By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
Some media have reported that the resistance forces in Gaza Strip (GS), headed by Hamas, have, in early April 2019, reached new understandings with Israel under Egyptian mediation, and supported by the United Nations and Qatar. The latter, as per these understandings, plays a main role in supporting GS and covering many of its needs.
Several Hamas leaders, such as Isma‘il Haniyah, Yahya Sinwar and Khalil al-Hayyah, have stated that these understandings came in the context of the Palestinian people snatching their rights from the Israeli enemy. They are the fruit of the sacrifices and activities—first and foremost the return marches- of the Gazans to break the siege. Their statements explained that these understandings were reached through an Egyptian mediator, without meeting directly with the Israelis. No political prices were paid, they do not recognize Israel or the Quartet’s conditions, and they do not relinquish resistance weapons. They are not a substitute for the pursuit of national unity and partnership, resumption of reconciliation, or rebuilding the Palestinian national house.
The Understandings Contents
The Palestinian side in GS would be committed to the 2014 ceasefire, not employing “rough tools” along the border (such as those that include incendiary balloons, burning tires, cutting the barbed wire of the fence, nighttime protests…), and the protesters would not approach the border fence.
On the Israeli side, the understandings (that were not officially announced) included a full Israeli commitment not to fire live ammunition at the protesters, and to reduce the hovering of surveillance drones over GS, which disturb and intimidate the citizens.
Concerning electricity and fuel, the understandings stipulated that the Qataris would continue to supply fuel to Gaza’s power plant, until 31/12/2019, and fuel tanks for the Gaza power plant would be built; one of 30 million liter capacity would be funded by Norway and two others by Qatar. The Israeli supply of electricity to GS would continue in the same current way, in case Qatar did not renew its monthly instalments, fuel tax exemption would continue. The understandings included taking actual measures to establish the 161 kv line to provide GS with electricity, funded by Qatar and the Islamic Development Bank. The project will be executed in two phases over a year and a half. A timetable has also been set to install a gas pipeline for the power station, which Qatar agreed to fund and which would be executed over three years. It was agreed also on the entrance of equipment necessary for home solar power systems.
On the subject of the fishing zone for Gazans, it was approved to be expanded, gradually increasing from northern GS until Rafah, reaching 15 nautical miles. It may reach 18 nautical miles after three months.
Regarding the crossings, the Israelis approved the continuous opening of the crossings, while increasing their activity. Kerem Abu Salem would operate at its fullest, where 1100 trucks would enter daily (import) and 120 trucks would exit daily (export). The number of items designated as dual-use would be decreased, where 30% of those prohibited are now allowed. The Israelis agreed on speeding up import steps (The import and permits cycle), and easing the movement of merchants and businesspersons at the crossings with Israel and Rafah, and increasing their exit permits.
With regard to aid flow (Qatari and others), a monthly transfer of $30 million from Qatar to GS was allowed until the end of 2019; $10 million to the poor, $10 million aid (salaries) to employees and $10 million to help employing graduates. Any other funding from any side or country is also allowed, provided it does not go to Hamas and the beneficiary must be known. There was consensus on continuing and increasing temporary job program run by international organizations, in which 40 thousand temporary jobs would be offered; 20 thousand of those would be offered by the United Nations, as announced by UN special coordinator for the middle east peace process, Nickolay Mladenov.
It was agreed to establish and operate two industrial zones; one to the east of Shuja‘iyyah and the other in the Beit Hanun industrial area, employing 15 thousand workers, pending that all the factories needs, including dual-use items, would be provided.
In the medical sector, it was agreed to provide GS monthly with medications and medical supplies, according to a submitted list. Norway pledged to provide 1.6 million euros-worth of radiotherapy equipment for cancer patients. An international hospital for chronic illnesses (cancer, heart, bones..) would be established in north GS, near Erez crossing, in which around 250 international physicians would be working.
As for water, a contract to operate the Gaza Central Desalination Plant was signed, funded by several Arab and international parties. The project includes conveying water from the north of GS to its south. In September 2019, the execution of the $560 million project will begin.
It is noticed that the Israeli authorities are usually elusive, break pledges and use various extortion methods to impose their terms, however, the resistance is capable also of making gains and imposing its own terms within its limited potentials. The pushing and pulling between the two sides is continuous, where the Israeli side—due to different internal and external circumstances and accounts—is forced to make some “concessions.” Therefore, it’s not strange that the Israeli failure in subjugating GS, and the accomplishments of the popular resistance in the return marches, have contributed to pushing for more “concessions.” The resistance forces have the right to accumulate their achievements, as long as there are no political concessions made to the Israeli side.
Second Note: These understandings remain within the frame of easing the siege, rather than breaking it for good. Therefore, they are of temporary nature for the Palestinian side, who must continue to pursue breaking the siege and regaining its national rights. For the understandings did not result in opening the crossings and allowing the movement of goods fully and without restrictions, and they did not include opening the airport or seaport and other issues.
Third Note: The Israeli side is dealing as usual with these understandings from a tactical perspective. As it did before, it suspended many of its commitments and obligations, or presented interpretations that suit its wishes, or invoked any excuses to bring things back to square one. If Israel noticed any change in the political circumstances, or weakness in the Palestinian position, or a “soft” possibility to overthrow the resistance forces, it won’t hesitate a moment to impose new facts on the ground commensurate with its plans and programs.
Fourth Note: The resistance forces must note that, according to the new understandings, the return marches are not longer a source of danger or a real concern for the Israelis, i.e., they are not an effective tool anymore, under current circumstances and accounts, to exert pressure in order to attain new rights for the Palestinian people. Consequently, these forces must find new ways to proceed with its program and break the siege for good.
Fifth Note: The US-Israeli attempts to implement the “deal of the century,” and treat the separation of GS from the West Bank (WB) as a de facto, must be confronted. Any attempts to transform GS into a “functional entity” within an upcoming political settlement must be also confronted. For it would seem as if the Gazans have gained their normal rights of a stable life and of security, labor and movement, and as if it’s the ultimate objective of the national work, which would paralyze the resistance ability to have any role against the Israeli occupation. Actually, many statements made by the resistance forces confirm that they are aware of these risks, and are insistent on pursuing the resistance line and the liberation project. Perhaps, the meeting of Palestinian forces late April 2019, called for by Hamas to confront the “deal of the century” is part of this direction.
Based on the above, the political and resistance performance and activities of GS must remain complementary to and in harmony with the Palestinian national project in WB, the 1948 territories and abroad. Everyone must seek to work within a single system that rejects partition, and whose activities, events and resistance serve the national and liberation projects, supported by its Arab, Islamic and human dimensions.
This article was originally published in Arabic on Arabi 21 on 26/4/2019.