Proponents of a two-state solution foresee a future Palestinian state in most of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip. In the Oslo Accords, Israel agreed to withdraw from Gaza first, with the expectation that if the Palestinians adhered to the deal, they would eventually gain independence in the West Bank as well. But the Palestinians chose terror over peace, and now neither side has much interest in the compromises necessary to create a Palestinian state. Hence, it may be time for a more radical approach in which Gaza is recognized as the Palestinian state, but with no plan for it to be extended to the West Bank.
How could this possibly make sense for Israel, given that Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which is committed to Israel’s destruction, and has bombarded Israel with thousands of rockets since the disengagement that removed every Israeli soldier and civilian from the Strip?
From a public relations, humanitarian, moral, and political standpoint, Israel has been pilloried since the disengagement because of its blockade, the “disproportionate” military response to provocations from terrorists, and the misperception that Gaza remains occupied.
Israel has shown it can withstand the criticism, though it pays a price diplomatically and in terms of its public image.
But what if Israel announced that it was prepared to recognize Gaza as the Palestinian state?
Recognizing Gaza as a state would be an acceptance of reality. Hamas is unlikely to disappear or be defeated in the foreseeable future, so Israel will have to live with Hamas in power. Since Hamas controls the entire territory, it already resembles a state.
Before Israel makes such a concession, all violence would have to cease and all Israeli hostages returned. More importantly, the Palestinians would have to understand this will not be a replay of the “Gaza first” approach of Oslo; this would be Gaza first, last, and only. Israel can argue that the Palestinians now have a state, and they are not entitled to a second one in the West Bank.
What about the threat that Hamas would pose to Israel as the authority in Gaza?