A radicalizing factor

The recent developments in Egypt that led to changes in the Egyptian regime, together with the reconciliation of Fateh and Hamas, have once again brought to the surface the Israeli blockade of Gaza and possible ways of lifting it. The most recent illustration of this was Egypt’s decision to open the Rafah crossing with Gaza to travelers, which seemed to be an incentive for Gaza’s rulers, Hamas, to proceed with the reconciliation pact.

There are many reasons why Egypt moved actively in this direction, including the Egyptian need for dealings with Gaza Palestinians that meet the minimal requirements of brotherly relations and humanitarian demands. In Egypt, a new reality reigns where public opinion is highly respected by the government.

At the same time, the Egyptian government wanted to be politically correct. Israel sought, through its closure of Gaza, to separate the Strip from the West Bank and shift its dependence from Israel to Egypt. This way, Israel could serve its demographic needs, on one hand, and its strategic objectives of preventing a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem, on the other. The only way for Egypt to meet its humanitarian and political interests, therefore, was to open up Rafah crossing to Gazans within the framework of the reconciliation agreement.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the opening of Rafah crossing for Palestinians in Gaza, while at the same time reminding everyone of the need to respect the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access which obliges Israel to open up the other crossings to Gaza as well as ensure free movement for Palestinians and products between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza, which has been subject to criticism and condemnation from all sides, has been responsible for many far-reaching negative consequences. These affect not only Gazans, but also the future solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The blockade has been responsible for economic hardship, which in turn contributes to political and ideological radicalization in Gazan society. It has also had socio-economic structural effects, weakening individuals and social strata that had played a leading role in the economy and society in favor of new powerful individuals and social forces that benefitted from the "economy of tunnels", i.e., those people that Hamas has allowed to control the movement of commodities into Gaza through illegal tunnels linked with the Sinai in Egypt.

Most international agencies, especially those of the United Nations working in the occupied territories, have called upon Israel to end this blockade for both political and humanitarian reasons. The reconciliation agreement between Fateh and Hamas, which is supposed to produce a new technocrat government comprised of independent professionals affiliated with neither movement, is a golden opportunity for everybody, including Israel, to end this blockade and allow the new government to ensure the flow of products and passengers between the West Bank and Gaza, and from the occupied territories abroad.

Such changes would create a situation more conducive to the creation of a Palestinian state and the two-state solution and, at the same time, would stop the process of radicalization underway among Palestinians in Gaza.