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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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The incentives for Israel are obvious -- as the Telegraph reports: "Israel’s indigenous gas fields -- north of the Gaza Marine field -- could run out within a few years and the only other long-term source will be a pipeline from neighboring Egypt." 

The British Foreign Office, described the reserves as "by far the most valuable Palestinian natural resource." Tel Aviv journalist Arthur Neslen cites an informed British source saying, "The UK and U.S., who are the major players in this deal, see it as a possible tool to improve relations between the PA and Israel. It is part of the bargaining baggage." The project could provide up to 10 per cent of the Israel’s energy needs, at around half the price the same gas would cost from Egypt. The Gaza Strip would be effectively circumvented, as the gas would be piped directly onshore to Ashkelon in Israel. Neslen reports another informed source noting "an obvious linkage" between the BG-Israel deal and "attempts to bolster the Olmert-Abbas political process." Yet this process is designed precisely to marginalize the Palestinian people, as Neslen reports that "up to three-quarters of the $4bn of revenue raised might not even end up in Palestinian hands at all. While the PIF officially disputes the percentages, it will provide no others for fear of a public backlash." The "preferred option" of the U.S. an UK is that the gas revenues would be held in "an international bank account over which Abbas would hold sway."  No wonder then, that Ziad Thatha, the Hamas economic minister, had denounced the deal as "an act of theft" that "sells Palestinian gas to the Zionist occupation."  

Things didn’t go quite according to plan. In fact, before any deal could be finalized, Hamas won the 2006 elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council, provoking a bitter power struggle between Hamas and the pro-west Fatah, fueled by the input of U.S. and Israeli arms to the latter. Ultimately, the Palestinian Authority split in 2007, with Hamas taking control of Gaza and Fatah taking control of West Bank. Having been excluded from the U.S.-UK brokered gas deal between Israel and the PA, one of the first things that Hamas did after getting elected was to declare that the natural gas deal was void, and would have to be renegotiated

With Hamas declaring the constitutional imperative to hold elections in 2009, as early as January if possible, Israeli military and policy planners recognized the probability of a Hamas win -- with all its political implications. At one time even stating its willingness to recognize Israel's right to exist within its 1967 borders, a consolidated Hamas government in control of Gaza’s natural resources would fundamentally alter the balance of power in the region, granting Palestinians the prospects of sustained economic growth, foreign investment, unprecedented infrastructure development, and thereby the prospect of a far more equal relationship with Israel, who in coming years needs to increasingly diversify energy supplies. Meanwhile Israel’s original Anglo-America sponsored plans for the Occupied Territories -- a docile Fatah-controlled patchwork of underdeveloped cantonized Bantustans whose natural resources are controlled by Israel and profited by Anglo-American companies -- would be thrown into the sea. 

Israeli Military Objectives 

Pundits, slavishly quoting Israeli defense sources, claim that Israel is trying to stop the Hamas rocket-fire, and will keep the operation rolling until they believe that they have degraded Hamas military capabilities sufficiently so as to forever prevent Hamas from firing rockets at Israel again. Ever. Failing this, pundits tend to be confused about the scope of Israel’s objectives, noting that the state aim is rather vague and intrinsically impossible to measure. 

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