The most depressing news concerns the split between the Palestinians themselves. This split is a disaster for them, and, I believe, also for Israel and the world at large. That’s why I dare to comment on a matter that seemingly does not concern us Israelis. It does.
It is easy to blame Israel. Easy and also justified. In their struggle against the national aspirations of the Palestinians, successive Israeli governments have applied the old Roman maxim divide et impera, divide and rule.
Since the Oslo agreement, the central component of this policy has been the physical separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Article IV of the Oslo Agreement of September 1993 says: “The two sides view the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a single territorial unit, whose integrity will be preserved”.
Article X of Annex 1 of the Interim Agreement of September 1995 says: “There shall be a safe passage connecting the West Bank with the Gaza Strip for movement of persons, vehicles and goods…Israel will ensure safe passage for persons and transportation during daylight hours…in any event not less than 10 hours a day.”
In practice, the safe passage was never opened. Among all the blatant violations of the Oslo agreements, this was the most severe. Its consequences have been disastrous for both sides.
True, there was a lot of talking about the passage. Ehud Barak once fantasized about constructing a giant bridge between the West Bank and the Strip, after seeing such a 40 km long bridge somewhere abroad. Others spoke about a tunnel underneath Israeli territory. Yet others proposed an extraterritorial highway or railway. None of these ideas was ever implemented. On the contrary, while before Oslo there had been free movement for all, including the inhabitants of the occupied territories, after Oslo this freedom was abolished.
THE PRETEXT was – as always – security: convoys of murderers and terrorists would pack the safe passage, trucks loaded with Palestinian rockets would drive to and fro. But the consequences disclose the true aim: what remained of Palestine was cut into two disconnected parts.
One cannot rule a territory without physical contact with it. That was proven in Pakistan, which was founded as a state with two disconnected parts separated by Indian territory. Soon enough, war between the two broke out and the Eastern part became the independent state of Bangladesh.
According to the latest Palestinian statistics, which seem reliable, there are now 2.42 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and 1.46 million in the Gaza Strip (in addition to 379 thousand in East Jerusalem). From Yasser Arafat I once heard that more than half of the Palestinian Authority’s resources were being devoted to the Gaza Strip, in spite of the fact that the Strip amounted to only 6% (one sixteenth) of the Palestinian territories.
Now there exist in practice two Palestinian entities: the West Bank, whose actual capital is now Ramallah, and the Gaza Strip, with its capital Gaza city. From the political, economic and ideological points of view, the distance between them is growing.
And from the point of view of the Israeli occupation policy, that is a great victory.
THE ISRAELI government conducts different strategies against the two Palestinian entities.
Against Gaza, the policy is simple and brutal: to overthrow the Hamas government by turning the life of those 1,460,000 men and woman, old people and children, into hell. They are allowed to bring in only the most basic foodstuffs. There was an international outcry when Senator John Kerry discovered the import of noodles is prohibited, because pasta is apparently a luxury. “We shall not give them chocolate when Gilad Shalit is not getting chocolate,” an army officer declared this week. It would be interesting to know how much chocolate the 11 thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails are getting.
AGAINST THE Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, the occupation authorities employ a different, but no less destructive, strategy. They make every effort to present it as a kind of Palestinian Vichy regime, in order to prevent the healing of the Palestinian rift.