31 Egyptian soldiers. The buffer was created “in a move meant to halt the passage of weapons and militants through cross-border smuggling tunnels but which also puts more pressure on the Palestinian militant Hamas group.” The buffer zone originally was 500 meters, following the announcement of the expanded buffer zone many residents voluntarily left the area. Ibrahim Mahlab the Prime Minister of Egypt announced that any residents unwilling to move willfully would be forcefully removed from their homes. Between July 2013 and August 2015, Egyptian authorities demolished at least 3,255 residential, commercial, administrative, and community buildings in the Sinai Peninsula along the border with the Gaza Strip, forcibly evicting thousands of people.

On 17 November, 2014, Egypt announced that the buffer zone would be doubling to 1 km due to the longer than expected tunnels discovered, in addition to a night time curfew for the area. On January 8, 2015, Egypt’s expansion resulted in the destruction of about 1,220 homes, while destroying more than 1,600 tunnels. Some tunnels discovered ranged over 1 kilometer long and contained lighting, ventilation and phone systems. In February 2015, in response to the buffer zone, ISIS beheaded 10 men they believed were spies for Mossad and the Egyptian Army. In June 2015 Egypt completed its digging of a ditch by the Rafah Crossings, 20 meters wide by 10 meters deep. (Source and more e.g: Wikipedia )

Over the past months Egyptian military bulldozers have also destroyed many Egyptian homes to create a buffer zone of at between 500 and 1,000 metres on the Egyptian side, and 1,000 metres. Entire neighborhoods have been flattened being gutted.

 

Egypt floods the rest of Gaza’s tunnels with seawater

According  MEE – Middle East Eye report Egyptian military vehicles are transferring Mediterranean Sea water to the Rafah border, to fill a newly-built crude canal, flooding and destroying the lifeline tunnels connecting Egypt and blockaded Gaza. By canal the Egyptian government is trying to economically crush Hamas, an ally of the Muslim brotherhood. Egypt is planning that sea water will flood into any remaining undiscovered tunnels and completely destroy them. Most tunnels are usually 20 meters deep, and can stretch for three hundred meters inside Egyptian Rafah. Israel also tried to fight Gaza’s tunnels by digging a canal and pumping sea water into the 14 km borderline with Egypt, but due to environmental damage and danger to natural aquifer water systems, it built a separation wall instead; deep into, and above, the ground.

Egyptian military personnel won’t speak openly of the nature of the project, but some local experts have said the aim is to create fish farms. Water pipes can be seen on the Egyptian side of the border-leading from the beach area into the west of the city, to an area filled with supply tunnels. A local water engineer said that pumping sea water into natural clean-water aquifers will increase salinity twenty-fold.

Palestinians inspect the damage after Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip September 18, 2015. | Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinians inspect the damage after Egyptian forces flooded smuggling tunnels dug beneath the Gaza-Egypt border, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip September 18, 2015. | Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Mayor of Rafah, Subhi Radwan believes this could lead to the forced migration of the local population. “The sea water is leaking into the clean aquifer, damaging the ground structure and pure water,” he said. Radwan said that drinking water, for the population, will not be available soon, as dirty salt water is pushed into the already damaged plumbing system of Gaza. “This will also deprive farmers of the ability to plant consumable vegetables and all forms of fresh plants which rely on clean aquifer waters,” the mayor added.

Economic analyst Moein Rajab told Al-Monitor that the pumping of salt water into the tunnels will affect agriculture and render farmlands unproductive as salt levels rise. As such, large tracts of Palestinian agricultural land that stretches along the Egyptian border will be made useless, leading to a marked decrease in agricultural production. Rajab added that soon after, the area’s inhabitants would be forced to leave as the topsoil is destabilized, further exacerbating the current Gaza Strip housing crisis. He explained, “Due to the fact that houses are so close to the border — mere hundreds of meters away — homes will become threatened with demolition or damaged to the point of being unlivable, with their foundations buckling as the earth liquefies. As a result, inhabitants will be forced to abandon their homes, which will add problems and further exacerbate the housing crisis engendered by the scarcity of building materials, blockade and pitiable economic situation.”

 

The Kerem Shalom crossing

Kerem Shalom in Israel is the main – and now practically only – border crossing to and from Gaza for goods (People are using more Erez crossing in Northern Gaza).   Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is part of the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine (UNISPAL) agency monitoring and reporting e.g. Gaza’s situation to international community. Its statistics show clearly where movement of commodities to and from Gaza take place. To the text frame below I have collected from OCHA reports the main points about import and export of Gaza through Israel on August 2015:

Gaza Import/Export, August 2015

Gaza Import/Export, August 2015

And here is wider picture of Gaza crossings in infographic:

Commodities Dashboard I

 

The Kerem Shalom crossing is relatively small and is not enough for the entry of all of Gaza’s needs. An average of 300 to a maximum of 700 trucks enter every day. To increase the truckloads of supplies that enter Gaza from Israel and speed up efforts to rebuild the territory, the Dutch government donated a new security scanner on July 2015. Some 1,000 trucks are expected to cross with the new scanner, according to COGAT and the Dutch Foreign Ministry. (Source. The Times of Israel )

 

My  conclusions

Hamas’ economic well-being was in large part dependent on its system of smuggling tunnels snaking underneath the Gaza border with Egypt. The supply lines that have fed it cash, arms, goods, luxury items, fuel, and cement for its terror-tunnel industry suddenly were gone. These goods, which were smuggled into Gaza at obscenely low prices at the expense of Egyptian citizens, were no longer flowing in due to the closure of the tunnels. The economy of Hamas is weakening as Egypt has closed main part of over one thousand smuggling tunnels on Gaza border; before that Hamas administration got remarkable income from smuggling activities.

Gaza’s isolation was imposed originally to delegitimize and undermine Hamas’ leadership. Palestinian Authority or better say Fatah was hoping to produce positive economic development in the West Bank which could lead Gazans to overturn Hamas rule. The opposite came true as Hamas’ control grew tighter. During last year there has been talks about national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. The Hamas-Israel dialogue is the last example that instead unity the split between Hamas and Fatah as well between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is even wider than before.

This situation can at best to lead long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Part of deal is lifting of an eight-year blockade placed on the Gaza Strip, less restriction for goods and people to go over border, importing goods to Gaza through a Cyprus port overseen by NATO representatives (until a floating offshore port can be developed). Hamas-Israel Deal could pave way for the ‘Cold Peace Solution’ and beyond. (More in Hamas and Israel on Verge of the Deal )

EU claims that imaginary Gaza blockade is the reason for slow reconstruction in Gaza strip while the main reason is corruption and misuse of funds. (More e.g. in Instead of Gaza’s Reconstruction Donor Aid Finances Terrorism And Corruption ). Besides emergency relief the international community gives also huge donations for capacity building activities. One problem however is that the impact of the international assistance is poor if not even non-existent in relation to sustainable development. As The Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS) concluded “it has been almost impossible to trace any positive impact of these mobilized resources on the ground”. More about MAS analysis in Placebo effect for people and society with 20 bn bucks .

So called Gaza blockade or siege is one of the main causes or excuse – depending from viewpoint – for flotillas, BDS, EU’s labelling plans, anti-Semitism, donations to Hamas, humanitarian crisis etc. Given the facts referred above one could conclude that blaming Israel for blockade is at least unjust.

Cold-Peace-Solution by Ari Rusila

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