Widening the Gaza-West Bank gap

Widening the Gaza-West Bank gap

They communicate by telephone, Skype, and videolink because they cannot meet face to face.

Control is name of the game in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel maintains its grip on Gaza and West Bank Palestinian enclaves and fosters the territorial, political and social division between them imposed gradually over the past 20 years.

Amjad Shawa, a member of Gaza's most prominent family, told Deccan Herald, “Israel is trying to create two entities in order to kill the unity of the Palestinian national project.” Israel determines the flow of people and goods into and out of Gaza through the Erez passenger crossing and the Karem Shalom entry point for goods. Very few Gazans secure permits to enter Israel while West Bank Palestinians must show identity cards at checkpoints to travel between West Bank cities, towns and villages and obtain permits to enter East Jerusalem. Goods travel along Israeli designated routes.  Israel does not permit West Bank spouses of Gazans to visit family in the West Bank.  Gazans and West Bankers communicate by telephone, skype, and videolink because they cannot meet face to face.
The Muslim fundamentalist Hamas movement that rules Gaza is asserting control over most aspects of life there.  In recent months, Hamas has introduced permits (visas) for foreign nationals, including aid workers and journalists, entering Gaza. Permits have to be applied for a week or so ahead of a visit. Shawa, head of the Gaza branch of the Palestinian network of non-governmental organisations, said that Hamas has passed amendments to the law on the operations of and structure of these organisations which make up Palestinian civil society.  “We have met with legislative council members to discuss cancellation of the law.”  Hamas also seeks to establish its authority over local and foreign agencies by demanding to examine their accounts and lists of donors.

Reasserting influence

The Palestinian Authority (PA), dominated by the secular Fatah movement, is clamping down on dissent in the West Bank and trying to reassert its influence in Gaza by denying the Strip fuel and medical supplies.

Although the PA is responsible for providing both, it has reneged on its commitments.  Throughout February and March, Gaza suffered 16-18 hour daily electricity cuts because the PA no longer provided fuel for the power plant and Cairo halted the flow of fuel smuggled through tunnels from Egypt into Gaza. After weeks of bickering, Hamas transferred funds to the PA to purchase fuel from Israel which was sent into Gaza through the goods crossing. However, there still is a shortage of petrol and diesel for vehicles.

Dr Mahmoud Daher, the director of the World Health Organisation’s office in Gaza, said 182 out of 500 essential medicines are out of stock in Gaza because the PA's ministry of health does not send supplies.”  Gaza does not have medications for common chronic diseases, cancer, heart ailments, and operating theatres. The waiting list for operations is six rather than three months and referrals to hospitals outside Gaza have doubled to 16,000 because of the lack of common drugs. “Some patients have died but their deaths are not reflected in the records.”

 “The modern system of medicine depends on machines affected by power cuts. The lack of fuel for generators means hospitals can be forced to close down..hospitals are managing but are always on the edge,” he stated. There is no “political horizon” for Palestinians who, according to Dr.Mahdi Abdel Hadi, head of a Jerusalem think tank, are “paralysed. There is no leadership and no consensus” on how to respond to the overwhelming Israeli challenge.  In occupied East Jerusalem “all the components of Israeli society - intelligence, army, police, and settlers - combine to crush Palestinians.” Israeli peace activist Jeff Halper agreed with Dr. Abdel Hadi's analysis. Halper stated, “Israel thinks, ‘We've won’” the 130-year struggle for Palestine.   He described Israel as “one of the last colonial systems and the first one that ever won.

“The two state solution,” involving the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, “is finished.”
Halper said Israel plans to annex 60 per cent of the West Bank where Israeli settlements are located, “share” 23 per cent where the PA provides services to Palestinians but Israel has control of security, and permit “ autonomy-minus” in 17 per cent administered and policed by the PA.   

“Palestinians will become a permanent underclass.  They will either leave or hunker down,” Halper stated.  Palestinian enclaves will be isolated, “Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem split up by settlers,” and Gaza encouraged to regard Egypt as its outlet.

While the international community might be prepared to “normalise” with such a situation, Israel will not succeed in gaining “acceptance by the Muslim world,” he asserted.  “Palestine is like a [fish] bone in the throat of Muslims” and “nothing will change unless the issue is resolved.”

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