Providing humanitarian aid to Gaza is in Israel’s self-interest: It might not stop the current unrest, however, it is crucial to preventing even worse scenarios in the future. The people of Gaza face shortages of food, water, and electricity. If the situation reaches starvation levels, then Israel will have a new security crisis on its hands.
First of all, when people are hungry, they’re more prone to anger and violence — especially towards those who they blame for their hunger. Whether the situation in Gaza is Israel’s fault or not, it’s Israel who will take the blame, and Israel who will bear the brunt of the hatred. Instead of the odd qassam or burning kite, Israel is likely to see a barrage of rocket fire — or worse. These attacks might come from ordinary people building devices at home, from the clandestine terror groups in Gaza, like Islamic Jihad, or from Hamas,* which will fear being overthrown by the people of Gaza if its not seen taking action against Israel. The latter is the scariest option, because of Israel’s enemies in Gaza, Hamas is the best armed.
Second of all, if people in Gaza feel like they will literally starve to death if they stay, they’ll stop at nothing to cross the border into Israel. Right now, Israel’s defense against a mass infiltration is that it shoots at the protesters when they get too close to the border. The goal is to physically prevent people from crossing by injuring them, but it’s also to send a message to the others: Turn back. Don’t imitate your comrades, or you too, will be injured. Now, imagine a situation where your choices are: slow death by starvation in Gaza, or injury or quick death by Israeli soldier, in order to help your family cross into Israel, and survive? The choice is clear. In such a scenario, Israel could shoot as many Gazans as it wanted; that wouldn’t stop the masses from seeking to infiltrate, and eventually some — maybe many — would succeed. Israel would be faced with the choice between failing to defend its borders, and causing a massacre.
Even if you say, “So what? A massacre to defend Israel’s borders would be justified,” the fact is, that such a massacre would probably have major international ramifications. Think of the outrage over Israel’s recent actions in Gaza, multiplied. Israel’s economy relies on international trade agreements with the EU and other governments; its companies rely on doing business with other companies around the world, including in Europe. Imagine all of a sudden, that the campaign to boycott Israel gains momentum, and companies stop doing business with Israel due to public pressure. Imagine that the EU refuses to sign the next trade deal with Israel. Israel’s economy would plummet.
That is the worst-case scenario that humanitarian aid to Gaza might prevent. The current Israeli refrain is that it’s not to blame for the current crisis; the ones at fault are the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. But even if Israel’s not to blame, it’s the one that will suffer from the fall-out, which means that it’s in Israel’s best interest to take steps to remedy the situation. That’s why it’s in Israel’s self-interest to help Gaza.
*The non-clandestine terror group that rules Gaza