Palestinian Prison in Sderot to Deter Rockets

Israel began the occupation of Gaza after the Six Day War in June 1997 when Egypt, the former ruler of Gaza, declined to take back control. In September 2005, Israel unilaterally withdrew all Jewish settlers and soldiers from Gaza. Under the Oslo Accords, the Palestinian Authority gained control of Gaza, while Israel retained control of the air space and territorial waters. Egypt retained control of the border crossing in the south. In 2006, Hamas won legislative elections in the Palestinian territories. In June 2007, after winning a civil war, Hamas replaced the Palestinian Authority as the ruler of Gaza.

Hamas was designated a terrorist organization because of its refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, renounce violence against Israel, and accept prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. To limit the ability of Hamas to import weapons and smuggle terrorists into Israel, Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza. The blockade tightened restrictions on border crossings and placed restrictions on shipping.

Since 2007 thousands of rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel. A majority of these rockets land in Sderot, an Israeli town of about 26,000 people located less than a mile from the northeastern end of Gaza. Continual rocket attacks have placed Sderot and other Israeli border towns under considerable stress. A barrage of rockets brings life to a standstill and forces schools to close.

According to a 1951 civil defense law, residential buildings and industrial buildings in Israel are required to have bomb shelters. Residents have about 30 seconds to run for cover at the sound of air raid sirens activated when incoming rockets are detected.

Israel responds to most rocket barrages by bombing military targets in Gaza while attempting to minimize civilian casualties. However, civilian casualties cannot be avoided because Hamas often embeds weapons inside schools, hospitals, mosques, and homes. To stop sustained barrages of rockets, Israeli troops entered Gaza in 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014, resulting in the deaths of almost 100 Israeli soldiers and civilians and more than 3,000 Palestinians. The imbalance in casualties inspires anti-Zionists to accuse Israel of genocide. Israel has also responded to rocket attacks with nonlethal tactics such as limiting fuel deliveries and reducing the permitted fishing area off shore.

B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights) reports that Israel holds over 4,200 Palestinian prisoners of whom about 270 are from Gaza.

Here is a suggestion for a new nonlethal project that may deter or at least reduce rocket attacks from Gaza. Why not transfer all Palestinian inmates of Israeli prisons to Sderot? As the primary target of rockets shot from Gaza, Sderot would be an ideal site for a new prison to hold all Palestinians incarcerated in Israel. A new prison would enable Palestinian guests of the Israeli prison system to share the excitement of their Israeli civilian neighbors as they sprint towards underground bomb shelters at the sound of air raid sirens. The exodus of prisoners might be slowed by extra time needed to unlock cells. As an inducement to accept a Palestinian prison in Sderot, Israel could admit visitors from Gaza every Sunday in the absence of rocket attacks during the previous week. Of course, a prison in Sderot for Palestinians jailed in Israel will deter rocket attacks on southern Israel only to the extent that the desire of Hamas to safeguard Palestinian lives is greater than their desire to kill Israelis.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is an emeritus professor of industrial engineering and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, and Jewish Voice.
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