Avi Trengo explains how quiet weekend in south is linked to Gaza car imports
In recent weeks, a somewhat different aspect of the war against Hamas in Gaza had been revealed to us – the economic aspect. Simultaneously, we saw oscillating rocket attacks, which came to a complete halt in recent days, granting us a peaceful Yom Kippur. What’s the connection between all of this? The surprising answer: Cars.
In June, upon the lifting of the Gaza siege in the wake of the Marmara fiasco, Israel opened Gaza to Israeli exports. After all, Gazans are excellent customers: They pay in advance using all the aid money poured into the Strip by the world.
Every grain of rice, egg, apple, or veal transferred to the Strip from Israel sees someone gaining a commission. The world clears its conscience via donations, so that there’s no shortage of money in Gaza. In fact, the Strip is a “world champion” in per capita donation receipts, by far outpacing states like Congo, Malawi, Pakistan, and Haiti.
Upon the official declaration of the lifting of what was known as “the Israeli siege,” Israeli sales to Gaza grew tenfold. If up until a year ago, about 40-60 trucks entered Gaza every week with fruit and vegetables, by early August of this year the number rose to 563 trucks of fresh food.
Meanwhile, Israel announced that it will allow new cars into Gaza, for the first time since Hamas took over the Strip. Of course, that announcement was not directly conveyed to Hamas authorities – the official Israel prefers to pretend that Ramallah’s Palestinian Authority still rules the Strip.
Everyone, all across the military and economic establishment, plays along with this pretension, highlighted by the shekels used by Hamas to pay Gaza salaries – shekels transferred to Gaza by the Bank of Israel and seemingly handed over only to authorized banks. Similarly, messages about car imports are also conveyed via a game of pretend: Only to representatives of the official Palestinian Authority. Yet this time we were in for a surprise.
An old trick
Maher Abu-Aluf, the PA official in charge of coordination with Gaza, quickly approved the move. However, the transportation ministry’s director general on behalf of Hamas in Gaza, Hassan Ukasha, announced that he will not allow the vehicles to enter the Strip.
Ukasha explained his decision to the stunned Gaza press as follows: The Palestinian Authority has a financial interest in bringing vehicles into Gaza. Israel imposes high taxes on each vehicle (a 50% sales tax and a 14% value added tax) – these funds are directly transferred from Israel’s Treasury to the PA’s accounts in Israeli banks. The PA doesn’t have to make any effort to collect the money from the importers – Israel does everything.
Ukasha made it clear that he does not wish to undermine importers and impose more taxes on vehicles entering Gaza. Hence, he proposed a simple solution: Let’s establish a joint committee with the PA that would discuss the distribution of funds received from Israel.
Officials in Salam Fayyad’s government realized that they’re about to lose millions and rushed to convey a message to Ukasha suggesting that he shut up: There is no reason for Israel to be aware of the nature of financial ties between Hamastan and the PA, to the tune of billions of shekels annually.
Ukasha got the hint, and proposed a joint committee about a wholly different issue. Within less than a week, a committee was set up, seemingly for the sole purpose of discussing “a shared transportation vision for Palestine and connecting Gaza to the West Bank.”
And so, with discussions about vision not arousing suspicion of money transfers to Hamas, the committee completed its work. Officially, the PA informed Israel about a week ago that it managed to convince Hamas authorities to lift their objection to the entry of vehicles into Gaza. Meanwhile, Hamas announced that it is no longer interested in vehicle tax revenues, as long as the Fayyad government earmarks more funds to Gaza municipalities.
Everyone was pleased and the convey was ready to depart, in line with an Israeli agreement to bring 60 cars into Gaza every week – yet at the same time, the rocket fired directed at southern Israeli communities intensified. And then, some Israeli security official recalled an old trick that used to work before Operation Cast Lead. They used to call it, with a wink, “sealing off the crossings.” Today we can no longer use this tactic, yet it doesn’t mean we should grant rewards to Hamas in the form of cars and customs revenues.
And so, unexpectedly, Israel stopped the transfer of cars and spare parts to Gaza. Hamas again quickly got the message, and we therefore enjoyed a quiet weekend.
The question is whether the security establishment finally got the hint about its ability to undermine Hamas’ thriving businesses, thereby securing quiet for southern Israel residents without being accused of war crimes. As it turns out, vehicles are a weapon too.
More Quotes About "Palestine"
"There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
- Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -
"There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not".
- Professor Philip Hitti, Arab historian, 1946 -
"It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria".
- Representant of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations, 1956 -
Concerning the Holy Land, the chairman of the Syrian Delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in February 1919 stated:
"The only Arab domination since the Conquest in 635 c.e. hardly lasted, as such, 22 years".
"There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel, Galilea); not for thirty miles in either direction... One may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho lies a mouldering ruin... Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation... untenanted by any living creature... A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent, mournful expanse... a desolation... We never saw a human being on the whole route... Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes... desolate and unlovely...".
- Mark Twain, "The Innocents Abroad", 1867 -
"In 1590 a 'simple English visitor' to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing there is to bescene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like to a piece of rank or moist grounde'.".
- Gunner Edward Webbe, Palestine Exploration Fund,
Quarterly Statement, p. 86; de Haas, History, p. 338 -
"The land in Palestine is lacking in people to till its fertile soil".
- British archaeologist Thomas Shaw, mid-1700s -
"Palestine is a ruined and desolate land".
- Count Constantine François Volney, XVIII century French author and historian -
"The Arabs themselves cannot be considered but temporary residents. They pitched their tents in its grazing fields or built their places of refuge in its ruined cities. They created nothing in it. Since they were strangers to the land, they never became its masters. The desert wind that brought them hither could one day carry them away without their leaving behind them any sign of their passage through it".
- Comments by Christians concerning the Arabs in Palestine in the 1800s -
"Then we entered the hill district, and our path lay through the clattering bed of an ancient stream, whose brawling waters have rolled away into the past, along with the fierce and turbulent race who once inhabited these savage hills. There may have been cultivation here two thousand years ago. The mountains, or huge stony mounds environing this rough path, have level ridges all the way up to their summits; on these parallel ledges there is still some verdure and soil: when water flowed here, and the country was thronged with that extraordinary population, which, according to the Sacred Histories, was crowded into the region, these mountain steps may have been gardens and vineyards, such as we see now thriving along the hills of the Rhine. Now the district is quite deserted, and you ride among what seem to be so many petrified waterfalls. We saw no animals moving among the stony brakes; scarcely even a dozen little birds in the whole course of the ride".
- William Thackeray in "From Jaffa To Jerusalem", 1844 -
"The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population".
- James Finn, British Consul in 1857 -
"The area was underpopulated and remained economically stagnant until the arrival of the first Zionist pioneers in the 1880's, who came to rebuild the Jewish land. The country had remained "The Holy Land" in the religious and historic consciousness of mankind, which associated it with the Bible and the history of the Jewish people. Jewish development of the country also attracted large numbers of other immigrants - both Jewish and Arab. The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts... Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen... The plows used were of wood... The yields were very poor... The sanitary conditions in the village [Yabna] were horrible... Schools did not exist... The rate of infant mortality was very high... The western part, toward the sea, was almost a desert... The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants".
- The report of the British Royal Commission, 1913 -