Yoel Magid: Proposals for The Day (and Years) After…for Gaza and Israel
While it’s hard to take our eyes and hearts off the incredible suffering and brutality of war in live time, many are asking (mostly of Israel, not so much of Hamas) what’s going to happen in Gaza and Israel once the fighting stops. The future full of horrific images and nightmarish dreams will be difficult and hard to accept for both Gazans and Israelis, but we must begin to discuss possible proposals for the future that will not make either side very happy.
Here are some proposals for discussion:
1. As we are often reminded of the incredible population density of Gaza, one of the many steps that will need to be taken after the war is the world’s acceptance of responsibility for absorbing Palestinian refugees who want to leave Gaza. If every country that voted in the UN for a cease fire out of concern for the Palestinian people would commit to absorbing 5000 refugees each, the population density of Gaza could be reduced by about 25% without imposing a very difficult challenge for these receiving countries. We see millions of refugees seeking new lives all over the world because of violence, climate change and poverty, so let’s stop sloganizing and propose a UN commitment to solve and ease the suffering of the Gazans. This collective decision for relocation could be financed in part by the wealthier nations of the Arab world as well as by a special UN tax on all its most solvent members. And all those signing petitions in favor of a ceasefire can also make a simple commitment of donating just 1% of their annual income to a UN fund to help refugees all over. An additional new city as an International protectorate in the Sinai could house thousands of additional Gaza families and remove them as sacrificial pawns in future violent conflicts in the region.
Of course I am naive in hoping the world will respond in a reasonable way to the suffering we are all witnessing, but relieving the density of population is one part of any future political and economic solutions that will be proposed. Let’s help the people of Gaza who wish to relocate build new lives elsewhere as millions of people are trying to do throughout the world. Yes, this will be a new Nakba/catastrophe in Arab eyes for those who forget that the first Nakba was caused by five Arab armies invading Israel, and the current Nakba by the barbaric Hamas actions killing, mutilating and taking children, women, grandparents as hostages.
By limiting the number of Palestinian refugees to about 5000 in each UN country pleading for humanitarian solutions, we will also help prevent the instability caused in the past by large Palestinian populations in Jordan and Kuwait, who eventually had to expel refugees, and the awful continuing experience of Lebanon which suffered (and fears suffering again) enormous destruction due to the presence of militant Palestinian groups who were more interested in fighting Israel than in rebuilding their lives in Lebanon.
2. As others have begun to suggest, a new United Nations force will be required to control and organize life in a disarmed Gaza after the war ends. Israel has good reason not to trust the UN, which has criticized Israel more than any other country in the world and whose schools have probably produced many of the hate-filled Hamas terrorists. But we have no other choice. No one else can do this — not the Palestinian Authority, not Egypt, not Jordon, and certainly not Israel.
The UN must be present in sufficient force to guarantee that all aid for rebuilding Gaza will be used for helping people and not for re-arming terrorists who boast about turning water pipes into missiles or who promise repeats of October 7th. The diplomats, supported by a UN force, will have to find the ways to make the rebuilding of Gaza happen while reigning in fanatics who want to steal resources to wipe Israel off the map.
3. Egypt, together with the UN, must create a contained international protectorate in the Sinai south of Gaza. For the reasons noted in #1 above, residents of this protectorate will not be Egyptian citizens in Sinai. This city will provide services for the population of Sinai, for Gaza and for the Israeli communities bordering Gaza. Specific details are included in the following proposals which would provide thousands of jobs for the Bedouin of Sinai as well as for Gazans. Egypt understandably will resist such an idea unless the financial rewards in jobs and taxes will be significant in helping Egypt.
4. Three enormous solar farms shall be built to provide energy (60% to Gaza, 30% to Sinai, 10% to Israel— all must benefit!). The location in Sinai, protected by joint Egyptian and UN troops, would guarantee energy needs in peace and war. Even if the transfer of energy might be cut down in the case of future conflict, the infrastructure would remain intact and ready to be reconnected. The three solar farms could be built as an international competition by Israel, China and Saudi Arabia — each financing the installation and showing off its technology and speed in getting the plants running.
5. Similarly several massive desalination plants built by UN funds in Sinai could supply water (in the same proportions as the energy distribution) to the people of Sinai, Gaza and Israel in the areas on the Gaza border.
6. Sewage treatment plants in Sinai could be used to recycle waste water from Gaza for the use of agriculture…and produce grown there could be used to feed the populations of Sinai and Gaza.
7. Large pre-fabricated housing factories can be set up in this new Sinai city — providing faster and more efficient ways of rebuilding housing in Gaza without allowing any subversive force to import metals or concrete that could be diverted for future weaponry.
8. A port in the Sinai close to the Gaza border could become a way for Gazans to import and export goods and agricultural products. Obviously, such a port would need the highest level of inspections and security to prevent the importation of weapons. As much as we all hate bureaucracy, the security proportions should be 3-fold: with all imports checked independently by UN, Egyptian and Israeli security.
9. Any plan for peace in the area must also make demands and put limitations on the Israeli government. As part of the agreement authorizing the UN to administer Gaza, Israel must commit to the UN to hold a national plebiscite promising not to allow Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount which Muslims see as a threat to one of their holiest sites. The plebiscite will also propose that annexing any additional land in the West Bank/Judea and Samaria or in Gaza must pass by a two-thirds majority by Israeli voters. The purpose of the plebiscite is to reassure the world that extremist Israeli parties will not be allowed to change the religious or geographical map of the Middle East. Failure to pass such a plebiscite will be a signal to the world that Israel has given political control to fanatics, some of whom are serving in the current government…with probable International sanctions and boycotts as a result. A third clause of the plebiscite would be to forbid any new Israeli settlements in the West Bank/Judea-Samaria areas.
For many Israelis, this will be a high price to pay, but for the majority, I am sure, it will be a necessary prelude for improving Jewish-Arab relations in the region and within Israel.
10. The Israeli army, while also protecting Jewish settlements, will receive direct educational and operational orders to prevent pogroms and violence by extremist Jewish settlers. Any settler convicted of violent acts will be penalized in the same way Arab terrorists have been penalized: their houses and houses of their families will be destroyed.
11. The Israeli government will also have to commit to providing equal per-capita water and energy supplies both within the borders of Israel as well as on the West Bank/Judea-Samaria, Unrecognized Bedouin communities in Israel must be recognized and provided with the same services as the rest of the country. Local towns will have the authority to approve building permits within Israel and in already established communities of the territories — with growth limited to natural population growth.
By guaranteeing equal services to all, Israel will restore some of the democratic and humane values of the Israeli Declaration of Independence.
The world must legitimately demand the disarmament of Hamas as well as an end to Israeli discriminatory policies that have been made much worse by the current Israeli government with its self-proclaimed racist ministers.
In summary, we already know the enormous cost in suffering and human life on both sides brought on by the barbarous Hamas attacks on October 7. The price for both sides after the war will be great in different ways as both Gazans and Israelis with a little help from their friends and the international community will have to reject and limit extremists who drive hatred and brutality.
The day (and years) after this war can, hopefully, provide a difficult change in commitment and mentality of both Gazans and Israelis. The alternative is for both people to continue to live in fear and trembling promoted by extremists inculcating hate.
About the author: Dr. Yoel Magid volunteered in Israel for six months during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He made Aliyah in 1974 and was a member of Kibbutz Be’eri for 25 years, including two years as Secretary General of the kibbutz. Since returning to the United States in 1999, he served as Executive Director of Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, New York. He has extensively lectured and written about Israeli and American literature, kibbutz life and Israeli politics. His son currently lives in Tel Aviv, his daughter in Spain and his niece and her husband are currently hostages in Gaza.