was splitting hairs in an interview with CNN over “what we mean when we say ‘state,’” the Gazan Health Ministry reported that another seven Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire in protests at the border, including Nasser Azmi Musbeh, 12, and Mohammad Nayef al-Houm, 14.
“I’ve discovered that, if you use labels, you’re not going to get very far because different people mean different things when they say ‘states.’ So rather than talk about labels, I’d like to talk about substance,” Netanyahu replied when asked whether he was ready to reaffirm his commitment to a two-state solution.
But to Gazans, it doesn’t really matter whether Netanyahu wants to talk about labels or substance. The unemployment rate in Gaza is 57 percent, and most of the jobless are between 18 and 30 years old. Many spend their days in the tent cities erected by Hamas when the “march of return” protests began. They at least have internet and television.
Hamas has renewed the protests. It continues to train its forces and recently held a civilian exercises to prepare for a future conflict with Israel. And like a broken record, the Israel Defense Forces also attacked.
The escalation in the Gaza Strip was expected and senior Israeli defense officials believe a military confrontation is only a matter of time. They point to two reasons: stagnation in the reconciliation process between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas and the absence of an alternative to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which will soon stop providing humanitarian aid in the wake of the withdrawal of U.S. funding.
About half of Gazans are dependent on food aid from the UN agency, whose schools in the Strip educate 300,000 children and employ 18,000 teachers and administrators. Agency funding for these school runs out in October (Yaniv Kubovich, Sept. 28). In the wake of the U.S. decision to slash its contribution to the agency, the European Union has pledged an additional 40 million euros. Has the Israeli government considered what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of Gazans who need the food provided by UNRWA, and the 300,000 children whose schools will close due to lack of funds? Or, for that matter, what the IDF will do if and when the people of Gaza, in the wake of a total humanitarian collapse, turn to Israel to save them? Will it shoot at them?
Israeli policy makes do with deterrence, but what new threats against the Gazan population could achieve it? After a blockade of 11 years, without regular supplies of water and electricity, without fuel, without revenue sources, in the world’s largest prison and, soon, without humanitarian aid, Gazans have nothing to lose. If Netanyahu wants to talk about substance, there is no more appropriate place to start the discussion than the Gaza Strip. Gaza needs an immediate political solution.
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