By Jacob Imber
Last week, Israeli officials confirmed a groundbreaking deal to funnel Qatari oil into the Gaza Strip for a six month trial period. This arrangement is intended to improve the quality of life for Arab refugees living in Gaza who rarely have access to consistent electricity. In the past, these types of agreements have taken place under the Palestinian Authority — the governing body of Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. Despite the undeniable benefit of negotiating locally under the Authority, deals made under its watch have historically led to bureaucratic and ideological roadblocks, preventing the negotiations from fully coming to fruition. This has in part led to the lack of sufficient power throughout the Gaza Strip, which has weakened municipal safety efforts and prevented Palestinians from accessing basic food and healthcare needs.
The most recent negotiation, however, was overseen by the United Nations, marking a shift in power away from the Palestinian Authority to the hands of international powers. Although this helped ensure short-term success, it also outraged many Arab residents of Gaza, who view the change as a direct affront to Palestinian independence. Violence ensued directly after the negotiations finalized, and the Israeli Defense Force stepped in, killing five Palestinians and injuring far more. According to Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, Hamas is entirely to blame for the riots in the Gaza Strip and must be held responsible for both the continued lack of electricity and the chaos that followed the Qatari oil deal.
The influx of fuel into Israel’s Gaza Strip has consequently halted in an attempt to sanction Hamas, which both the United States federal government and the European Court of Justice consider an international terrorist organization. Liberman announced that he called for this action not only as a response to the immediate issue of oil, but also as a broader message that Israel will neither tolerate nor negotiate with Hamas if it continues to call upon civilian violence as a primary tactic.
An uncanny reflection of the conflict between Israel and Palestine proves apparent in this singular disagreement. While Hamas tends to violate the civil rights of Israelis, Americans, and its own people, it does act as a primary government for displaced Palestinians living in Israel. Its intersections with the Palestinian Authority create a complex web of interrelated interests and personnel, which leads to difficulty in navigating both governing bodies. Conducting business with Hamas has, in the past, engendered corruption and inadequacy (for instance, in the case of Gazan electricity), but it has simultaneously allowed the Israeli government to formally validate the Palestinian people. Clearly, a dangerous ultimatum results: prioritize legitimate business or prioritize Palestinian humanity. In the current controversy over Qatari oil, neither priority is met.