Using the Modern to Illuminate the Timeless
As recent riots have highlighted, the population of Gaza is suffering. The people are essentially hostages – voluntary or not – to the war-making program of the Hamas government.
From Israel’s perspective, it can be hard to work out what to do. There are so many tunnels under urban areas and so many civilians at risk that reconquest will incur a terrible cost on our army and our reputation. At the same time, opening up the border controls and trying to relieve the economic stresses of the Strip will only strengthen Hamas and renew their war against us. Instead, we meander in the middle, seemingly helping Hamas with every move.
But what if there was a third answer; a way to open up the doors of hope for trapped civilians while cracking down even further on Hamas and those who support their violent agenda?
The idea is simple: there is a section of far less densely populated Gaza just south of Gaza City. Netzarim used to be there. Israel could reconquer that area and split the Strip in two (as we did during 2009). But instead of holding it temporarily or repopulating it with Jews, Israel could open it up for immigration from other parts of Gaza.
Those immigrants could initially be limited to those over 40 or under 10 – essentially inviting grandparents to come with grandchildren to get both out of the line of fire. In order to house them, Israel could construct large buildings in the area paid for with withheld subsidies from Palestinian Authority revenues (withheld due to payments to terrorists). Furthermore, Israel could grant that portion of Gaza access to both the sea and Israeli markets. Over time others could be screened (perhaps by clan) and invited as well, filling in the middle and enabling a real economy to emerge.
While this concept wouldn’t solve the broader conflict, children would be removed from the line of fire, Hamas would be split in two, Palestinian terror initiatives would be undermined and peace could be made with individuals and families, even as Hamas refuses to allow it to emerge generally. Best of all, with time, Israel could grant the place autonomy and even diplomatic recognition; making it a model for potential cooperation between Israel and Palestinians. Nothing would be ‘fixed’, but a whole lot could be made better.
Of course, this sort of place might become a target. Most would probably reject it. But would Hamas really want to fire on its own people’s children in order to demonstrate against an Israeli effort to find peace for them?
I explored this concept in detail, including what could go wrong with it, in my book The City on the Heights. While that book was set on the Syrian frontier under very different circumstances, many of the same concepts could apply.