Even as the massive aerial attack by Israel on Gaza entered its fourth day, and the number of deaths mounted to nearly 400, the question troubling people across the world is: what does Israel hope to gain out of this?
Two factors that are not being talked about much, but have figured prominently in the Israeli calculus are: natural gas and the upcoming elections to the Israeli Knesset, their parliament.
Gaza is a small strip of land on the Mediterranean Sea. Its territorial waters extend to about 35km off the coast. In 1999, the oil firm BG International discovered a huge deposit of natural gas 32km from the Gaza coast. The Gaza Marine gas field contains 1.2 trillion cubic feet of gas valued at over $4 billion. As per the Oslo peace accords, which created Gaza, Israel has security control over air and water around Gaza. So, it wrangled a deal with BG to get access to Gaza gas at cheap rates.
But before the deal could go through, Hamas won the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006. This sparked off a bitter power struggle between Hamas and the pro-west Fatah. Ultimately, the Palestinian Authority split in 2007, with Hamas taking control of Gaza and Fatah taking control of West Bank. One of the first things that Hamas did after getting elected was to declare that the natural gas deal would have to be renegotiated.
Then began the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which prevented much required food and medicines from reaching the hapless Gazans. Crammed into about 360 sq km, 1.5 million Gazans saw their lives crumble into dust. To get food and medicines, Gazans built tunnels under the Israeli barriers, and once even broke through on the Egyptian side. But the Israeli and Egyptian army tamped them down.
It appears that the current Israeli move is to try and turn the Gazans against Hamas, paving the way for a more pliable administration, so that the gas deal will go through. Reports from Israel indicate that preparations for this attack were underway since several months ago, with the ceasefire offered by Israel being just a ploy to lull Hamas.
and another story:
Hamas holding Natural gas discoveries off coast of Gaza hostage in 2006?