Joe Cohn
Free Speech Lawyer and Congressional Candidate

When the war ends, can Gaza become the world’s central hub for peace?

Image created by Ted Eytan. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Image created by Ted Eytan. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

With the war in Gaza waging, tensions in the Middle East at a feverish level, and now Ireland, Norway, and Spain prematurely stating that they will recognize a Palestinian State, it’s hard to imagine a future of peace and prosperity for Israelis and Palestinians alike. As America’s political leaders—President Biden and his team—wrestle with the immediate problem of getting all the hostages home and bringing the fighting in the Gaza Strip to a permanent end, we must look beyond today’s crisis and try to imagine the contours of a permanent peace. Otherwise, we run the risk of seeing October 7th and its aftermath as just the latest episode of Arab-Israeli violence; the latest, instead of the last.

To forge a better future, we must start by committing ourselves to the goal of ensuring Israelis have peace and security. And we must also find a way for Palestinians to have self-determination and real economic opportunities to prosper. Making these goals mutually compatible is the diplomatic challenge of our lifetimes.

For Israelis, the nature of a future Palestinian state is seen—especially after October 7th—as a matter of life or death. It matters to Israelis whether an independent Palestine will be more like South Korea than North Korea. Indeed, it should matter to Palestinians also, because their state will inevitably rely on Israel as a market for exports and for jobs for many of its citizens, plus they too will benefit from breaking the endless cycle of violence. Squaring this circle— Palestinian independence and Israeli security—will not be easy. Nor is it possible until the violent jihadists are out of power. For there to be peace in the Middle East, a future Palestinian state must be peaceful. It must abandon the goal of eliminating the state of Israel.

But the task of rebuilding a ruined Gaza presents a unique opportunity to set the conditions necessary for Israelis and those Palestinians who reject terrorism, to get what they want, what they deserve, and what is necessary to bring this generations-long conflict to an end.

I’m proposing that when the immediate war subsides, the international community make a historic investment in Gaza. Many billions of dollars will be needed for the physical reconstruction of densely populated urban areas. But the investment I have in mind involves much more than money. It involves presence. Ideally, the city would be where future peace negotiations between warring nations are conducted with senior diplomats from every country in the world calling it their home—a Camp David, of sorts in the Middle East. 

A skin-in-the-game commitment of this nature would do two things: it would focus the entire world on the reconstruction needs of a shattered jurisdiction containing over two-million human beings; and because the entire world would want to protect their diplomats, it would provide Israel a measure of assurance that the future Palestinian state—and the Gaza component specifically— will not be presenting a military or terror threat to Israel. 

Before foreign nations will send their diplomats to live in Gaza City, world leaders would have to satisfy themselves that terrorism arising in the Gaza Strip is a thing of the past. They would have to be confident that international civil servants living and working in Gaza City would be as safe as they would be in Paris, New York, or Geneva. Obviously, it will take time and an all hands on deck effort to establish these conditions. 

Perhaps there would need to be a period where an international body governed over the territory, until certain conditions—like demilitarization, having a constitution consistent with the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and holding free, fair elections where Jihadists are ineligible to seek office—were met to trigger granting Palestinians full independence. Setting these conditions is an important step towards realizing them.

But if a broad coalition of nations were to announce now their intention to headquarter an entity whose central aim is to be the center for world peace in Gaza City, they would be providing something noticeably absent from today’s political landscape: a beacon of hope for Palestinian-Israeli reconciliation and coexistence under conditions of peace and security—conditions that the entire world would have an interest in enforcing.

We can see the impact this war is having not only on Israelis and Palestinians, but on America as well. To many, the goal of peace in the Middle East seems impossible. But as hard as it is to imagine, it can be done if leaders are more interested in solutions than performance. This is one problem among many we can solve if we are willing to think outside the box and committed to the hard work it will take to get the job done.

About the Author
Joe is a civil rights lawyer who is running for U.S. Congress in New Jersey's Third Congressional District. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and has his Masters from the Fels Institute of Government Administration. He has served as a staff attorney for the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania, as the interim Legal Director of the ACLU affiliates in Nevada and Utah, and as the Legislative and Policy Director for the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression where he defended free speech rights on all parts of the political spectrum. You can learn more about Joe at
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