Even Kites Shoot

“Kite terror” is what newspapers call incendiary kites that set ablaze the fields of Israeli farmers on the “Gaza periphery.” This new terror has replaced “tunnel terror,” which, in turn, was neutralized by the IDF deployment of a new detection system and underground barrier against tunnels that crossfrom the Gaza Strip into Israel. “Qassam terror” was also neutralized by the Iron Dome rocket interceptors. So year after year we witness this cat and mouse game: Israel imposes a military blockade, the Gazans come up with new methods of fighting back, and Israel develops ways to deal with them.

However, skilled Hamas cells are not required to produce kites. Kites do not need workshops, lathes and explosives. Kites are flown by children who have ‘upgraded’ their hobby with added value attached. Kites serve the homeland and alleviate a life of desperation and despair. Kite terror puts Israel in a ridiculous light, not because of its dubious effectiveness, but because it completely negates the existing Israeli mantra that “We left Gaza,” as if there’s a real border between Gaza and Israel. What kind of border is it if you can fly kites that ignite the neighbor’s fields?

In order to deal with kite terror there is no need to sink billions into developing a sophisticated counter-punch, it’s enough to beef up the fire department. However, thousands of fire trucks, underground barriers, and sophisticated missile systems will not extinguish the great ball of fire that is just about to roll over Israel – an unprecedented humanitarian crisis that is presently erupting in Gaza. Every Israeli air force raid deep inside the Gaza Strip, which varies from 5 to 12 kilometers in width, only adds destruction and worsens the humanitarian disaster.

The catastrophe has gone on for a long time. As in the case of global warming, all know it is happening but  prefer to bury their heads in the sand. Gazans go thirsty while Israel “dries up.” For Israel, the solution is simple – shower two minutes less. In Gaza, they have forgotten what a shower is. They clean themselves with bottles of water filled from public fountains. For years, various observers have talked about 2020, the date when Gaza’s wells will be completely depleted and the Strip will die of thirst. The last seven dry years have accelerated the process. Gaza has already dried up.

Missiles and subterranean barriers, even if they provide protection, do not constitute an effective response to a humanitarian crisis. On the contrary, they foster the illusion that Israelis can continue living normally by showering two minutes less. In the meantime, Gazans live without electricity, and the only sound of water they hear is sewage flowingin the alleyways of refugee camps.

Israel’s interest and concern for its own population oblige it to act with maximum vigor to tackle the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza. Urgent answers are needed for water, electricity, infrastructure, sewage and hospitals, in addition to sources of employment that will lift the population out of poverty and return children to schools where they can study and read instead of making kites. However, the Israeli government headed by Binyamin Netanyahu and Yvette Lieberman is not built to meet such a human challenge. If we look at Israeli “solutions” to traffic congestion on Tel Aviv’s Ayalon Freeway, the long period of delay that doggedthe light railway in its capital, and the failures of modern public transport, we understand that the solution to Gaza’s problems will not come from Jerusalem.

Moreover, this impossible task has become more complicated since Gaza has been under the control of Hamas, which won a large majority in the Palestinian parliament in 2006 and established a government headed by Ismail Haniyeh. Hamas saw in its victory a mandate for ‘jihad’. Armed resistance took precedence over the daily lives and welfare of Gazans.

In June 2006, four months after the establishment of Haniyeh’s government, Gilad Shalit was kidnapped. A year later, Hamas staged a coup against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and renounced the Oslo Accords, prompting a tightening of the Gaza blockade that continues to this day. The Hamas way of dealing with this blockade was to build a tunnel-based economy. The smuggling from Sinai into Gaza enriched Hamas coffers while keepingmerchants, tunnel diggers and operatorsbusy. The military coup in Egypt that ousted the first elected president, Mohammed Morsi, replacing him with General Sisi, a sworn enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood and therefore of Hamas, ended the “goodtimes.”

The rise of Hamas in the 2006 elections was not an accident, but a direct result of the PA’s complete failure to establish a proper government and economy inthe territories under its control. The problems in Gaza did not begin with Hamas but with the arrival of Arafat, who promised to turn Gaza into a “Singapore.” Instead, he set up another corrupt Arab regime like those swept away by the Arab Spring.

For its part, Israel worked with the corrupt regime. Israeli-Palestinian partnerships sprang up like mushrooms after the rain – from a casino in Jericho to various fuel and cement monopolies. The border crossings between Israel and Gaza were a source of easy income for PA officials and heads of security services, such as Mohammed Dahlan and Jibril Rajoub, who partnered with Palestinian entrepreneurs seeking to open businesses.

In other words, during the ten years of Fatah rule in the West Bank and Gaza, the situation of Gazans has deteriorated under the watchful eye of Israel, whose sole aim has been to maintain security in the occupied territories, lining the pockets of the leaders of the Palestinian security services.

Disaster is imminent. The timing hinges on the heartbeat and immune system of the “omnipotent” Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen). The Netanyahu government has resolved, with the encouragement of President Donald Trump, to forgo the political process. Netanyahu hopes that economic interests and security cooperation with Israel will succeed in preventing total chaos in the West Bank when Abbas dies.

Like the issue of water in Gaza, and like global warming, the death of Abbas is a foregone disaster, even if the precise date is not known. Any cough or weight loss immediately raises the anxiety level in Israel. He’s an anti-Semite, he’s not a partner, he doesn’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state, but he maintains strict security coordination with it. In the meantime, all’s well: The many casualties in Gaza (over 100 recently) have not triggered an uprising in the West Bank, and Hamas, after losing its credibility both as a fighting force and a state-builder, has difficulty recruiting. Thus the Israeli Right can sink into the deep slumber of the returning warrior, imbued with the feeling that the Palestinians are defeated.

Yet even the defeated need water, medicine, food, a livelihood, and schools for their children. Not to mention freedom of movement, freedom of opinion and freedom to create, which were taken away more than fifty years  ago. Since the PA will collapse with or without Abu Mazen, and in Gaza there is no one to depend on, it is known in advance who the great winner in this long struggle will be. But he will bear the responsibility for what’s going on in the territories that “we have already left,” and he will be on the receiving end of incendiary kites.

The idea of two states is dead. Unilateral disengagement is dead. What remains are snipers facing desperate youngsters, airstrikes on military sites in Gaza, and five million stateless Palestinians. They did not succeed in building a state for themselves but they have not given up the dream of freedom and civil rights, just like every Israeli living nearby. According to the headline of an article by Shimon Shiffer on May 29th in Yediot Ahronot, “The Jewish underground has been victorious” (referring to a group of ultra-right religious settlers that plotted to blow up the Dome of the Rock). His conclusion is simple: “The two-state solution is no longer feasible. It’s finished.” The status quo of “no solution” will not remain forever. Paradoxically, the lack of a solution sets the stage for alternative possibilities within the framework of one state, where the resources will be divided equally among all.

* Translated from the Hebrew by Robert Goldman

About Yacov Ben Efrat