Topic | Choose topic/s and define your search
Affiliations / Personalities
Date Range

Gaza Strip hardly a prize for Hamas

JERUSALEM–For Hamas, the good news came quickly – they won the war.
Now for the bad news – they won the war.
In five days of sometimes vicious combat last week, Hamas gunmen seized military control of a 40-kilometre stretch of Mediterranean beachfront known as the Gaza Strip.
Now they are stuck with an overcrowded, deeply impoverished territory hemmed in by Israeli security fences on two sides, walled off from Egypt on the third, patrolled by Israeli warships on the fourth.
As the spoils of war go, the Gaza Strip is not exactly the world's most glorious prize.
"It is not a viable entity," said Mohammed Daoudi, a U.S.-trained Palestinian economist. "I don't think Gaza can survive on its own."
Home to about 1.5 million people, roughly half of them under the age of 15, the territory suffers from huge unemployment and produces little that is marketable to the outside world except flowers, citrus fruits, and vegetables.
"They cannot be an autonomous state," said Meir Margalit, a member of an Israeli non-governmental organization that defends Palestinian human rights. "They just have agriculture."
They also have a dilemma. Since winning power in Palestinian elections 18 months ago, Islamist Hamas has been politically and economically isolated by Israel and much of the Western world, whose governments consider the organization to be a terrorist outfit. Many countries, including Canada, suspended financial assistance to the Palestinian territories to protest Hamas policies. Were it not for international humanitarian assistance, it is difficult to imagine how people in Gaza could have survived the past year and a half.
Now their counterparts in the West Bank, already more prosperous, seem set to enjoy a renewal of foreign support and Israeli co-operation because they are ruled by the moderate Palestinian faction Fatah, which was routed militarily in Gaza last week but remains in control of the West Bank,
"I think this is what Hamas is finding out now," said Daoudi. "They will realize what a trap they have fallen into. Their victory will lead to their defeat."
Others do not go that far, but many here agree Hamas will have a difficult time consolidating its power in Gaza and garnering popular support without renouncing terrorism and making some accommodation with the existence of Israel.
"They are going to have to put pragmatism over ideology," said Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, a group that monitors Palestinian broadcast and print outlets.
Dependent on Israel for most of its electricity, much of its water, and the bulk of its food and medicine, Gaza is already facing serious supply problems.
"Most of the services come from Israel," said Nabil Kukali, a Palestinian pollster, who lives in the West Bank. "The Palestinian economy depends on the Israeli economy. The situation in Gaza is going to be really bad."
At least economically, the situation in Gaza is dismal at the best of times. According to a recent poll by Kukali in the territory, more than 70 per cent of Gaza's people were deeply gloomy about their economic circumstances – "and that was before Hamas took over."