Foreign Minister Lieberman’s plan to assist the Gaza Strip in becoming an independent entity has encountered wall-to-wall Palestinian opposition. The dual-headed Palestinian regime in Ramallah (Fatah) and in the Gaza Strip (Hamas) totally rejects Lieberman’s proposal to recruit the European Union to build power stations to supply electricity, desalination stations and a sewage treatment plant. This was to be part of a plan that would totally sever all connections with Israel, which would forego its naval supervision over merchandise entering the port of Gaza and would totally seal the border with the Gaza Strip.
The arguments against exercising Palestinian independence resemble each other. Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesperson for the Palestinian presidency at Ramallah, views Lieberman’s plan as a plot “against the Palestinian people’s aspirations for unity, liberty and independence” and as one that “expresses the aspirations of the Israeli extreme right.” Ahmad Assaf, spokesperson for the Fatah organization that props up the Palestinian Authority, argued that the Gaza Strip is still under “Israeli occupation” and so it will remain, because the Strip constitutes a single geographic unit with the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Sami Abu Zuheiri , a Hamas spokesperson, explained that “although Gaza was liberated in practice from the military and settlement presence, it is still from a legal and practical standpoint under occupation” and the Lieberman initiative is “an attempt to elude the responsibility imposed on the occupation.” Abu Zuheiri argued that Israel, “the occupying country,” must continue to provide for the Gaza Strip’s needs including food, electricity, and fuel.
The Hamas position exemplifies one of the major absurdities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Hamas, which took pride in liberating the Gaza Strip from the Israeli occupation via Jihad, is struggling with all its might to preserve the “Israeli occupation” of the Gaza Strip and obligate Israel to continue transferring supplies to an entity that avowedly declares that it will liberate all of Palestine, liquidate the State of Israel, and kill and expel its Jewish inhabitants. Hamas receives support for its position from international human rights organizations (Amnesty, Human Rights Watch), Palestinians and Israelis. These, similar to Hamas, vigorously argue that Israel is still “an occupying force” and therefore it must concern itself with “the security and welfare of the Gaza residents.” Unfortunately, the position of the human rights organizations on which Hamas relies raises substantial questions. If Israel is still an “occupying force” in the Gaza Strip, as they contend, why do these organizations not demand that Israel exercise its obligation to assure the security of the Gaza residents and operate against the Hamas regime, that is gradually applying Islamic law in the Gaza Strip while flagrantly trampling human rights, suppressing the opposition with an iron hand and by executions?
Furthermore, not a single one of the human rights organizations suggests the necessary conditions for the conclusion of the “occupation,” but all are demanding that it should be extended by a full opening of the border. This position constitutes a paradox because if Israel was to lift the siege pursuant to the human rights organizations’ demands (including the naval siege and control of airspace), then the occupation is presumed to have concluded, and therefore Israel will no longer be under the obligation to concern itself with the Gaza population. Even currently there is no real effective Israeli “siege” and the Gaza Strip is not a “prison,” as the data of the Hamas government on the transit of goods (imports of $1 billion per year) and people (scores of thousands, including personnel of the Hamas military wing) via the border with Egypt will attest.
Egypt as well is interested in the continuation of the occupation and it once again warns Israel that it should not dare rid itself of it. The official explanation explicitly clarifies the official Egyptian policy: “Concurrence with the argument that posits that the Gaza Strip is considered liberated territory conveys reconciliation with the plan that attempts to impose the burden of managing the Strip on the neighbor who lives in proximity to it, namely Egypt. One must not agree to this, because this will provide Israel with an excellent escape outlet from the strait of the occupation and transfer its repercussions to Egypt, and this could result in the liquidation of the Palestinian problem.”
Given this background, the question of why everybody is so enamored of the Israeli “occupation” is accentuated. Why are the Palestinians still adamant in their opposition to receiving total independence, at least at the first stage, on part of Palestinian territory? A possible key to the answer to the question was provided by Prof. Anat Biletzki, formerly the chairperson of the B’tselem organization, who warned in a lecture at MIT in 2007 of the danger that the Palestinian leadership, due to its fatigue, might agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state on part of Palestinian soil and two-state solution. Biletzki argued that only the solution of a single state in the entire territory of Palestine can provide a just and realistic solution, and she then proceeded to sharply criticize the preparedness of Prof. Sari Nusseibeh to forgo the refugees’ right of return.
This is primarily the guiding logic behind the position of the Palestinian leadership that has not renounced the idea of liberating Palestine in its entirety. Five years have elapsed since the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the Hamas government continues to preserve the refugee camps despite their crowded conditions and immense deprivation, and continues to demand international assistance to help them via UNRWA. Housing refugees in the areas of the settlements that were vacated in Gaza (or by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank) will not impair the right of the refugees to raise their right of return during negotiations, just as the rights of Palestinians defined as refugees living in cities and abroad is not impaired. However the objective of both the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government is identical, namely, keeping the lava of the refugee problem at full boil, as this constitutes the key to the ultimate objective of the historic Palestinian odyssey – the liquidation of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. This is the real reason behind the Palestinian love affair with the “Israeli occupation.” Hamas wants to eat out of Israel’s hand and then proceed to eat the hand itself and the entire body. Israel’s opposition to placing the noose over its neck with its own hands is depicted by Hamas as a violation of international law.