Questions for the Future in the Middle East

In the immediate aftermath of the developments in the Gaza Strip, much has been said and written. It is, I suggest, far too early to engage in prognostication. The unknowns far outweigh the known, the “x” factors are still hazy and the expected results of the just announced summit next week with the participation of Israel, the PA, Egypt and Jordan are unclear. It is important to note that the President of the PA, Abu Mazen, referred to Hamas as “murderous terrorists”

As there is no vacuum at such times, particularly in the Middle East, there are number of decisions that foreign governments and NGO’s need to make in the interim. The following questions are a check-list or road map for the interim:

1) will Egypt act forcefully to prevent continued arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip? To date, according to intelligence reports (not to speak of “facts on the ground”) Egypt has turned a blind eye on this issue.

2) will Israel allow Fatah (PLO) supporters in Gaza to enter Israel for the purpose of moving to the West Bank? (akin to internal refugees)

3) will the Hamas attack the PA/Fatah in the West Bank and if yes, what will be the PA’s response?

4) will the international community turn its back on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, thereby denying it of any financial resources? In such an event, which NGO and/or foreign government would respond to the all but inevitable humanitarian crises?

5) what is the legal status of the Gaza Strip? Is it still a part of the PA or given the establishment of an emergency PA government in the West Bank, is the Gaza Strip an independent entity? If so, does Israel modify “rules of engagement”?

6) what is the significance of a survey indicating that 40% of the Gazan population would like to enter in a confederation agreement with Jordan? (the reader will recall that the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian rule prior to the 1967 Six Day War whereas the West Bank was under Jordanian rule)

7) what is the most effective role the US can presently play? Is supporting Abu Mazen in the best interests of long-term US policy?

8 ) should Israel release from jail Marwan Barghouti, currently serving a number of life sentences for the murder of Israelis but considered by many the most effective and charismatic Fatah leader?