As they say, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That is exactly what is happening in Gaza now.
Israel has no choice, but to defend itself
Given the current situation that confronts Israel with Hamas shooting thousands of missiles, building tens of massive tunnels stocked with arms, stealing Israeli Army uniforms with the objective in imitating Israeli soldiers and killing and capturing civilians, Israel has no real option but to take action against Hamas. But the predictable results of this are that civilians are being killed and injured, no matter how much care Israel takes to prevent that, and I do believe that they take a great deal of care to warn civilians in targeted areas before they strike. Civilian deaths are relatively low given the actions that Israel is taking.
Photoshop, a weapon of war
There is also a PR war in which Israel is not doing very well. Hamas has a strategy to maximize the death of civilians and publicize this. I was shocked when a dear Palestinian friend posted a photo on Facebook of about ten dead children all lined up neatly. I am sure that these children were not all killed in the same place or at the same time, but placed together for a photo-op. Or perhaps its was done by Photoshop one of the surprising weapons in this war. The BBC recently wrote about this kind of thing.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
The results of this current conflict are clear. There will be a ceasefire. Israel does not have the desire to reoccupy Gaza, which would be required to eliminate or at least tame Gaza. Hamas will be strengthened in the eyes of the people living in Gaza for standing up to Israel. Countries like Qatar will provide Hamas with financial assistance much of which will go into the pockets of the Hamas leadership to add to the billions they have already stolen. But they will use some of this money to buy even more effective weapons probably from Iran and Russia. Israel will spend money to improve its anti-missile capabilities. There will be quiet for a few years. Israelis can relax once again in the cafe’s of Tel Aviv while Pro-Palestinian supporters can go back to whatever they were doing before to make the world a better place, which I don’t think was much. The world’s attention will move to Iraq and Syria where Arabs to do other Arabs the things that Hamas would like to do to Israelis.
Sixty-Six Years of Blaming the Jews and sucking at the tit of the UN
Children in Gaza will grow up being thought to hate and to blame their problem on the Jews. The population of Gaza will continue to grow because there is nothing much to do there, but have children and exist on money from the UN.
The generations of Palestinian refugees in living in Arab countries will still not get citizenship in the countries where they were born, and even their parents and grandparents were born. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank under the leadership of Abbas, will do what it can to maintain the status quo while looking like it wants an independent country. Without Israel’s support, the PA knows that Hamas will do to them what they would like to do to Israel.
What me worry?
Israelis will go back to thinking that Israel is somehow not in the middle east but located in Southern California. Anti-Semitism in Europe and, in particular France, will cause continued emigration to Israel. What has just happened with Hamas sending missiles into all of Israel has guaranteed that there will not be a Palestinian nation. The issue with security in Israel, given how close the West Bank is to the major population centers of Israel and its only Airport, means that Israel will not take its army out of the West Bank. And as long as Israel occupies the West Bank, they will build more settlements, more Israeli highways, and building more walls to slice and dice the West Bank.
Writing this post, I am feeling very sad and almost want to cry. It does not have to be this way.
What and why is Gaza?
The town of Gaza has been around for more than 4,000 years. Prior to 1948, it was a small fishing village but one located in a very strategic place. Gaza is on the coastal route between Africa(Egypt) and Europe. Right now there are approximately. 1.6 million people are living there; 1.3 million are classified as refugees (one wonders what the 300k non-refugees think about them.)
When Israel was given its Independence by the United Nations (the same folks that subsidize the Palestinian refugees) in 1948, a war broke out between Israel and five-Arab states that surrounded it. Those states which included, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and even Iraq did not accept the creation of the state of Israel. I did not include Palestine because there was no Palestinian country then or ever, which is not to say there were no Palestinian people living in what is now Israel/Palestine. Those Palestinians fought with the Israelis. What we think of Israel now, had many Arab cities including Jaffa, which is contiguous to Tel Aviv. That war (and the ones that came after it) did not go like the Arab countries imagined. Israel won and took additional land. Arab leaders told the local (Palestinian) population that they should leave their homes, or they would be killed by the Israelis. The Israelis also took action to “encourage” the Palestinians to leave their homes. While it was not a pretty sight, these kinds of things have happened throughout history and continue to happen to this day. In the meantime, about the same number of Jews living in Arab countries were forced out. In some cases, their families had been living in these countries for over three thousand years.
When the Palestinians left the land that is now Israel, they went in every direction. Some went to Lebanon, others to Syria and Jordan. But the unlucky ones went south to Gaza. They did not continue past Gaza because there is not much there until you pass the Sinai. When the War of 1948 ended in an armistice, someone drew a line on a map using a pen with green ink. That is how we get the so-called “Green Line.” There were three areas drawn – Gaza, The West Bank, and the Golan Heights. While it had been the intention of the UN when it declared the State of Israel, to also create a Palestinian State, that did not happen. Instead, Syria, Jordan and Egypt divided up the territories. To be correct, I would have to say that the Golan Heights was then a part of Syria. It was not a very populated area, and most of the people living there were Druze. But it was very strategic location, it is not called the Golan Heights for nothing. It is very mountainous and overlooks one of the most important areas of the State of Israel which is called the Valley of Israel. From 1948 to 1967, the Syrians used the area primarily for military purposes, firing into Israeli communities below. After 1967, Israel did offer the Golan Heights back to Syria in return for a peace agreement, but Syria would not agree to that so Israel d incorporated the Golan Heights into Israel and settled the land. By the way, it is one of the most beautiful locations in Israel.
Why is there no Palestinian State? ask Egypt and Jordan
Jordan could have easily agreed to set up a Palestinian State in the West Bank, but instead choose to incorporate that area into Jordan and even granted the people living there Jordanian citizenship.
Egypt got the Gaza area which for a while was administered as an independent entity but then about ten years later, Egypt incorporated Gaza into Egypt itself but would not grant the people living in Gaza Egyptian Citizenship.
So if you want to know why there is no Palestine, you might direct you questions to Jordan and Egypt.
Six days in June
Then came the six-day war in 1967. Israel won that war which resulted in Israel occupying the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights. In addition, Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula, an area that is far larger than the whole of Israel. Israel offered to return the West Bank to Jordan in return for a peace agreement, but Jordan would have no part of such an agreement. The same thing happened with respect to Egypt. Eventually, Egypt and Israel did sign a peace agreement, and Israel returned the Sinai but by then, Egypt would not take Gaza back.
Much later, Israel and Jordan signed a peace agreement. Jordan had no further interest in the West Bank. In 1970, the Palestinians living in Jordan led by Yasser Arafat staged a coup against the Jordanian King, which resulted in a civil war. The Palestinian leadership was kicked out and went to Lebanon where they tried and failed to unstable that country before being forced to move to Tunisia. That left Israel with the West Bank and Gaza, and no choice but to support the concept, if not the reality, of a Palestinian State.
Tunisian Nights: Arafat arrives in the West Bank
The Oslo Accord was signed in 1993 and provided for mutual acceptance of Israel and Palestine. Yasser Arafat was allowed to move to the West Bank and setup the Palestinian Authority. In 2000, President Clinton attempted to broker an agreement between Israel and Palestine. This agreement was an all or nothing attempt to resolve all the issues. It ended up being nothing. Most historians blame Arafat for the failure, but I think that just like the situation now, there is no agreement that both the leader of Palestine and a leader of Israel could sign.
The result of this failure lead to The Second Intifada, which went on for about five years. In my opinion, this was one of the greatest failures of the Palestinian leadership. It resulted in the deaths of 3000 Palestinians and 1000 Israelis. It undermined the Israel’s trust in the security arrangement with Palestine. It gave license to the Settler Movement. I wonder what would have happened if the Palestinians had embraced the nonviolent approach of the American Civil Rights Movement instead.
Israel pulls out of Gaza and gets Hamas as a reward
In 2005, under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, Israel unilaterally left Gaza, which forced Israeli Settlers to leave. Israel left a number of facilities that could have been used by the Palestinians to build their economy, but instead they chose to destroy them. Then, in 2007, Hamas won a democratic election that was naively promoted by the Bush administration against the advice of Israel.
Hamas was originally formed in 1987 as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian organization that has been classified as a terrorist organization. After the Arab Spring, it did have few years of legitimacy in Egypt, and one of its members served as the Prime Minister until he was ousted by the military. The Brotherhood is once again outlawed in Egypt. This relationship goes far in explaining Egyptian actions with respect to Gaza.
The stated goal of Hamas is the elimination of the state of Israel. By the way, it denies the Holocaust and does not distinguish between Israelis and other Jews.The Quartet (USA, Russia, EU and the UN) required Hamas to change its charter with respect to Israel to continue to get funding. It did not, and was cut off financially, but not from the UN. Hamas then began to attack Israel, and several mini-wars were conducted. Israel created a blockade to prevent Hamas from bringing weapons. This blockade which was also called the siege of Gaza, has been strongly condemned. Israel still allows for food, medicine and other supplies to be brought into Gaza. It supplies electric power and gas to Gaza. There had been times when it did not allow construction materials like cement to be brought in because it believed, correctly that Hamas would use that to build tunnels into Israel and Egypt instead of building homes, schools and hospitals. Israel keeps a tight control on fishing and other maritime activities because it believes, correctly that such activities would be used for smuggling weapons into Gaza. By the way, if you would like to understand the behavior of Hamas check out the actions of ISIS.
The relationship between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority is not good. Once Hamas took over Gaza they executed a number of members of Fatah, the political arm of the PA as well as shooting into pro-PA demonstrators, killing many of them.
The Worlds Largest Open Air Prison run by the most violent inmates
The result is that Gaza is called the “Worlds Largest Open Air Prison” and I believe this is a correct description. Israelis blame Hamas for this. Hamas makes it easy for Israel to accept the tragedy of Gaza because they can conveniently blame Hamas. And while I think Hamas are criminals (they steal the people’s money) and a terrorist organization, it is not right to blame the people in Gaza for their own situation. They are the victims of many actions by both Israel and by other Arab countries.
So it is time to stop blaming the victims and find a solution
The first step is to understand that there is no way 1.6 million Palestinians can have a good and productive life in such a small area. The West Bank is about ten times as large as Gaza and has a population of just a bit more than Gaza. Gaza is not even 1% of the size of Jordan where, by the way, the majority of people are Palestinians.
I can’t imagine what kind of economy could be created in Gaza, which would allow the people living there to have an appropriate standard of living. The area is just too small to support agriculture and the population to unskilled to for high-level manufacturing or IT services, etc.
That means that the territory that is Gaza either has to be expanded or the population reduced (not eliminated if that is what you are thinking I am saying).
My solution: make Gaza bigger
Gaza is located in the Negev Desert of Israel and next to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Both areas are lightly populated, and both are deserts. But Israel has proven as have others, that it is possible to make the desert bloom. Frankly, it does not take much. You need land, sun, water and energy. I could have left water out because with energy you can create water especially if you are located near the sea. Israel is a world leader in desalinization. Israel and Egypt have access to natural gas. I believe that it would be possible to significantly increase the size of Gaza and turn that area into a major agricultural center. Not only would this provide work for the people of Gaza but the food produced could feed Egyptians who have a major food problem.
It would take less than five years to make this happen. It would require a large investment and Israel could not be expected to pay the full bill. But compared to doing nothing which will result in the continued cycle of war, it will be cheap. I believe there are many Israelis and others that would be willing to commit to five years of their life to make this happen. But the new territories would have to be demilitarized. I would suggest that while Gazan’s could work and live there, the land would be under the protection of an international group of countries including the USA. An international group could monitor the borders of these areas. It is important to provide living quarters, hospitals and schools in these new areas. The citizens of Gaza would be permitted to live there provided they accepted the international authority of a guardian. I am not sure that Hamas would allow the people of Gaza to leave the territory they control, but if they did not, I would think there would be enough internal and external pressure to finally force their hands. After a period of success, the new territories would become part of Palestine.
Other alternatives suck
I thought about other alternatives, like moving a significant number of the people in Gaza to the West Bank and then making Gaza with a population of less than 500,000 part of Israel. Such an action would require Israel to re-occupy Gaza, and force the move of 1.2 million people to the west bank. I don’t see this happening.
I don’t see Egypt taking back Gaza because of political and economic issues.
I don’t see the status quo. At some point, Gaza will have weapons that could inflict or will inflict real damage to Israel such as killing large numbers of people or destroying the airport. When that happens, Israel will take off their gloves, and it will not be pretty.
It is time to use our brains, creativity and have the courage to act
Maybe you have some ideas about what can happen. I believe that the problem of Gaza has a solution, and I outlined it. I am willing to devote time and money to finding a solution here. In particular, I invite my Palestinian friends to work with me on this project. You can contact me directly via email.
I’ll email you.
I appreciate the context you’ve attempted to lay out here and your suggested solution. I’m simply not enough of a student of the complex history of the region and have learned over time to be skeptical of basically every claim made, by both sides, because it seems everyone writing about the issue has an agenda.
My tendency is to think that the political situation is far more complex (and ugly) than we know, on both sides of the wall. For example, the relationship between Israel and Hamas has been more involved than most people understand. It’s not quite true (I think) what some people say, that Israel “created Hamas” but it does seem that the Israelis have played favorites at different times and have tried to influence internal politics and events within Palestinian/Arab circles and sometimes this has backfired: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB123275572295011847.
In terms of your prescription, it sounds as good if not better than any other idea I’ve heard — specifically when it comes to Gaza. There is an underlying resource issue: There are simply too many people in too small of a fairly hostile ecological area for them to thrive. If the political support existed for growing Gaza in the way you describe, including putting a lot of capital, human, and natural resources into building a habitable community, it might not work for very long. Ultimately, desalinisation depends on a great deal of energy inputs. Perhaps there’s a way to do a build out that would use solar as the primary source for desalinisation, but betting on long term supplies of natural gas is dangerous in my view.
Asher, I think using solar is a better way to go so thanks for pointing that out. I would love to build an economic model of this, treating it like a business opportunity. I may do that if I can get an enough data for the inputs.
How can we help to get you the data you need, Avram?
Ann, thanks for asking. I need to talk to a few people first that know more about sustainable farming, desalinations, alternative energy, etc.
Elon Musk should take on this challenge!
You laid out the history pretty well. Your assessment of Gaza’s ability to support itself is correct. Your solution is interesting, but I don’t see Hamas agreeing to be demilitarized.
Avram, nice job. Rich
Why not make Gaza a free zone (as Quatar suggested) ?? Lot’s of employment possibilities -look at Dubai?/
Nina, I don’t think your suggestions works. Dubai is rich and not because it is a free zone but because it has oil. There are only 2 million people living there but 1.3 million are guest workers. Of that one million our Pakistani males.
When Israel withdrew from Gaza it left behind greenhouses and a thriving agricultural framework that had sustained the settler economy. This shows that your suggestion could work in practice. But Hamas’s subsquent actions — destroying the framework that would help alleviate unemployment in preference of dependence on food coming via Israel — miitigate against it. Your idea works only if Hamas supports it. Hamas wants no such thing. It works in Hamas’s best interests to have an unemployed, dependent population to foment unrest.
Sheldon, my plan is to set up a territory outside of Gaza but open to the people of Gaza. There they will have a place to live, schools and hospitals. But most importantly, they will be trained in modern and sustainable farming. They will have a market in Egypt which needs this. These area will be governed by an international organization (not the UN). The only thing Hamas has to do is let the people out of Gaza. The people of Gaza need hope but more than that they need to achieve a normal life if not for them, for their children. Israel and Egypt will not succeed by keeping them in “jail”. But I also believe that Israel has a right to defend itself when attacked and I support Israel’s action in Gaza although I understand the position of those that do not.
I am interested in finding solutions. It is easy to assign blame. It takes more work to be constructive..
Wow, a solution that makes sense. I think it will be much easier to build the farms, desalination plants, etc, than to set up an international governing body. And Hamas (and others) will see this as a new place to build tunnels and station rockets. Hopefully the Palestinian people will see the benefits of living a normal, peaceful life as opposed to occupation, bombing and corruption and elect a governing body that feels likewise.
It’s worth mentioning that 3000 green houses were given to the Gazans when Israel withdrew, as a way to begin a valuable industry. They were purchased with donations from American Jews who, like Avram, wanted to see a “greening” of Gaza. Unfortunately, Hamas destroyed them all. Not that we shouldn’t try again, and Avram’s plan is more comprehensive – because it includes creating providing more land for Gazan’s in the Sinai desert. I have to remain hopeful, or its just too bleak.
I like your approach, but the question is whether the Egyptians would like this approach. After all it’s Egypt that has closed its border with Gaza and now here’s a proposal to actually give Gaza part of the Sinai. Wouldn’t Egyptians ask why isn’t there international help for Egyptians to make the Sinai bloom? Perhaps this reluctance could be addressed by having Gaza demonstration projects to show how it could be done, but I don’t think the Egyptians love Gaza so much as to give up fertile land to them. Maybe I’m wrong, but they did close the border.
Mindwarm, thanks again for your comments. The land I am speaking about is a desert which produces nothing. Egypt will have terrible food shortages and does not have the capital to invest. So these deal can make sense to the Egyptians.
Unfortunately, as you said — Egypt faces food shortages. Egypt is deep into peak oil and has a far bigger population than it can support. If the expanded Gaza does flower, don’t be surprised if Egyptians are clamoring to get in, rather than block, it.
Asher, I think everyone can win including Hamas who just like the Mafia will find away to shake down everyone.
I believe this is the only direction that has a chance of working! I suggest you enlist help from some women’s organization in the region as I think getting the women of Gaza behind the project would be of great value! THIS is a project where all the “social marketing” smarts possible should come into play, with careful analysis of the “target decision makers and key influencers” (i.e.: fundamentalist Muslims and Jewish; Hamas and other militarist orgs. In other words: do not overlook the social-cultural-human factors which are HUGE in the circumstances. This was apparently a key mistake made in the “partitioning” of the Middle-East.
Other things: I saw a documentary not too long ago, of a project in India where they take – totally unskilled women from non-urban areas – and teach them to assemble solar panels and to sell them (to fellow villagers, etc). The lamps are small and serve mostly for household lighting, but the concept seems valuable (it could also be an export product to other poor regions). From what I understand both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia do large scale desalinization of water – yes they are oil rich but supposedly they “care” about Palestinians… A very valuable technology should be hydroponics since it is intensive and maximizes scarce resources such as arable land and space. Note that in the US there has recently been a lot of talk about “vertical farms” – farming inside tall buildings that look kinda like urban garages – for info on that I’d go to UC Davis. This might be an interesting idea to explore along with more traditional “acreage” farming.
Given what we know today – all forms of water recycling and treatment and conservation, should be implemented upfront. Denver has implemented quite a bit of recycling and treatment best practices and Japan is likely a source for both state of the art water recycling AND turning garbage into usable energy (important to think about garbage!). I have to look at the map of the region you mention – does it have ocean access? IF so, there should be some consideration given to aquaculture of some algae-like green edibles which are used as food and in food and are easy to culture (in warm shallow waters) and have high-dollar value and don’t pollute.
As to arable land, lets remember that wheat culture initiated in the Middle East. However, today’s seeds are heavily manipulated. I’ve read that one of the Scandinavian countries (either Norway or Finland) has a wheat seed “bank” where they keep “original” seeds. Other arid countries, may be sources of good crops: many different types of potatoes from Peru (where mono culture is not practiced), various carefully bread table crops developed in Brazil for successful planting in its arid region – all of which yield higher vitamin and mineral content than the “traditional” versions (not via genetic engineering but through traditional genetic “evolution” techniques).
Its a beautiful project which could be an example to the whole world. It requires a mega-nonprofit with state of the art transparency and totally competent management by high integrity people. It is most likely to be successful if it can put a maximum number of people – particularly men – to work offering them a dignified life and a future for their children!
Not “Valley of Israel” — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezreel_Valley . Whatever spelling you prefer, “Israel” is definitely wrong.
Avram, a VERY good analysis. The only thing i would add is that Israel needs to get its settlers out of the West Bank for two reasons:
– it eliminates any excuses that anyone (at least anyone who is a little bit rational) can have about the “bad/occupational/…” Israelis
– those settlements are as unsustainable as Gaza itself is – each one is too small to be self-sufficient, and maintaining the necessary interconnect is too intrusive and far too expensive.
The one thing where i can’t find a “simple/obvious” solution for, is what should happen to East Jerusalem. I am leaning to saying it should stay part of Jerusalem and Israel (as a German i can’t see how you can tear a city apart that has grown over hundreds/thousands of years – Berlin!; and i can also see that a country can establish/grow a new capitol, Ramallah – ala Bonn). BUT, i see the historic/religious attachment that Palestinians/Muslims have to sections of that city. And, i am worried about complicated/sophisticated “solutions” – they never work long-term (but, maybe they could work long enough so that trust can be built in the meantime in all other areas).
Even independent of Gaza, Israel should solve the West Bank issue in a clean and satisfactory (for both sides) way – the settlements have NO benefit for Israel, and it would show that there is not ONE Palestine right now: there is a rational and reasonable West Bank – and there is a Gaza that is getting destroyed and exploited by its own Hamas leadership.
Hans, I agree about the settlements but not all settlements are alike. Some are clearly in areas where the borders would change in an agreement. There are a few very large settlements. One is just a suburb of Jerusalem. Then there is Ariel which is very large and has an University. Most of the people living there work in Tel Aviv. It would be hard to get them to leave. The building of all new settlements and most expansion should stop! This will be pretty much impossible politically given what has just happened, sadly.
The story of East Jerusalem is interesting. In 1967, there were 200k Jews living in West Jerusalem and a bit more than 50k Arabs in East Jerusalem. There is now about 500k Jews and 280k Arabs. I believe that the increase on the Arab side is do in large part to the economic development by the Jews and the jobs they have in Israel proper. Arabs in East Jerusalem which has been annexed by Israel (although this is not excepted by other countries) have the right to Israeli Citizenship or they can just be Israeli Residents. Less than 10% become citizens. But they are sort of like type O blood. They are free to travel and work in Israel and can also travel in Palestine. We have an east jerusalem driver than can take us almost anywhere and we would not be stopped going in or out of Palestine. I don’t think Jerusalem could support such a large Arab population if they were not allowed to work in Israel. There are also many that are listed as residence so but actually live in Palestine where it is cheaper. Israel will never give up Jerusalem. Rahmalah is a much nicer place. There are cafe’s, 5 star hotels and big villas belonging to the leaders of the PLO. Bethlehem which is just 15 minutes from Jerusalem is a very beautiful city although it is economicly distressed because tourists are no longer willing to stay there. They just want a quick in and other.
I like some of your ideas in your second paragraph. Would you be willing to spend a bit of time on this with me?
i’d love to discuss this more – you are one of the very few people on either side who have done their homework on this complicated topic. Both of us love the people and the state of Israel (i have more real friends in Israel form my work with DSPC than from any other job) but we are not blind to Israel’s mistakes. But, most of all, we realize that Israel will have to accept some compromises if it wants to get out of the spiral where every response to terrorist attacks just creates even more terrorists long-term.
Email me on email@example.com, or call me on (916)996-4361.
another point of view:
The problem with Henry Siegman’s viewpoint is that his condemnation of Israel exists in a vacuum. He blames the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza on Israel, rather than on the Arab nations that caused the refugee problem in the first place.
As an aside, one only has to look at the other articles on this web site to see that this is a pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel web site.
And Henry Siegman has not been a leading voice of American Jewry in decades.