Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Arab world: Who will help Gaza? - Zalman Shoval

by Zalman Shoval

There can be no cure for Gaza's problems without moving a large portion of its population to the PA territories or another Arab country.

Gaza is in the headlines, and not just because of the tunnel issue. Maj. Gen. Herzi Halevi, head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, spoke to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee last week about the emerging economic crisis in the Gaza Strip and the potential consequences from Israel's perspective. The government is also examining this matter seriously. 

The current situation in the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave -- lack of water, power outages, rapidly increasing unemployment and meager wages, in addition to rehabilitation and rebuilding efforts grinding to a complete standstill -- is why hundreds of Gazans (and in the future thousands) are willing to risk their lives trying to enter Israel illegally to find work. This is the distressing reality Halevi was referencing. Indeed, the nightmare scenario in which thousands of Gaza residents rush the security fence, and the military response this would necessitate, could cause the situation to spiral in extremely undesirable directions. 

The situation in Gaza is not merely, or strictly, a result of Operation Protective Edge. During the War of Independence in 1948, tens of thousands of Arabs from southern and central Israel flooded that small strip of territory and turned it into one giant refugee camp, which in short order became a terrorist metropolis. Israel was aware of the boiling cauldron in Gaza, and after the Six-Day War in 1967, then-minister without portfolio Shimon Peres proposed an international construction project to build permanent homes for the refugees and get rid of the camps. However, under pressure from Arab states opposing any solution to the refugee problem other than "the right of return," the idea was stifled in the United Nations.

The various proposed "peace plans" have also ignored the real problem in Gaza. Foreign elements, chief among them Turkey, customarily blame Israel for the situation in Gaza. They also willfully disregard not just the history and the reasons leading up to Operation Protective Edge and the ensuing destruction -- and this despite the fact that after completely withdrawing from Gaza in 2005, Israel no longer holds any legal or moral debt or responsibility toward its residents -- and claim that Israel's military "closure" is the reason for the present disarray. The facts say otherwise: Egypt and the Palestinian Authority -- in principle still the sovereign in Gaza and which assumed certain diplomatic obligations in the aftermath of Protective Edge -- are not in the least interested, each for their own reasons, in the rehabilitation of Gaza as long as it is ruled by Hamas. And while Hamas may not want a war with Israel right now, it wants a peace that entails the rehabilitation of Gaza even less.

Various Arab states that have pledged financial aid have also forgotten their promises, while UNWRA, in order to justify its existence, isn't exactly rushing to normalize the situation. The result, therefore, is zero rehabilitation and the pouring of more fuel on the flames.

Even if a deal to lift the "closure" was reached, there can be no cure for Gaza's problems without addressing the demographic problem. In other words, a large portion of its population needs to be moved from the Gaza Strip, whether to the PA territories or another Arab country.

Zalman Shoval

Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=15389

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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