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There was a diversity of perspectives expressed as to the reasons behind the occurrences and the current situation in Gaza. One aspect of the analysis suggests that the tremendous pressure on Hamas both externally from Israel and internally in the PA served as a cause for their coup d’etat. The Israeli pressure arose through the boycott of the Palestinian Unity government and prior to that, the unilateral nature of the disengagement. The long term policy of dividing the West Bank from Gaza has also contributed to this pressure. Another aspect of the analysis presents the notion that Hamas offered itself as an alternative to the failing peace process, thereby gaining the support of the people. Within Palestinian society, and more generally in the entire Arab world, there is a deeply-rooted process of the Islamization of society replacing the nationalization that took place before. The consequence of this process as manifested in Palestinian society is the rise of Hamas.
Regarding the current situation, the general consensus was that there is a de facto separation between Gaza and the West Bank. Not all agreed as to the stability of this dual existence. The governments at present are not able to deliver with regard to peace negotiations. Since both Haniyeh’s and Abbas’s governments claim absolute legitimacy, they will compete. This competition will be held in the fields of efficient government, law and order, and the ability to ease the pressure on the Palestinians under their dominion. There is a constitutional crisis in the PA that will present difficulties for the legitimacy of Abbas’s government. The Israeli government on the other hand, is stable, yet faces two problems: one is that it has a possible expiration date with the final release of the Winograd report; the second is the composition of the Israeli coalition, which on the one hand impedes any concession and on the other does not press for negotiations. Two different views were expressed regarding the ongoing military conflict between Israel and militants operating from Gaza. Some claim that it will continue on a small scale, whereas others assert that it is in the process of diminishing while Hamas establishes control over all armed factions in Gaza. Fateh did not implement internal reforms and is therefore unable to control the West Bank by itself. If not for the IDF blocking Hamas’s attempts to take over the West Bank as well, Fateh would not be in power anywhere.
While the situation in Gaza has not yet stabilized, it is difficult to assess what will happen in the near future. There was general agreement among the participants, though, that instability in Gaza will spill over into the West Bank. If the dual existence takes root, the situation in the long run will be unstable, suffering from a lack of support from the Palestinian populace. Elections, at this point, would probably return Hamas to power as Fateh lacks organization, leadership, and capability. The majority of the participants believed that the lack of negotiations between Fateh and Hamas is also an obstacle to stabilization and continuing the economic pressure on Gaza would be its death sentence. Hamas would be able to get contraband resources from outside and cause the population’s dependence on it.
A number of diverging suggestions were discussed by the participants how to act in order to move towards resolving the conflict. The majority did agree that Gaza should not be suffocated; Hamas would only gain popularity among the Palestinian public as the sole provider for its people. The funds that will be released and the foreign aid that will be renewed to the Palestinians should be used wisely in order not to bring about an unbearable pressure that would only incite more violence. The moderate forces in West Bank and Gaza should be strengthened. While a long term hudna presently could be the only realistic goal, a long term vision on borders, security and statehood should add a light to the end of the tunnel in the conflict management. There should be security coordination between Israel and the authorities in the West Bank in order to reduce the number of road blocks and Abbas should be enabled to exercise authority. Positive signals are coming from the Arab world which has the ability to influence and moderate Hamas.
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