Daniel O. Jamison

Ancient and Modern Precedents Offer Path to Peace

The Times of Israel writes that the US State Department recently “called out far-right Israeli ministers Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir for advocating the resettlement of Palestinians outside of Gaza.” The US State Department strongly opposes such resettlement.

But calls for Israel to return Gaza to Palestinian control once Hamas is destroyed seem misguided. This would appear to be substantially, if not entirely, a return to the status quo ante. Gazans bitter with the destruction of Gaza and over the injuries and deaths of family and friends will hate Israel all the more and want revenge. West Bank violence will continue as the demands of Israeli hard-right settlers and their supporters for keeping and acquiring more West Bank land continue unabated. The two-state solution will grow further out of reach. The region will remain a tinderbox.

The Israeli ministers were correct in advocating removal of Palestinians from Gaza but wrong in advocating their removal to foreign countries. Ancient and modern historical precedents support attempting a new two-state solution that resettles Gazans in an expanded West Bank. Alexander the Great’s solution for Gaza in 332 B.C., and recent historical precedent, suggest a path for a sustainable peace.

The Oslo Accords in the 1990’s promised the creation of a truly independent Palestinian state located in the West Bank and Gaza. Despite the efforts of US presidents to save the Accords, the Accords have failed because Hamas, who aims to destroy Israel and kill Jews, took control of Gaza in 2007, and because Israel has allowed its citizens to settle on West Bank land that was needed for the two-state solution. Intractable unending hostility and violence demand a bold new approach.

Camped outside the walls of Gaza, Alexander, arguably history’s greatest general, puzzled over how his innovative Macedonian-led army would capture the city. He and his troops had marched from Macedonia through Asia Minor and down the coast of modern-day Syria, Lebanon and Israel, defeating Persians and capturing Persian cities on their way. They would eventually conquer Egypt, all of Persia, and extend Macedonian-Greek control into India, but Gaza now stood in their way. Earlier, in what is modern-day Turkey, Alexander had stopped at Gordium, where the legendary Gordian Knot was said to be incapable of being untied. Alexander simply slashed through the knot with his sword. But defeating Gaza would not be so simple.

The soil at Gaza was too soft to keep heavy siege towers and battering rams from sinking into the ground and becoming ineffective. To provide additional support under his siege engines, Alexander built great mounds all around the city’s walls. He also took advantage of the soft soil by surreptitiously building tunnels under the city’s walls. Gaza’s defenders did not do counter-tunneling.

During the lengthy siege, the leader of Gaza sallied his troops out intending to burn Alexander’s siege engines. Alexander was severely wounded as he led a counterattack that chased the Gazans back into the city. Over the next few weeks, the Macedonians battered Gaza’s walls until they were breached. Meanwhile, the roof support of a tunnel under the walls was removed, collapsing the tunnel and a section of the walls.

The wounded Alexander was able to join his troops as they rushed through the breaches. The defenders repelled numerous assaults but were overwhelmed. Alexander then massacred the men in the city. The women and children were sold into a slavery. Alexander then had Gaza repopulated with compliant people from surrounding areas.

An internationally supported innovative approach is needed. Two historical precedents suggest a bold new paradigm for peace: (1) Alexander’s removal of the entire population of Gaza and replacing them with compliant new occupants, and (2) Israel’s removal of its settlers from Gaza in 2005. Under the new approach, Israel would remove its settlers from the West Bank, expand the West Bank and resettle Gazans there, assist with establishing a veritable independent West Bank Palestinian state, and resettle Gaza with Israelis.

According to the US State Department’s 2022 Report on International Religious Freedom: Israel, West Bank and Gaza, The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics reports an estimated 465,400 Jewish Israelis reside in Israeli settlements in the West Bank in 2021. Israeli statistics do not count settlements in East Jerusalem as part of the West Bank. Palestinian officials use the figure of 751,000 Jewish residents in the West Bank, which includes settlements in the suburbs of Jerusalem.” Also, at mid-2022, the Report states there were 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and 2 million in Gaza.,Religious%20Demography,Gaza%20Strip%20(midyear%202022). The Report also states that some 60% of the West Bank is under Israeli control, most of which is either a closed military zone or zoned for settlements.

The removal of anywhere from 450,000-750,000 Israeli settlers and the opening of closed West Bank areas to Palestinians may be sufficient to accommodate relocated innocent Gazans, who could also of course choose to move to nations willing to accept them. Willing Israeli citizens would rebuild and repopulate Gaza. There is a rough fairness in forced relocations of both Palestinians and Israelis.

Israel would need to overcome the objections of its hardliners, remove its settlers from the West Bank, prevent further Israeli settlements in the West Bank, expand  Palestinian government and security control over the 60% and other West Bank areas where Israel currently maintains security control, and assist innocent Gazans to relocate to the expanded Palestinian West Bank. If needed to accommodate the Gazans, Israel presumably could consider further enlarging the West Bank’s outer boundaries. Above all, Israel would need to assist the Palestinians to create a true and sustainable independent state.

War must have clear military and political objectives. Right now, Israel’s political objective is opaque. The status quo ante is obviously no solution. Especially with international and regional financial and diplomatic support, the novel approach suggested above could offer a way out of the past. If it failed, it would seem that it could not be any worse than a return to the status quo ante.

About the Author
Daniel O. Jamison is a retired attorney. He practiced law in California for over 42 years doing mainly civil trial work in American state and federal courts. He has written extensively on military and political history and other topics. For his Blog, "Ancient and Modern Precedents Offer Path to Peace," the discussion of Alexander the Great is drawn from Adrian Goldsworthy's recent book, "Philip and Alexander: Kings and Conquerors."
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