As everyone is aware, the Palestinian Territories consist of two land masses, the West Bank region lying between the pre-1967 Israeli border and the Jordan River, and a tiny strip of land in Southern Israel on the Mediterranean coast called the Gaza Strip. The Strip is 32 miles long and ranges between 3.7 and 7.5 miles wide, with its southern border against Egypt. Though the West Bank is nominally ruled by the Palestinian Authority, the Gaza is ruled by the terrorist organization Hamas. Hamas has held a couple of revolutions against Israeli occupation and periodically lobs a shell or two into Israel, causing Israel to lob a few shells or use warplanes to retaliate. There are 1.7 million Palestinians living in the 139 square miles of the Gaza, 12,230 people per square mile, one person every 16 square feet. Okay, the place is seriously crowded. It has also suffered from restrictions on importation of building materials to repair the damaged buildings after the Intafadas (rebellions) and restrictions on all sorts of imports. It has power shortages and fuel shortages and pretty much every kind of shortage. Older Gazans, those born before 1948, are refugees who fled to the Strip after Israel became a modern state.
The Mubarak regime enforced the embargo on goods entering the Gaza and people traveling between the Strip and Egypt. In the early days after the fall of Mubarak, the Egyptian military allowed more freedom between the Strip and Egypt. Israel has long waged a campaign to find and shut down the tunnels through which weapons travel from Egypt to the Strip.
The Egyptian people have elected a new parliament that is supposed to write a new constitution and form a new government. The Muslim Brotherhood, with its pre-existing organization, was able to take a majority of the parliamentary seats. The Brotherhood’s candidate recently won the election for President.
President Mohamed Mursi met with Gaza’s leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thrusday in the first direct contact between an Egyptian leader and a representative of Gaza’s Hamas government. They discussed ways to double the flow of Qatarian oil into Gaza and ways to increase the delivery of electricity from Egypt into the Strip.
They also discussed ways to improve cross-border traffic. Hamas wants the borders completely opened, but it is doubtful that Egypt will allow that. Mursi is not completely in control of Egypt, so Hany al-Masri, a Palestinian political commentator explained “Mursi’s heart is with Hamas, but his mind is elsewhere. He will give them as much as he can, but he won’t be able to give them much because his powers are restricted.”
Hamas wants the Qatar oil to go directly from Egypt to Gaza, instead of the present system which sends the oil from Egypt into Israel and then into Gaza, but Mursi could not arrange that.
Some people have suggested that the Gaza Strip be ceded to Egypt instead of trying to merge it into a nation with the West Bank, which it is separated from by all of Israel. There is little known about how the Gazans would react to this idea, because of their feelings about being in the Strip to begin with. The Strip used to belong to Egypt, and it was a huge refugee camp that the Palestinians were confined to by Egypt when they fled Israel, just as the West Bank was a refugee camp set up by Jordan.
The Egyptian military is holding Mursi in check and are prepared to make sure he does not commit the country to supporting terrorism or turning Egypt into an Islamist state. While the meeting with Haniyeh had a certain public relations value for both sides, it signifies very little in real policy.