Monday, 10 August 2015

Gaza, the Israeli Blockade and the Shifting Fortunes of Hamas

The Israeli blockade of Gaza is inevitably going to continue to ensure the population's living standards remain low and that it has an impact on infant mortality, which is effectively what UNRWA's Akihiro Seita has indicated is the case. The siege is a form of collective punishment for the Gaza voting Hamas in 2007.

Hamas' attempts to murder Israeli civilians with its rockets plays directly into Israel's hands: by being able to label them terrorists, and officially designated as such by the US and EU, it is able to maintain a blockade that is as much about collective punishment as it is about securing the offshore Gaza Marine gas reserves.

The last thing Israel would want is for Hamas to actually embrace peace seriously because that would then mean it would not be able to justify removing the Palestinians full sovereignty and control over the gas reserves that lie 27 km off the coast of Gaza in its territorial waters.

Israel has other plans for Gaza Marine gas, including using it to shore up regional partners such Egypt which has, since the 2013 coup, helped seal up the land border and Jordan, both powers seriously threatened with an energy crisis. Making Jordan and the West Bank dependent upon Israel for energy is implicit in this strategy.

Gaza, as with Egypt and Jordan, have high birth rates. For Palestinians the 'demographic weapon' has long been regarded as a way in the long term to survive and overwhelm Israel. Unfortunately, this means more mouths to feed and the need for more energy that Israel mostly controls in the Eastern Mediterranean.

With Gaza Marine gas being used up on Jordan and Egypt, the reserves would be used up quickly. In turn, that would mean Gaza and the PA's energy security would be dependent wholly upon Israel once it starts tapping and piping its own vastly larger Tamar and Leviathan gas reserves.

The three Gaza Wars since 2007-2008 have occurred with menacing regularity not just because of the persistent enmity between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel has sought to secure the Eastern Mediterranean coast so that drilling could take place and so investors would not be deterred by Hamas speed boat and missile attacks.

Israel's blockade also fits in with the geopolitical ambitions of the EU in the region which is why external pressure is unlikely to come from governments hedging their bets over where to diversify future supplies of gas. With Russia taking control over oil and gas rich Crimea in 2014, the quest for EU energy security has grown.

The future for Gaza remains bleak and Hamas is largely a spent force without allies. The great shifts in the geopolitical landscape have worked against it since 2011. The Syrian Civil War has pitted Hezbollah against Sunni Islamists and Iran has largely dropped Hamas as an important proxy and asset on the regional chessboard.

In fact, Iran is likely to break ties with Hamas entirely after it tried to gain favour in Saudi Arabia by visiting Riyadh. Hamas leader Khaled Meshal has also lost his base in Doha as Qatar, for the time being, has fallen in line with the other Gulf states as the Saudi-Iranian proxy war spreads from Syria to Yemen and Afganistan.

No comments:

Post a Comment