Can the Trump Admin Prevent Another Gaza War?

WASHINGTON – Within a span of six years, Israel and Hamas have fought three bloody resulting in thousands of casualties. Gaza remains one of the most sensitive and explosive areas dividing Israelis and Palestinians. A senior Israeli military official noted in April that the severe electricity crisis facing Gaza may lead to an imminent clash. With the Trump administration announcing last week that it will send top advisors to the region once again to secure the “ultimate deal,” the question remains what is the most effective U.S. policy to prevent a fourth Hamas-Israel war and alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza?

“If the administration’s concern was the plight of Gazans then there would and should have been some pushback when (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas decided to cut off funding for the electricity,” explained Grant Rumley, a researcher at the Foundations for the Defense of Democracies (FDD). Power in Gaza has declined to approximately four hours a day after the P.A. reduced fuel payments to the impoverished enclave. Palestinian leadership in Ramallah has decided that it no longer wishes to subsidize Hamas’ rule in Gaza. “The IDF comptroller report pointed to the humanitarian disaster in Gaza as a key factor in why the 2014 war happened and by any measure the humanitarian crisis is worse today,” Rumley added.

Alan Dershowitz, former Harvard University Professor of Law, called for a hawkish U.S. approach towards Gaza. “The policy should be to see the destruction of Hamas and see the people of Gaza wanting to associate themselves with the peace camp and the Palestinian Authority,” he said. While some analysts call for U.S. pressure on Israel to ease the economic burden of Gaza, Dershowitz rejects those arguments. “I don’t think the U.S. should be helping Gaza economically since every time they have been given resources, they have diverted it to terror tunnels and rockets,” he emphasized.

In addition to the electricity crisis, the economic conditions in Gaza continue to deteriorate. For young adults in Gaza, unemployment has spiked to almost 60 percent and around 70 percent of residents rely on international humanitarian organizations to survive. Despite relative calm, Palestinians have fired at least seven rockets into Israel from Gaza this year.  

A White House official told Jewish Insider on Sunday, “The United States continues to look for ways that we can lawfully expand our assistance to the people of Gaza and alleviate their suffering.  When we have more concrete details to provide, we will do so.”

Rumley, who recently co-authored a biography of Abbas, remains skeptical of the White House’s efforts. “Do they (the Trump administration) have a vision of what role Gaza plays in whatever this peace process is or what to do with Hamas writ large, I don’t think they do,” he explained. Khalil Jahshan, Executive Director of the Arab Center Washington, DC, noted, “Let’s assume that this administration succeeds in initiating a negotiated process: They need that segment of Palestinian society (Gaza), approaching two million people, to participate in the process. To keep them out would be asking for subverting the process itself.”

Brent Sasley, Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas and an expert on Israeli politics, emphasized that given Gaza’s complexities, the Trump administration should “bring career civil servants and diplomats more deeply into the policy process” who have “experience dealing with all sides.” With the economic despair deepening, Sasley recommended that Washington “Put more pressure on Netanyahu to open up fishing and farming space in Gaza,” while working with U.S. allies to increase aid into the impoverished enclave.

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