The Israeli military’s discovery of an underground “terror tunnel” stretching from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip deep into the Jewish state has deepened concerns that a U.S.-backed initiative to secure a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians may be deeply complicated – if not rendered untenable – by the Palestinian terror group’s ongoing intransigence and control of the Gaza Strip.
“The exposure of this tunnel was based on intelligence, and boots on the ground in the vicinity of the Gaza security fence,” IDF Spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, said, ”Our operational assumption is that Hamas and other terror organizations continue to tunnel and prepare points of attack against Israel and its civilians. This advanced tunnel was intended to pose a direct link and threat to Israeli territory, and enable Hamas terrorists to reach and harm Israeli civilians. Tunnels such as this are built to assist terrorists in the execution of terror attacks. In the past Gaza terrorists have utilized such tunnels to Israel for infiltration, detonation and abduction of Israeli citizens.”
Observers have long been troubled by Hamas’s potential role as a spoiler to any hopes of establishing a viable Palestinian state, one of four fundamental hurdles that have both long been cited by analysts and have yet to be resolved.
Most straightforwardly, the Palestinians appear ready to declare a single state across the Fatah-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. A single state controlled by two rival governments is by definition a failed state.
Voice of America (VOA) reported last week that Secretary of State John Kerry is likely to embrace a so-called ‘West Bank-only’ strategy that would simply ignore the disposition of the Gaza Strip. It is not clear how the framework would secure an end of Palestinian claims against Israel – a central requirement for any comprehensive agreement – in the absence of an agreement that fixes Gaza’s borders.
Without Gaza, many analysts think there is little chance the talks can lead to a negotiated settlement to the decades-old conflict or help create a viable and independent Palestinian state. But U.S. officials are pushing forward anyway. In December, President Barack Obama said that if a “pathway to peace” can be created in the West Bank, “that’s something that the young people of Gaza are going to want.”
[Photo: anji dasari / YouTube]