Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday proposed the construction of a 48-kilometer long tunnel that would connect the northern Gaza Strip with the southern West Bank, thus enabling freedom of movement between the two disjointed Palestinian territories.
While stumping on the campaign trail before students at Ben-Gurion University in Be’er Sheva, Barak said it was possible to dig the tunnel, which would remain under Israeli sovereignty while the Palestinians would maintain authority over the corridor’s traffic. The defense minister and Labor Party chairman said the project would cost between $2-3 billion, “a reasonable sum.”
This is the kind of thing one expects from Barak. A clever solution to the problem of providing the eagerly awaited Palestinian state with the ‘territorial contiguity’ promised by both Presidents Bush and Obama, without cutting Israel in two. As if this would satisfy any real Palestinians, most of whom have given up on a two-state solution! Although there is zero chance that this will actually happen, it does have a few positive features:
- If the ‘peace process’ doesn’t work out, it could be extended a bit at both ends and converted into a Mediterranean-Dead Sea canal.
- Many unemployed Gazans could find work digging it. May I mention that an experienced workforce already exists which could, in common parlance, ‘hit the ground running’?
- The idea could serve as a template for another Gaza employment program: a Palestinian attempt to land a man on the moon. Don’t laugh; the US space program was started by another amateur rocketeer, Dr. Werner von Braun.
Meanwhile, the main obstacle to the two-state solution, Hamas, remains. Barak also said,
“All of these critics [his opponents in the forthcoming election] were in decision-making positions and Hamas never received such a blow as this. After eight years of [rocket] fire from the Strip, I arrived and gave the IDF an order to batter Hamas, with deeds and not words,” said Barak, referring to Israel’s recent offensive against Hamas in Gaza.
Given that Hamas — or its deniable surrogates — have resumed firing rockets, that despite additional bombing raids weapons are still being smuggled through the Sinai Subway, and that Hamas is still demanding thousands of prisoners in exchange for Gilad Schalit, Barak’s statement sounds somewhat hollow, even as election rhetoric.
A Gaza-West Bank tunnel would be pointless anyway as long as Hamas controls Gaza. Various parties think that a unity government between Hamas and Fatah is a good idea, but such an arrangement would certainly be unstable, and most likely result in a Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA). And Hamas is not going to quietly accept the authority of the despised Israeli-American puppet Fatah.
Maybe not so paradoxically, the best way to make a peace agreement between Israel and the PA possible, paving the way to a two-state solution, would have been for Israel to finish off Hamas. I assume that the US administration thinks that there is some other path, or they would not have forced Israel to stop fighting and get out before the inauguration, but I’m not able to imagine what this could be.