After the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, the country lay in ruins. The Allies, in a brutal but necessary campaign to defeat Hitler and uproot Nazism, had destroyed infrastructure, industrial complexes, and urban areas, leading to significant civilian casualties. Historians disagree on the exact number, but estimates range from several hundred thousand to a million or more. Physically and socially, Germany was a broken nation.
However, by the 1960s, at least the western part of Germany had transformed into a country with a thriving liberal democracy and a dynamic economy. How did a nation that had over 8.5 million active members of the most horrific and radical ideology in modern history, and was devastated by war, become a beacon of economic recovery and democratic values in the second half of the 20th century?
To a large extent, this transformation was due to the Marshall Plan, an initiative spearheaded in 1947 by the United States to aid the economic recovery of Western Europe after World War II. In essence, it comprised financial assistance, economic stabilization, modernization, and political and social stability. Lasting about four years, the plan injected over $13 billion (equivalent to about $170 billion in 2023) into Western European economies. It was accompanied by the Allied occupation of Germany until a stable democratic government was established in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 (and a communist one in the German Democratic Republic).
If Israel is determined and able to uproot Hamas from the Gaza Strip, the Marshall Plan provides a promising blueprint for the territory. As I’ve previously written, there’s no long-term solution to the conflict if Palestinian youth lack hope for the future. Therefore, it is crucial to create conditions where young people don’t feel compelled to join terrorist organizations and adopt radical ideologies. And the attraction to such ideologies is not necessarily the result of education, indoctrination and culture. Millions of German children were fiercely indoctrinated by Nazi ideology between 1933 and 1945, and antisemitism was deeply rooted in German culture at the time. Yet, they became the generation that reconstructed Germany into a thriving democracy.
I am convinced that replicating the success of the Marshall Plan and the German reconstruction in Gaza is possible, but it would require an international coalition to oversee the political and economic reconstruction of the strip. This would be akin to a “three” state solution of sorts, as the political structure of Gaza would be, albeit temporarily, separate from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Most importantly, for a reconstruction plan to succeed, a solution to the root causes of the violence is needed: guaranteeing the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians for a just peace, security, and freedom.