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Is the Gaza Catastrophe Really About Natural Resources?

Israel’s official war aim is difficult to take seriously.

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"Here’s One I Prepared Earlier … ” 

The siege was a strategy to prepare the ground for a protracted military operation, known as "Cast Lead". Although justified on the grounds of stopping Hamas rocket-fire, the operation was planned over six months before  the launch of the operation at the end of 2008.  

Canadian analyst Professor Michel Chossudovsky from the University of Ottawa has revealed that Operation Cast Lead is in fact the legacy of "a broader military-intelligence agenda first formulated by the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001", aiming to produce a " planned humanitarian disaster," designed to inflict mass civilian casualties and terror -- that is, to weaken resistance, increase Israeli control, and encourage Palestinian emigration. Contrary to Israeli official rhetoric, military targets are secondary to this principal objective. 

In this respect, the operation beginning in December 08 actually implements what was known as the "Dagan Plan" in 2001 -- Operation Justified Vengeance, named after its founder, retired general and current Mossad commander, Meir Dagan. The operation planned to destroy "the infrastructure of the Palestinian leadership" and collect the arms of "various Palestinian forces and expelling or killing its military leadership." The cumulative impact of this strategy would be to eliminate the viability of Gazan political and military resistance to Israeli penetration, permitting the forcible "cantonization" of the Occupied Territories under the nominal rule of the politically-coopted Fatah faction. 

Hints that the scope of the operation, already killing and injuring thousands of Palestinian civilians, would be far broader than hitherto admitted, came when Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Israeli Army Radio that the Palestinians would "bring upon themselves a bigger Holocaust  because we will use all our might to defend ourselves." 

Post-1999: Gaza as Locus of Resource Conflict 

The question, of course, is why now? Pundits have pointed at the telling coincidence of imminent Israeli elections, requiring the Olmert cabinet to find new ways to regain some semblance of credibility after the disastrous Hizbullah defeat in southern Lebanon, not to mention the impact of domestic scandals. Yet even more significant is the role of imminent Palestinian elections. As of September 2008, Israeli political observes noted an erupting " constitutional crisis" in the Occupied Territories due to disagreement "between Hamas and Fatah over when the next Palestinian elections will be held." Hamas officials stated that they would "not acknowledge Abu Mazen’s legitimacy as President of the Palestinian Authority (PA) after January 2009, when it believes his term in office is due to finish." According to Hamas, "new elections should be held in January 09'  since according to the PA’s Basic Law (which also serves as its temporary constitution) Abu Mazen finishes his Presidential term after 4 years." In the event of failure to do so, the Presidency "temporarily passes to the Speaker of the Parliament, Abd al-‘Aziz Dweik." As he is currently imprisoned by Israeli authorities, Hamas would resort to appointing Dweik’s deputy "who is also a Hamas member." 

Given the growing weakness of Abbas and the increasing popularity of Hamas, it was far from likely that the PA would be able to forestall elections until January 2010, as it had wanted to, without severe recriminations and domestic opposition. Both presidential and parliamentary elections were therefore likely in 2009, and would have allowed Hamas to consolidate its power in the Occupied Territories. 

Israeli military and policy planners clearly recognized that this would create significant difficulties for Israel’s own plans for the Occupied Territories. A decade back, the British the oil firm BG International discovered a huge deposit of natural gas just off the Gaza coast, containing 1.2 trillion cubic feet of gas valued at over $4 billion. Controlling security over air and water around Gaza, Israel quickly moved to negotiate a deal with BG to access Gaza’s natural gas at cheap rates.  

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