But perhaps that’s not the most important news to come out of the announcement. What could have more significance is that Palestinian Authority (PA) “inspectors will begin to work in the Kerem Shalom crossing, and oversee the collection of import taxes and the export of goods from Gaza to the West Bank,” according to the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. “This would mark the first return of Palestinian Authority officials to the Gaza Strip since the Hamas takeover in June 2007.”
The recently released State Department cables by WikiLeaks add important context behind the decision to have the PA return to Gaza.
Hamas, which runs Gaza, has not yet publicly reacted to this news. But it’s sure to be unwelcome for the Islamist movement, who have so far resisted any suggestions that the PA be allowed to operate in Gaza. Since the brief civil war between Hamas and Fatah in 2007, which came as a result of the U.S. arming and encouraging Fatah to take over Gaza despite Hamas having won the 2006 Palestinian elections democratically, reconciliation talks between the two sides have been ongoing. They have so far failed.
At the same time of the reconciliation talks, both Hamas and Fatah have been arresting each other’s supporters and party members, further driving a wedge between the parties and the territories they govern, which has long been an Israeli priority.
What emerges in the WikiLeaks State Department cables is a realization that Israel and Egypt’s long-term plan for Gaza, backed by the U.S., is to have the PA return there. Might the Israeli decision to allow exports out of Gaza and to have PA officials supervise the Kerem Shalom crossing be a first step in attempting that goal?
One of the most explosive revelations relating to Israel/Palestine that has come out of WikiLeaks is the cable that shows that, about five months after the end of the 2008-09 Israeli assault, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the U.S. that he had “consulted with Egypt and Fatah prior to Operation Cast Lead, asking if they were willing to assume control of Gaza once Israel defeated Hamas.”
Other cables show similar entreaties by interested parties, all of them wanting to strengthen the PA. The head of Egypt’s intelligence services, Omar Soliman, told the U.S. in July 2009 that “Egypt’s three primary objectives with the Palestinians were to maintain calm in Gaza, undermine Hamas, and build popular support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.” Another cable from 2007, states that Benjamin Netanyahu said that “Israel and the U.S. should focus on ‘bringing down Hamas’ through an ‘economic squeeze.'”
The cables show an intent to subvert Palestinian democracy and strengthen the PA at the expense of Hamas. The wishes of the PA returning to power in Gaza, expressed in the State Department cables, may now partly come true with the latest Israeli decision on exports out of Gaza–but only at the expense of the Palestinian people, who still find themselves politically divided while Israel’s occupation and land confiscation grinds on. Unilaterally installing the PA at a Gaza crossing won’t help.