Will This Be the Trigger for the Next Gaza War?

Israeli government announcement riles Hamas, while setting the stage for a PR coup.

By Ryan Jones | | Topics: Gaza, Hamas
Hamas forces in Gaza are always looking for the next excuse to attack Israel. Photo by Attia Muhammed/Flash90
Hamas forces in Gaza are always looking for the next excuse to attack Israel. Photo by Attia Muhammed/Flash90

Israel on Sunday announced that it wants to help the Palestinian Arabs, but in a way that leaves Hamas out in the cold. And that just might be the spark that ignites the next Gaza war.

Just 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) off the coast of the Gaza Strip lies a massive natural gas field, like those already being worked further up the Israeli coast.

It’s called Gaza Marine, and holds an estimated 1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s enough to significantly boost the Palestinian economy and serve as the cornerstone of the “economic peace” Israel believes could finally bring an end to the conflict.

But Gaza is ruled by Hamas, which would almost certainly use the proceeds from developing the gas field to fuel its anti-Israel war machine.

That’s why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that Gaza Marine would be jointly developed by Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, leaving Hamas watching from the sidelines.

Development of this resource will be conducted “in the framework of the existing efforts between the State of Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA), with emphasis on Palestinian economic development,” read a statement released by Netanyahu’s office.

The offshore work will be done by the state-run Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS). During negotiations on the matter earlier this year, Israeli National Security Advisor Tzachi Hanegbi stressed that it would “improve the economic conditions of the Palestinian people” and “significantly enhance the fiscal situation of the Palestinian National Authority.”

If anyone believes Hamas is going to quietly accept this, they haven’t been paying attention.

The terror group violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas refused to grant Hamas the political power it was due as the largest party in the Palestinian parliament.

Hamas and the PA remain fierce rivals, and anything that boosts Abbas’ government will be seen as a threat. And the quickest way to thwart the entire scheme and get Palestinian eyes back on Hamas is to start another war with Israel.