The recent Hamas attacks on Israel is the result of both short-term and long-term determinants, with no solutions in sight. The policies of the Netanyahu government have added insult to the injury of oppressive living conditions that reach back decades if not centuries.
Gaza has never been self-governing and arguably has never been a cohesive ethnic or political entity. Part of the Ottoman Empire until 1918, it was then occupied by Britain for the next 30 years. When the UN recommended the partition of Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states in November 1947, Israel accepted the plan, but the Arabs rejected it and launched a war of annihilation, which ended in their defeat. They came under Egyptian control from 1948 until June 1967, during which much of its population remained in refugee camps or similar conditions. perpetuating atrocious living conditions that fomented anger and violence, directed mainly at the most recent occupier, Israel. The wish for revenge among the population has fueled a renewed determination to eliminate the Jewish population entirely from the region.
The abandonment of the Palestinians has actually been a collective transgression, both in Gaza and in the West Bank. Why haven’t the nations (Egypt for Gaza and Jordan for the West Bank) of which they were a part before 1967 opened their doors to those in the territories who preferred not to be governed by Israel, instead of relegating them to impoverished refugee camps in a hostile environment? Has the hidden agenda been to leave them as a thorn in Israel’s side, even while ostensibly making peace?
Perhaps a way out, now that Egypt and Jordan are no longer Israel’s sworn enemies, would be for those nations to revisit their commitments to their former citizens and to the establishment of lasting peace in the region. For the West Bank, that might mean Israel ceding the territory not to a Palestinian state committed to its destruction but to Jordan, its partner in peace, to take responsibility for securing the borders and ensuring Israel’s sovereignty over its own land. For Gaza, the solution may require more creativity, given its limited contiguity with Egypt and its location almost entirely within Israel’s boundaries.
Given the concurrent threat of climate change and rising seas, the viability of the Gaza Strip as a place to live might already have a limited future. Creating an alternative, welcoming homeland might provide the most humane solution for a struggling population.