Two central players, namely Egypt and Israel, and a third party, President Abu Mazen, are controlling the progress of easing the siege and lifting it from the Palestinian people and their resistance in the Gaza Strip. The first phase of this process has been completed: a ceasefire and stopping what could be considered violent popular activity on the Gazan borders in exchange for limited economic and humanitarian facilitations for Gaza and promises to move towards breaking the siege on Gaza. This was achieved given the convergence of the central players’ interests with that of the Palestinian people and resistance in Gaza, despite President Abu Mazen’s opposition to this, before he is given complete control of the Gaza Strip.
The next phase of the truce process and breaking the siege is facing a significant slowdown, due to the difference in interests and confusion amongst the central players, not because of any change in the position of the secondary player, Abu Mazen. He has constantly declared a firm position that does not budge regarding his “empowerment” first before making any progress on any issue by concerning Gaza, either humanitarily or politically.
It seems that the Israeli government’s interests lie in stalling and trying to buy more time, after having, temporarily, achieved its main interests in stopping the escalation. It is now seeking to resolve the issue of the soldiers captured in Gaza, which is exacerbated by the pressure from the soldiers’ families. This is being exploited by the settler right-wing parties, led by ministers Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked, especially in preparation for the upcoming Knesset elections expected in the first half of 2019.
In the meantime, Israel is okay to seek a secondary Israeli and regional interests in an attempt to involve Israel’s natural security partner, President Abu Mazen, and allow him to oversee the process of making progress in the truce and the accompanying economic projects. Israel still considers Abu Mazen to be the preferred option over Hamas despite all of the issues they have with him, although Israeli predictions indicate that this will not work. Israel’s position in this regard is limited to preventing escalation as a result of the decline of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
As for the Egyptian interest, it lies mainly in the appearance of Egypt as “mature and responsible” and keen on the stability of the area and the region, including the security of Israel. It also wants to appear to arrange the internal Palestinian affairs by means of reconciliation without seeming to focus on its own economic or political interests to strengthen its relationship with the US administration and strengthen its economic influence in Gaza.
It is reasonable to say that the reading of the Egyptian interest to progress towards the rest of the truce process indicates that it also needs to slow things down and not rush to put more pressure on the parties because this may achieve more of Egypt’s interests. Many reports on the process of establishing a waterway with Cyprus to help Gaza, and so it is able to easily contribute to the issues of the reconciliation and to Abu Mazen’s position on the subject. Even this Egyptian position is confined to the interests of Israel and Gaza not declining or reaching the point of a military confrontation with Israel.
It is also worth noting that all of the players’ interests are served by the media discourse by all of them stressing and holding Abu Mazen responsible for the impasse in the truce process and lifting the siege. Israel evades this responsibility, albeit formally, and says that the people of Gaza’s problem is with Abu Mazen. Meanwhile, Egypt cannot appear to be the staller because of its own interests, and Abu Mazen is keen to show his “great capabilities” in front of his people in Gaza. Meanwhile the Palestinian resistance in Gaza cannot easily accuse Egypt, but rather focuses on accusing Israel and Abu Mazen.
In any case, the strongest card in this context remains the steadfastness and perseverance of the Palestinian people and their resistance in the Gaza Strip and their readiness to make more sacrifices and to engage in more limited and wide-scale confrontations. They are willing to make the occupation pay the price dearly for its siege and occupation in order to gain their most basic Palestinian rights, to live with dignity, without suffocation or siege. Therefore, the Palestinian people in Gaza have the potential to move the interests of the central players towards progress in breaking the siege in Gaza.
This article first appeared in the Palestinian Information Centre on 9 September 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.