Solar Gaza — The Carrot or the Stick?

What the US needs is a president and/or a secretary of state with some creative audacity. Not to mention the need for an unambiguous foreign policy which finally gets itself off the fence when it comes to the Sunni civil war in the Middle East. I’m talking about the tiny yet oil-rich and strategic city-state of Qatar. For nearly six years now, the Obama administration has tilted its policy in the direction of the Muslim Brotherhood and their key financial backers in the tiny kingdom. This has been done at the expense of Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. But up to this point, the policy has been of little political consequence to an administration hell-bent on pivoting out of the Middle East. However, the policy can be deemed a failure because the pendulum has now swung dramatically against Qatar and its various Brotherhood allies. The US policy tilt has become a failure because the Muslim Brotherhood has been a failure (case in point: the Hamas terrorist underground in the Gaza strip).
Qatar has spent hundreds of millions of dollars supplying Hamas with the cement and equipment necessary for a vast infrastructure of tunnels, rockets and launchers. As the people of Gaza got poorer and poorer, the underground terrorist infrastructure got bigger and bigger. But the rich Qataris also hosts the US military’s largest airbase on the Persian Gulf. So while Qatar backs Hamas, the US backs Qatar. Meanwhile Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel are fed up with the Brotherhood and Hamas. Whatever Washington says now, Jerusalem, Riyadh and Cairo simply aren’t listening any more. Qatar and Hamas have become one and the same, the terrorists and the terrorists’ bankers. With the Israeli ground offensive grinding on in Gaza, it is certainly overdue for the US to get off the fence and hand Qatar an ultimatum. Either they convince Hamas to demilitarize and go strictly political, or US unconditional support for Qatar is over, period. The Obama administration has lost its way, and it is time for an abrupt about-face.
Without the demilitarization of Gaza, the electricity will never get fixed, the sewage pipes will never be repaired, and the situation will only worsen. The new refugees will stay new refugees. Not one drop of cement will enter Gaza while Hamas remains militarized. This must become the policy of the US. No stalling, no ceasefires, no temporary truces, no periodic wars. The US either sides with its allies — Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia — or it stands with Hamas and Qatar. Washington must choose.
So far the administration has only made the situation worse. Its bungling of the ceasefire negotiations have given the terrorists and their bankers the wrong signals. Hamas and Qatar think that they can blackmail Israel and Egypt into opening the borders without a demilitarization. But both countries face the same terrorist enemy. Whether in Israel or the Sinai, Hamas’s underground terrorist infrastructure for perpetual asymmetrical warfare has become far too dangerous and must be dismantled, one way or another. So the US must come up with a strong policy quickly. The risk of further US dithering or inaction will fall firmly on Hamas, Qatar and the regional Brotherhood. But unlike the Shaul Mofaz plan, whereby fifty billion dollars would be vaguely exchanged for Gaza’s demilitarization, this strong new US policy should have teeth and two specific geographic locations (Qatar and Hamas). The two choices are the complete destruction of the Gaza military capability through negotiation, or the complete destruction of the same military capability through a US-Egyptian-Saudi green light. In addition, the diplomatic and political isolation of the royal dynasty in Qatar will become a necessity if Hamas chooses to fight on. This is not merely a suggestion. It should be a US ultimatum, and it should be accompanied by a tough Saudi-US downturn in relations with the Qatar royal family.
Qatar’s support for the Hamas terrorist network must have consequences, or it will simply continue. Israel can’t afford to fight these expensive and dangerous asymmetrical wars of attrition every two or three years. And as far as the offensive terrorist tunnels go, living in a state of perpetual dread is an intolerable burden that Israel (like the US after 9-11) can never accept. In this context asymmetrical warfare, over time, has existential consequences. Eight years and three wars is enough. In other words, the current war in Gaza against Hamas has become a fight to the death. The tunnel infrastructure has become a game changer, both for Gaza and the West Bank. If the US doesn’t understand this, it doesn’t understand Israel or Egypt, and it risks losing both of them as allies. Obama’s dalliance with the Muslim Brotherhood must end immediately, or the US laissez-faire toward Hamas’s bankers will certainly become a serious issue. Qatar and Hamas must be first backed into a corner through tough action (the stick). Qatar must be forced to make a real change in their support for Hamas.
But there is a deal to be made, and I propose a really big one: A dollar-a-barrel donation on all GCC oil production to develop the world’s largest solar thermal and/or solar voltaic network in the region of Gaza and the Egyptian Sinai. In addition, the complete rebuilding of Gaza, the opening up of the Egyptian and Israeli border crossings, and the end to the naval blockade through an offshore port and airport complex to be built on a massive artificial island (this project has already been proposed and has engineering feasibility). All of this, in exchange for the complete demilitarization of Gaza, to be supervised between the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. Also, the demilitarization must allow for an (as yet) undetermined number of US-Israeli inspection challenges per year.
What is offered is classic carrot and stick. But this carrot and stick will be super-sized. The stick should be big and mean and directed at both the rich (Qatar) as well as the poor (Hamas). In other words, a war to the bitter end must become the consequence for a policy of anti-Semitic anti-Zionism. Israel has every right to safety from Hamas, a non-state actor without any international legitimacy, hell-bent on terrorist attacks against a civilian population. Its support from one of the richest nations on earth (Qatar) will simply not be tolerated any more. Israel has faced this kind of treatment by either the Brotherhood or the PLO since the 1920’s. Either the war against Israel by the Palestinians ends, or the siege of Gaza will intensify until Hamas surrenders unconditionally.
On the carrot side of the equation lies the potential for one of the most dramatic engineering projects in the history of the world. Israeli solar ingenuity is on the verge of many dramatic possibilities. This is neither the time nor the place to describe all of them. But the region should be warned: The day of the solar-electric vehicle is coming. If the planet is to survive, the production of global electricity must be accomplished in an environmentally friendly way. All across the world scientists, engineers and inventors are hard at work in a desperate attempt to eclipse the age of oil and gas. This is especially true in Israel.
The Middle East has a solar potential that is unparalleled. At the Israeli Technion, the advancements in solar engineering are coming fast and furious. If the Arab world is not on board with these fascinating developments, they will simply be bypassed. It is no longer feasible for a few oil-rich states to exclude the vast majority of Arabs from benefiting from the region’s oil revenue. This money must be invested into the region as a whole, and it must be invested in the kind of projects that represent the future of energy technology, not the past. Gaza, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and the states of the GCC should be hard at work on projects that could put many people to work.
If the Brotherhood is allowed to have its way, the hatred could go on for another fifty years. If that were to happen, we would all become vastly poorer in both body and spirit. The world is a fragile place. The last three weeks have taught everyone that it could quickly and easily become more and more fragile. The decision is up to Hamas and Qatar. The deal is on the table — if you want a normal life, you have to offer a normal life. The Jewish people are ready to cooperate as equals. We no longer accept an Islamic dhimmitude. For fourteen hundred years, Islamic authorities have humiliated and belittled us. It is now the choice of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood — war or peace, the carrot or the stick, sunlight or darkness.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).