The Oslo agreement stated unequivocally that the West Bank and the Gaza Strip constitute one territorial unit.
To insure that, Israel undertook in the agreement to open four “safe passages” between the two regions. On the way from Jericho to Gaza, tri-lingual signposts were set up: ”to Gaza”, etc. Yet none of these passages was ever opened.
Today it is difficult to remember that from the beginning of the occupation, 1967, to the Oslo agreement, 1993, movement in Israel/Palestine was unfettered. Palestinians from Gaza and Hebron were free to visit Haifa, Israelis could easily buy food in Nablus or Jericho. Incredible as it sounds, it was the Oslo agreement that put an end to this paradise.
After Oslo came the Separation Wall and all the other measures which are turning the Gaza Strip and the West Bank into open-air prisons. The inevitable result was the split.
THERE ARE few instances in history of a state consisting of two or more widely separated territories. The most conspicuous in our time was Pakistan.
When India was partitioned, large Muslim areas were located west and east of what became India. It did not work. It took only a few years for the East Pakistanis to resent the domination of the West Pakistanis. Mutual hatred raised its head. The Easterners broke away with the help of India and set up their own new state – Bangladesh.
Between the two Pakistani areas there was a huge distance, with the bulk of India in between. But between the West Bank and the Gaza strip, the distance is just some 40 (forty) km.
In the beginning, there was lot of talk about how to bridge that distance. Quite literally. Ehud Barak played with the idea of building a giant bridge and shopped around the world for a model. Others thought about extraterritorial highways or railway lines. Nothing was carried out.
In the meantime, what was bound to happen, happened. In both areas free elections were held, supervised by Jimmy Carter, and Hamas won. A government was formed. Under immense Israeli pressure, Europe and the US boycotted it, and it fell apart.
The rest is history. A Fatah faction in Gaza, led by an Israeli-American collaborator, tried to stage a putsch in Gaza. Hamas reacted with a putsch of its own (if one can perform a putsch after winning an election) and became the government in the Gaza Strip. Fatah took power in the West Bank. Both sides vilified each other, to the delight of Israel and its supporters.
But history has its own mysterious ways. After some guns v. rockets duels, Israel attacked the Gaza Strip and after a lot of bloodshed, Egypt stepped in and arranged for a settlement (not a “hudna”, which means an armistice, but a “tahdiya”, which means stillness). Both sides were happy to work together. Hamas even took concrete steps to stop the attacks of the smaller, more extreme Gaza factions. Israel also negotiated with Hamas about the return of the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.
It even seems that Israeli army officers prefer to deal with the combative Hamas than with the softer Fatah, whose leader, Mahmoud Abbas, was referred to by Ariel Sharon as a “plucked chicken”.
PRESIDENT JOHNSON once said that it was better to have your adversary inside the tent and spitting out, than have him stay outside the tent, spitting in.
Inclusiveness is better than exclusiveness. Hamas bearing the responsibility for a Palestinian Unity Government is better than Hamas attacking it. If you really want to make peace with the Palestinian people.
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