GAZA CITY: Gazans fear that the new Israeli government’s handling of the Gaza Strip could damage political agreements made between the government and Hamas.
Concerns are especially high with regard to understandings reached with Hamas on humanitarian issues and a prisoner exchange deal.
Israel’s new “emergency” government is the fruit of a tough agreement and three elections within one year between the Likud party, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Blue and White party, headed by Benny Gantz.
The policies of this new government appeared to support annexing settlements in the West Bank.
However, the future relationship with Gaza remains unclear.
Among the most important provisions of the agreement to form the Netanyahu-Gantz government is to advance US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, especially the issue of imposing Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and West Bank settlements from July.
Experts on Israeli affairs believe the government will be interested in accomplishing the annexation and use what remains of Trump’s presidential term before elections in November.
It is expected to calm the Gaza issue and to prevent anything that hinders the US plan.
Hamas, which has assumed full control of Gaza since mid-2007, rushed after the Netanyahu-Gantz agreement to call for the formation of a “unified national strategy” to confront the “extremist Zionist blocs.” It is opposed — according to experts and observers — to further deterioration in Gaza, and therefore does not want a “military confrontation” with Israel.
In this regard, Musa Dudeen, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said that the movement is committed to understandings as long as Israel maintains its obligations.
Hamas and Israel reached agreements that stopped the tension on the borders and a sharp retreat in the momentum of the “Great Return March” in exchange for Israel allowing the flow of funds, and partly lifting restrictions imposed on exports and imports.
Regarding the future of these understandings, Dudeen said: “There are no fundamental differences between the leaders of the occupation, its parties and its governments. The ball is in the Israeli court regarding the understandings, including the prisoner exchange deal.”
Hamas seized four Israelis, including soldiers Shaul Aaron and Hadar Golden, in the 2014 war. While Israel maintains that they were killed, Hamas has not given any information on their situation.
Hamas is also holding Abraham Mengistu and Hashem Badawi Al-Sayyid, who hold Israeli citizenship. The first is Ethiopian and the second is Arab.
Adnan Abu Amer, an Israeli affairs columnist, said that the understandings are primarily an Israeli project, and that Netanyahu is interested in neutralizing all issues, including Gaza, and devoting attention to Iran and his internal problems.
According to Abu Amer, the estimate in Hamas was that a government formed by the Blue and White party headed by Gantz with the membership of generals would write a “death certificate” for the understandings.
But it seems that the movement’s fears have relatively declined with the formation of the new government, given that Netanyahu is able to subdue Gantz and his party.
“The presence of army commanders within the new government as a factor that may accelerate the prisoner exchange deal, not hinder it, in an attempt to win Israeli public opinion by showing its eagerness to recover their captured soldiers.” Abu Amer told Arab News.
Wadi Awawdeh, an expert on Israeli affairs based in Israel, agreed with Abu Amer that Netanyahu feared developing understandings with Hamas and their impact on his political life, but today he may have found a “loss partner” in his agreement with Gantz, with whom he will share the “price” of any agreement or understandings with Hamas.
“The development of Israeli humanitarian and security understandings with Hamas into political understandings is possible, and not excluded, based on Netanyahu’s policy that is based on the strategy of separating Gaza and the West Bank, and maintaining division and dissonance in the Palestinian arena. This strategy may be strengthened by an agreement with Hamas — even if it was an interim one — for five or 10 years,” Awawdeh told Arab News.