The news reports of the recent Guardian of the Walls war and of all the attacks on Israel by Hamas leave aspects of the issue that are not discussed and offer no answers. I may not have an answer, but I can suggest a solution.
First, it is important to understand why Gaza is Gaza and why it is a strip of land set off by itself.
After the Ottoman Empire controlled all of what is Israel today including the Gaza Strip, that area was under the control of Great Britain from 1923 - 1948. In 1948 following Israel’s War of Independence the Arab League placed the Gaza strip under the control of Egypt largely because so many Arabs who had been living in Palestine fled there during the war. While Egypt was in charge, those Palestinian Arabs who were now living in the strip were not granted Egyptian citizenship. Very little was done to help those 200,000 Arabs who had foolishly fled their homes during the war and settled in Gaza.
Instead of Egypt offering citizenship and helping the people begin a life in Egypt, they kept them in the narrow strip of land, Gaza, in order to use their "refugee status" as an issue against Israel. Egypt would not annex the Gaza area to make it a part of Egypt and restricted the people from leaving the strip to find better employment and such.
In 1967 after being attacked by Egypt, Israel defeated Egypt and took over control of the Gaza Strip. Regarding the question of the Palestinian Arab population in Gaza, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol suggested that it would be best for the residents to emigrate to other Arab countries. A number of measures, including financial incentives, were taken to begin to encourage Gazans to emigrate elsewhere, but as usual, the Arab countries would not cooperate and let them in.
Shortly after 1967 the first Jewish settlement bloc, Gush Katif, was started. Eventually there were 21 communities, making up only twenty percent of Gaza. The economy began to grow because of more work opportunities. When Egypt regained the Sinai Peninsula under the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the Gaza Strip remained under Israel’s control. Overall, the Jews and Arabs there got along with each other, working together and socializing together. I have met people in Kibbutz Yad Mordachai who told me about how they would drive each day into Gaza to work in factories with the Arabs. I have also heard about Jewish farmers near the border who would entertain Arab friends from Gaza in their homes before the Oslo Accord.
Unfortunately, this all changed as a result of the 1994 Oslo Accord promoted by Yasser Arafat which resulted in Israel giving up control of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority (PA) except for the Jewish settlement blocs. This was not a good move. It might have seemed like a nice idea, but it became clear during the intifada that Yasser Arafat and his followers were determined to kill the Jews and take over the entire Gaza Strip and all of the land of Israel. This led to more military protection for the Jewish communities there and to a tighter border.
In 2005 the Israel government under then PM Ariel Sharon decided that the Gaza Strip was not worth the time and effort to keep and because of pressure from the US and the EU forced the disengagement of all the Jewish Israelis from Gaza leaving the PLO completely in charge. However, the PLO was not in charge for long because Hamas terrorist organization won over Fatah and PLO in the 2006 elections. Since that time there has been a struggle between the Hamas and Israel that continues to this day.
In an about Gaza in 2009 I described Gaza and I want to quote that to help to understand the current mess that people are living in. “The Gaza strip is only about 25 miles long and 4 to 7 and half miles wide, which is an area of 362 square kilometers. There are approximately one and three quarter million Arabs living in Gaza.” One must ask, “How can so many people live in such narrow strip of land which is like living in prison? I am not sure where I got this quote, but I know it is true because others have said the same thing. “With perennial power outages, undrinkable water supplies, failing sanitation services, and awash in uncontrolled and untreated flows of raw sewage, life for many in Gaza is becoming unbearable.”
Why? Because Hamas uses the massive funds from Qatar and other funds for military stuff instead of helping the people.
Hamas and Fatah could have made Gaza into the Singapore of the Middle East, but instead have chosen to fight against Israel.
-If the Palestinian Arabs had continued with the Jewish high-tech greenhouses left intact for them (and donated, in fact, to them) when the Israelis were expelled, they could have continued exporting vegetables to Europe, instead of destroying the entire complex. The Palestinians would have had a good income and many would have been employed.
-Also, if Hamas had never fired rockets at Israel or if balloons had not been sent into Israel farm fields and forests, and if there were no terrorist attacks, Gaza would be one of the top tourist attractions in the world along the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. Both Jews and non-Jews would spend time and money in Gaza. There would be no walls and the border with Israel would be easy to cross.
But unfortunately, all was sacrificed for the hate and destruction of Israel which has led the people in Gaza, who have never protested the situation, into such destructive and troubling times.
Who knows what dealing with Hamas has cost Israel not only in lives but in military costs. How much has been spent on the Iron Dome, jet fuel, bombs dropped on Hamas targets, and fences and walls? Even though there have been hundreds of bombs dropped on Gaza the problem is not solved. Hamas keeps re-arming with Iran's help, firing rockets at Israel, digs tunnels into Israel, and sends balloons and kites into farmer’s fields. This has gone on for at least 15 years. Hamas has not surrendered and is not about to surrender.
One reason Hamas has not been brought to its knees is because Israel tries to avoid killing civilians while attacking Hamas targets. The world, of course, ignores this.
I wrote in 2012, “This is a sad state of affairs in Gaza too, because of the damage that will be done to civilians if the Hamas are going to be stopped. However, this is not Israel’s fault, instead the Hamas are to blame for whatever happens to civilians because they purposely use schools, mosques, civilian neighborhoods, and such to attack from because they think that they are protected from Israel’s attacks. They think that Israel is too kind to want to kill civilians in order to defeat the Hamas Terrorists or if civilians are killed, the media will side with Hamas.”
What is the solution? Here is what the Mayor of Sderot, Alon Davidi said following the Guardian of the Walls war. “The ceasefire agreed upon between Israel and the terrorist organizations in Gaza, mediated by the Egyptians without conditions, proves that despite the backing and patience and heroism that residents of the south have shown for 20 years, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government do not really want to overthrow Hamas and prefer temporary quiet for the residents of central Israel at the expense of the residents of the Gaza envelope and the south who will continue to suffer from terrorism,”
An analogy? You can treat an infection in your foot and treat it so it no longer hurts or does not get worse, but the infection is still there and not eradicated and it will again in time become a problem. Is the solution to allow the infection to remain and deal with it over and over or to eliminate the infection altogether?
Does it not make sense that the hundreds of thousands of Gazans who want to leave their deplorable living conditions - that are only getting worse - are offered the solution of resettlement of civilians in other countries (mainly Arab,but not only) where there is plenty of room for them to start a better life?
There is no reason why people should have to live in those conditions especially when there are plenty of Arab countries with plenty of land for these people to live. This might sound radical or nearly impossible, but it would solve the issue of civilians not supporting Hamas being killed during the bombing of Hamas.
Dr. Martin Sherman, founder and CEO of Institute of Strategic Studies has for a long time advocated for the removal of Gazan civilians and resettling them in another country similar to what Prime Minister Levi Eshkol suggested in 1967. In May of 2018 Dr. Sherman said that continuation of humanitarian aid does not stop the conflict, but instead perpetuates it. Palestinian Arabs have a huge desire to leave the Gaza Strip and at least half of them are willing to leave if they could. He points out that to fly a family to another country and provide them with enough money to buy a home and get settled would cost the Israeli government less that all that is being spent to deter more rockets.
Here is some related information taken from an ILTV news program August 19, 2019. Thousands of Gazans want to leave the Gaza Strip as soon as possible. Israel has been trying to help their dreams come true by having talks with other nations, mostly Arab, to be willing to absorb them. Some 35,000 left Gaza in 2019 through the Sinai and flying out of Cairo. Israel is willing to cover the cost and use Israeli airfields. The biggest problem is that few Middle East countries have agreed to take in Gazans even though they have plenty of land to spare and some have highly successful economies.
If Gaza were empty of all civilians not wanting to be under Hamas or associated with Hamas, then that would solve the problem of killing civilians when bombing Hamas. The terrorist organization could be finally destroyed eliminating any more rockets, balloons, or terrorist attacks. There would be no Gaza Strip, but instead only Israel which would develop that coastal area into the Singapore of the Middle East for any Arabs willing to live in peace with the Jewish state.
If the world really cared about Gazans, that is the solution they would be supporting.
Frank Mecklenburg is a freelance journalist living in Arad.