At the beginning of August, Member of Knesset and Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Moshe Feiglin, who heads the Jewish Leadership Movement, posted an open letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Facebook. In this letter, he put forth a six point plan for dealing with the Gaza Strip.
This plan has not gotten nearly the traction that it should, which I think is a shame, because it is, as far as I can see, the plan most likely to lead to a peaceful and humane resolution. I’d like to go over the six points and explain them in a little more depth for those who may not have understood.
1. The IDF will demarcate open areas on the Sinai border close to the sea in which the civilian population will be concentrated — far from the built-up areas and areas from which rockets are launched and tunnels are dug. Tent camps will be erected in these areas until the relevant emigration destinations are located. Provision of electricity and water to the formerly inhabited areas will be disconnected.
This point has been willfully misinterpreted and miscast by international media as calling for “concentration camps”. In an article in the British website Mail Online, Jill Reilly wrote:
An Israeli official has called for concentration camps in Gaza and ‘the conquest of the entire Gaza Strip, and annihilation of all fighting forces and their supporters’.
Far from this being the truth, the camps Feiglin refers to are identical to those in which new Jewish immigrants to Israel in the 1940s and 1950s were housed while proper housing was constructed. Unlike the concentration camps of WWII, which were intended as prisons and later as death camps, these camps were a refuge. A safe place; not a prison.
Anyone who has seen the violence directed towards Israel from Gaza must surely be aware that Israel has a compelling and vital need to eliminate the hostile infrastructure. The Gaza Strip is riddled with tunnels and hidden warrens where war materiel is secreted away for use against Israel. It would be trivial for Israel to flatten the entire Gaza Strip in order to eliminate this threat, but contrary to hostile propaganda, Israel does not want to harm innocents.
Up until now, Israel has tried to warn civilians about attacks so that they can get out of the way. One of the criticisms often directed towards Israel on this front is that “there is nowhere to go”. This is far from the truth, as has been pointed out. Gaza City itself is extremely densely populated, but the Gaza Strip is not. What Feiglin is proposing is that the Gaza Strip populace be moved out of the way, to an area on the Sinai border close to the sea, so that not a single innocent will be harmed while Israel removes the military threat from the Gaza Strip. This area would be on the Sinai border so that if Egypt allows it, Gazans will be free to leave the encampment in that direction, and close to the sea, so that if Gazans can arrange transport via the sea, they will be free to leave in that way as well.
Israel has been accused — falsely — of turning the Gaza Strip into an “open air prison”. There are too many sources for this bit of propaganda for me to list them all here, but Google can help. With freedom to leave to the south and the west, even the encampment Feiglin proposes cannot seriously be seen as any kind of prison.
2. The formerly inhabited areas will be bombarded with maximum firepower. All Hamas facilities, civil and military, means of communications and logistics, will be razed to the foundation.
As mentioned above, this is an absolute necessity. Over the past decade, Gazans have built their terror infrastructure so deeply into their general infrastructure that there is no practical way of destroying the one without destroying the other. All Israel can do is move the Gazans out of the way so that they will not be harmed during the neutralization of this threat.
3. The IDF will divide the Gaza Strip into districts, will greatly widen main roads, will administer the districts, and will destroy any nests of resistence insofar as any such remain.
Presumably, this point needs no defense or explanation. Vast sums have poured into the Gaza Strip since Israel left it in 2005. Yet almost none of it has been used to build civilian infrastructure. Almost none of it has been used to make life more livable for those inhabiting the Gaza Strip. Instead, the area has been concentrated into four major population centers, with little opportunity for healthy growth.
As far as the destruction of nests of resistence, this refers to military and paramilitary groups. Civilians will all have been moved to the encampments on the Sinai border. But Hamas and similar groups will no doubt attempt to prevent Israel from pacifying the Gaza Strip. This cannot be permitted. The violence has gone on for far too long. It must end.
4. Israel will begin to locate countries and emigration fees for Gaza refugees. Those wishing to emigrate will be given a generous financial aid package, and will reach the lands that take them in with significant financial means.
In her article in the Mail Online, Reilly claimed
Part of his plan includes shipping the people living in Gaza across the world.
Again, this is far from the truth. Feiglin is not proposing forceable expulsion of anyone. On the contrary. A large majority of the Gazan population is on record, through polls — including polls conducted by Arab sources — that they would emigrate if they could. It benefits no one to stand in the way of this desire.
Since Egypt conquered the Gaza Strip in the 1948-49 war, in which it failed to exterminate the fledgling State of Israel, it kept most of the Arabs of the Strip in refugee camps, preventing them from living freely and becoming a normal populace. These Arabs have been raised on a steady diet of hatred and hope. Hatred of Jews (not just Israelis; not just Zionists, but Jews), and hope that they would one day conquer all of the lands they believe are theirs. Not the “West Bank” and Gaza Strip, but all of Israel.
After Israel captured the Gaza Strip from Egypt (and not, let us remember, from any mythical “Palestine”), it attempted to build housing for the Arabs of the Strip and to move them out of these refugee camps. UN Resolution 2792 condemned Israel for this, and demanded that Israel send the Arabs back to the refugee camps.
Many of the Gazans are tired of the incessant conflict. Many of them are tired of being refugees in perpetuity. They want to live elsewhere and be normal. It is in their interest as well as Israel’s interest to achieve this dream. Feiglin has proposed giving emigrant households a substantial sum of money ($100,000) as a grant. This money would have a dual purpose. Most countries determine who they welcome based at least in part on their financial means. No country wants to take in people who will be a burden on the economy. This grant would make the Gazans attractive to other countries. Additonally, having sufficient means to make a new start will benefit everyone, and will help the Arab emigrants succeed and thrive in their new communities.
5. Those who insist on remaining, if it is proven that they have no connection with the Hamas, will be required to publically sign an oath of loyalty to Israel, and will receive blue identity cards similar to those held by East Jerusalem Arabs.
The fact that Feiglin speaks of those who insist on remaining should have made it obvious that he is not speaking of involuntary expulsion. Blue is the color of identity cards held by Israeli citizens and East Jerusalem Arabs. The latter indicate permanent residency, and their holders, while not Israeli citizens, have all of the rights of Israeli citizens, short of being able to vote for Israel’s parliament. These permanent residents would not be restricted to the temporary encampment on the Sinai border, but would be free to go wherever they want, in or out of the Gaza Strip.
As far as requiring a loyalty oath, given that the Gaza Strip has been at war with Israel, it seems only prudent. Those who refuse must be considered hostile.
6. When the fighting is over, Israeli law will be extended over the entire Gaza Strip, those who were expelled from Gush Katif will be invited to return to their settlements, and Gaza City and its surroundings will be rebuilt as cities of commerce and tourist destinations, Israeli in every way.
Gaza will become an example of how a peaceful resolution can be achieved. Of how peace with Israel will benefit Arabs every bit as much as it does Israelis. The effect of this process on the Arabs of Judea and Samaria should not be underestimated, either. The message will be clear: They will no longer be permitted to make war against Israel. Those who choose to emigrate will find Israel quite generous, and those who are willing to stay and be loyal to Israel will have that option as well.
I hope that every American citizen who reads this will send a copy to his or her representatives in the American government. This, and only this, is the true path towards peace.