Reprinted from Gush Shalom
The main (and perhaps only) goal of his policy is to extend the rule of Israel, as the "Nation-State of the Jewish People" over all of Eretz Israel, the historical land of Palestine. This means ruling all of the West Bank and covering it with Jewish settlements, while denying any civil rights to its 2.5-million-plus Arab inhabitants.
East Jerusalem, with its 300,000 Arab inhabitants, has already been formally annexed to Israel, without granting them Israeli citizenship or the right to take part in Knesset elections.
That leaves the Gaza Strip, a tiny enclave with 1.8 million plus Arab inhabitants, most of them descendents of refugees from Israel. The last thing in the world Netanyahu wants is to include these, too, in the Israeli imperium.
There is a historical precedent. After the 1956 Sinai War, when President Eisenhower demanded that Israel immediately return all the Egyptian territory it had conquered, many voices in Israel called for the annexation of the Gaza Strip to Israel. David Ben-Gurion adamantly refused. He did not want hundreds of thousands more Arabs in Israel. So he gave the strip too back to Egypt.
The annexation of Gaza, while keeping the West Bank, would create an Arab majority in the Jewish State. True, a small majority, but a rapidly growing one.
THE INHABITANTS of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip belong to the same Palestinian people. They are closely connected by national identity and family ties. But they are now separate entities, geographically divided by Israeli territory, which at its narrowest point is about 30 miles broad.
Both territories were occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six-day War. But for many years, Palestinians could move freely from one to the other. Palestinians from Gaza could study in the university of Bir Zeit in the West Bank, a woman from Ramallah in the West Bank could marry a man from Beth Hanun in the Gaza strip.
Ironically, this freedom of movement came to an end with the 1994 Oslo "peace" agreement, in which Israel explicitly recognized the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one single territory, and undertook to open four "free passages" between them. Not a single one was ever opened.
The West Bank is now nominally administered by the Palestinian Authority, also created by the Oslo agreement, which is recognized by the UN and the majority of the world's nations as the State of Palestine under Israeli military occupation. Its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, a close colleague of the late Yasser Arafat, is committed to the Arab Peace plan, initiated by Saudi Arabia, which recognizes the State of Israel in its pre-1967 borders. No one doubts that he desires peace, based on the Two-State Solution.
IN 1996, GENERAL elections in both territories were won by Hamas (Arab initials of "Movement of Islamic Resistance"). Under Israeli pressure, the results were annulled. Whereupon Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip. That's where we are now: two separate Palestinian entities, whose rulers hate each other.
Superficial logic would dictate that the Israeli government support Mahmoud Abbas, who is committed to peace, and help him against Hamas, which at least officially is committed to the destruction of Israel. Well, it ain't necessarily so.
True, Israel has fought several wars against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, but it has made no effort to occupy it again, after withdrawing from it in 2005. Netanyahu, like Ben-Gurion before him, does not want to have all those Arabs. He contents himself with a blockade that turns it into "the world's largest open-air prison."
Yet, a year after the last Israel-Gaza war, the region is rife with rumors about indirect negotiations going on in secret between Israel and Gaza about a long-range armistice ("hudna" in Arabic), even bordering on unofficial peace.
How come? Peace with the radical enemy regime in Gaza, while opposing the peace-oriented Palestinian Authority in the West Bank?