Gaza, Palestine

What future for Gaza in coming years?

While the ideal option for Palestinians is to achieve reconciliation between Ramallah and Gaza, which would preserve the two-state solution, the most likely scenario in the next five years is the continuation of the status quo, with no viable alternative. It is the scenario that does not anger the PA and will not find serious objection from Egypt and Jordan; it is the option that has become familiar to the region.

By Omar Shaban
Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR)
Critical Policy Brief, Number 6/2021

Since the Palestinian division occurred in June 2007, the Gaza Strip has become a geographical area with a political and legal context different from the West Bank. The Gaza Strip is a small area in size, but a large one in problems. It is under the rule of Hamas, which is not recognized in the Arab world, nor internationally. After Hamas took control of the Strip, Israel imposed a comprehensive blockade and exposed it to four, long, destructive wars and dozens of smaller armed confrontations over 14 years. The policy of the suffocating blockade enforced by Israel, as well as the repeated wars and military attacks, have created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and resulted in massive destruction of infrastructure and all economic sectors and activities.[1] The Gaza Strip is supposedly part of the territory of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the future state, according to international resolutions and the Oslo Agreement signed between the PLO and Israel. However, as it is not geographically connected to the remaining Palestinian territory, and, since the Palestinian division in 2007 that brought it outside the control of the PA, and the failure of attempts at reconciliation and unity, the question is again raised: ‘What is the future of the Gaza Strip within the next five years?’

Four assumptions:

The following discussion takes for granted the continuation of four aspects of the current status quo:

Continued Palestinian division, continued Hamas control of the Gaza Strip: Numerous attempts have failed to achieve reconciliation and reinstate the PA as the ruler of the Gaza Strip. The last attempt was the formation of the reconciliation government in June 2014, as a result of the Shati agreement of April 2014. After a break of several years, rounds of dialogue were renewed between representatives of Hamas and Fatah, hosted in the capitals Istanbul, Cairo and Doha in September 2020.[2] However, they did not succeed in achieving reconciliation. The failure of the reconciliation rounds means that Hamas will remain in power in the Gaza Strip. Israel does not conceal its efforts to prevent national reconciliation and stop the return of the PA rule over the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains unresolved: The optimism that prevailed in Palestinian and international circles with President Joe Biden’s coming to power in the United States soon faded, as the new US administration did not initiate any move to resume the track of negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The first communication between presidents Biden and Mahmoud Abbas took place because of the war between Israel and the factions in Gaza in May 2012. The US intervention, which came somewhat late, was prompted by the war on Gaza but was limited to economic interventions and financial assistance while removed from any political path. Further, the first meeting between President Abbas and the Israeli government, the meeting with defense minister Benny Gantz in August 2021, dealt only with security and economic and humanitarian issues and aimed at strengthening the Authority, enhancing security coordination and preventing collapse. Israeli media quoted Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s statements, stressing that ‘there is no political process with the Palestinians, and there will not be such a process.[3] ’There is no political path in the foreseeable future.

Ongoing blockade and closure: With the end of the May 2021round of confrontations between Israel and the Gaza Strip, the new Israeli government announced its clear position of continuing the blockade of the Strip, preventing the reconstruction process, and linking any easing of hardships to the issue of the Israeli prisoners, ostensibly held in Gaza.[4] This Israeli intransigence saw some flexibility with regard to the blockade, where pressure from mediators forced the new Israeli government to allow some relief to avert a new war, including transferring part of the Qatari grant funds, allowing the entry of raw materials, including building materials, the expansion of the fishing zone, and allowing thousands of Gazan workers to enter Israel. However, these facilities do not amount to the lifting the total blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.[5]

Current regional environment remains unchanged: It is expected that the regional environment will remain relatively stable, without a meaningful or qualitative change. The main relevant regional players are Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Turkey and Qatar. These countries, which represent the various interests in the region, are not united in their position on Hamas and the Gaza Strip. At a time when Iran, Turkey and Qatar’s relations are open with Hamas, providing humanitarian aid and some political recognition, the relationship of Egypt and Jordan with Hamas is witnessing much fluctuation, governed by a de facto reality and no more. Disputes among the countries of the region are clearly reflected in their relations with Hamas. These countries are preoccupied with their internal issues and have no intention of bringing about a qualitative change in their relations and positions on Hamas, in particular, and the Gaza Strip, in general.

Anticipating the future of the Gaza Strip in the next five years

In light of these assumptions, this paper examines the available and possible options for the Gaza Strip in the next five years. It is based on a reading of the positions of the relevant parties and the degree of their interaction with the internal environment, as well as the ongoing discussion within Hamas on alternatives paths to take to get out of the crisis that has persisted for 14 years. In an attempt to anticipate the future of the Gaza Strip in the next five years, three alternatives to the status quo can be identified: a the return of the Gaza Strip to PA control, a Hamas-Israel long term truce, and an independent Gaza entity.

[1] covid-19 crisis, https://bit.ly/3lDxior

[2] Al-Quds Al-Arabi: Expected rounds and contacts between Fatah and Hamas to discuss entering the elections with a joint list https://bit.ly/3CtddrY

[3] Al Jazeera.net: After Abbas and Gantz meeting, Bennett denies the existence of a political process with the Palestinians, Hamas and Islamic Jihad condemn https://bit.ly/3CtAycH

[4] RT Arabic: A dispute over Israeli prisoners held by ‘Hamas’ hinders the reconstruction of Gaza https://bit.ly/2ZfXXjT

[5] Madar: Naftali Bennett’s strategy and options regarding the Gaza Strip… Is there a radical change? https://bit.ly/3lHvOcX

Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR)
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