Rena Cohen
An Israel-born, US-raised, Israel returnee

The day after

During Hanukkah, I opened up the news feed and learned that the young man whose face appears on the poster in my window with the Bring Them Home appeal we all have sounding in our chests like heartbeat was killed by his captors in Gaza. And that …. that is just one of our tragic, awful stories. One of so many. One more instance of not being able to imagine the searing pain that must have ripped through his mother when her hope was torn out of her. There are so many more of those stories. So many more hopes begging not to be extinguished. So many more mothers of captives. Mothers of our brave soldiers. And I am struck again and again, like a hammer on my head that turns on the inevitable migraines I get when stressed, by the fortitude and the amazing humanity of our people of Israel.

I am also struck by the singular lack of imagination by which our government appears to be addressing the ringing and urgent question of what will happen afterwards. After we finally do what we must in Gaza. What then?

Actually, an address to the interests of the Gulf states that aren’t fans of Hamas’ death-wish cultism or in the blatant regional hegemonic ambitions of Iran and Turkey might work here.

The Iranian activation of the Houthis triggered little-publicized cooperation between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE on building a truck route to end-run the mess that the Houthis were creating in the Red Sea (by the way, the efficacy of the US’s rather weak-handed effort to squelch that has yet to really withstand any testing…). So, perhaps Saudi Arabia and the UAE might be interested in having a port and airport available in Gaza in exchange for administering the rehabilitation the region and keeping it sane and out of the hands of corrupt terrorists a la Hamas and – frankly, the Palestinian Authority, also known as Fatah. (In the rush to get someone to take responsibility for the “day-after” Gaza, please let’s not conveniently forget that Fatah has terrorist roots, a terrorist past, an active terrorist arm known as the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, and a history of naming streets after terrorists and paying off families who send their kids off to kill Israelis. That rather inconvenient and ugly side of Fatah may well get stronger as the old Jew-hating Mahmoud Abbas finally exits the political and practical scene.)

I am sure someone will start yelling about democracy at this stage. I would invite anyone who wants to do that to check their magical thinking at the door. The people of Gaza voted in Hamas. They’ve been its political pawns, recruitment pool, and human shield ever since, with its leaders Haniya, Sinwar, et al. raking in millions and millions of dollars in “humanitarian aid” money and attack tunnels being built under their homes, their schools and – yes, folks – their hospitals. At this juncture perhaps I should note that the Times of Israel reported a cache of child-sized suicide bombing belts was found by the Israeli Defense Forces under one such hospital, while the director of another admitted that he himself is a Hamas member and that there were Hamas cadres in the hospital staff and a captured Israeli held there. Where is the international outrage? Where is the UN when we need them? The Red Cross?

So it seems time to stop idealizing the situation, and – while we’re at it – stop trying to idealize the people of Gaza and get something that could actually work in place for a change. Consider this – a Saudi-Israeli-UAE military cooperation, whether de facto or de jure, that also included any other willing participants in the region could finally begin to put some very much needed counterpressure on the loud and threatening bidding being done by both Iran and Turkey to reassert themselves as regional hegemons in the Middle East. It could also offer the people of Gaza – at LAST – some measure of stability and a chance to fix the mess that Hamas made of the place. Actually, before Hamas took over it was apparently was rather nice. With some investment money and a bit of tourism income, a viable shipping port and an airport, and good security, it could really become a shining gem instead of the hellhole it is today.

And maybe someday, eventually, after Israelis have had a few years to get past the soul-wrenching trauma of seeing Israeli Jews and Arabs, including the elderly and children and babies and teens shot, burned, raped, tortured, killed and kidnapped on October 7th – maybe someday trade and cross-border traffic could finally be restored as well. But not now. Right now, what is needed is an arrangement that can provide stability, rehabilitation and security under Arab leadership, a leadership which understands a good deal more about both the region and the people of Gaza than anyone in insular Washington DC does now or ever will.

About the Author
Born in Kibbutz Nachshon Israel, raised in the U.S. and lived there on both coasts with lots of visits (even a few residential stays) in Israel, and intending to return yet again. Entrepreneurial generalist -- worked for others, built my own medical reporting business (with NO seed money), and since have had an extended career in the U.S. biotech industry in early startups through late clinical stage firms, holding positions in everything from investor relations and corporate communications to business development to Director, Facilities (my current post). Longtime editor, particularly on foreign policy topics. Co-founder, with my sister, Jade Bar-Shalom, Z"L, of the Books for Israel Project during the Second Intifada, which connected synagogues, churches and community centers in the U.S. with low-income Israeli Jewish, Arab, and Druze schools to help them build much-needed English language libraries for the kids. Author of the book, LambBunny and His Friends (on Amazon). On and off painter. Writer of op-eds. Blogger for The Times of Israel.