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.