By Geoffrey Paul
February 20, 2009
I wondered how long it would take for the un-sayable to be said but now it has been set out in black and white and by no less an Israeli insider than a reserve major-general and former head of the Israeli National Security Council. The Council is the central body responsible for co-ordination, integration, analysis and monitoring in the field of national security. It reports directly to the Prime Minister. You cannot be more inside than General Eiland. In a paper for the Jerusalem Institute of Contemporary Affairs he writes:
“In Gaza today there is, for all practical purposes, an independent state led by Hamas. It is not part of the Palestinian Authority because that is what the Palestinians decided. If there is an accountable state in Gaza, although it is an enemy state, Israel has a degree of deterrence because there is another party that has something to lose. Current Israeli policy claims that Israel's goal is to bring about the collapse of the Hamas government in Gaza, but that is not going to happen.”
A little voice at the back of my head whispers, So what then was Operation Cast Lead really all about? There being no answer, let's get back to General Eiland. How would he break the present impasse in the search for peace? Here, in short, is what he says:
“If we make Gaza double or triple its current size by adding an additional 600 sq. km. of territory from Egyptian Sinai...Gaza would have the space to build a new city of a million people, along with a real seaport and airport, and to create the conditions that would make economic expansion possible.
“At the same time, Israel needs 600 sq. km. in the West Bank because the 1967 line is unacceptable from a security point of view. In return, Israel could give to Egypt 600 sq. km. in the Negev in southern Israel. At the end of the day no one loses land, while multilateral swaps enable us to solve the currently intractable problem of Gaza and solve Israeli needs in the West Bank.”
Snap, crackle and pop – the general has a solution. Permanently remove 600 sq. km. from what the Palestinians regard as part of their heartland, compensate them with the same amount of territory from sovereign Egyptian Sinai and give the Egyptians the equivalent amount of desert from the Negev.
That would be fine if the Palestinians were ready to welcome in the settlers with happy smiles and bunches of flowers and the Egyptians had no qualms about exchanging bits of desert with Israel. But it is not going to happen in the lifetime of General Eiland or any one of us. Meanwhile, Hamas remains in control of Gaza. So, now what?