"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth" –Sherlock Holmes, in “The Sign of the Four”.
Over a quarter-century ago (in 1992) , I warned of the consequences—for both Jew and Arab—if Israel were to evacuate Gaza.
I cautioned: “…the inevitable implications of Israeli withdrawal can be ignored only at great peril to Israelis and Arabs alike”, observing:“…no measure whether the total [Israeli] annexation or total [Israeli] withdrawal can be reconciled with either Israel's security needs or the welfare of the Arab population there.”
Accordingly, I concluded that the only viable and durable policy was the resettlement and rehabilitation of the non-belligerent Gazans elsewhere—and I underscored: “this was not a call for a forcibly imposed racist “transfer” by Israel, but rather…a humane and historically imperative enterprise”.
Confusing economic enhancement with “ethnic cleansing”
Today, after a more than a decade-and-a-half of bloody confrontations, including three large scale military engagements—imposed on Israel to protect its civilian population from predicted assaults—and a fourth appearing increasingly inevitable; with the Gazans awash in untreated sewage, with their sources of drinking water polluted, and with perennial power outages, my predictions appear to have turned out to be lamentably precise.
Perversely, earlier this month I was excoriated for…being proven right—and my fact-based professional assessment as a political scientist that, because of the overtly unremitting enmity of the Gazans towards the Jewish state: “Eventually there will either be Arabs in Gaza or Jews in the Negev. In the long run, there will not be both”, was denounced as a call for ethnic cleansing.
Of course, my detractors conveniently ignore that, time and time again, I have called for providing generous relocation grants to help the hapless non-belligerent Gazans find more prosperous and secure lives for themselves elsewhere, in third party countries, outside the “circle of violence”; and to extricate themselves from the stranglehold of the cruel, corrupt cliques who have led them astray from debacle to disaster for decades.
Confusing an unequivocal call for economic enhancement with one for “ethnic cleansing”, they apparently believe—in their “infinite benevolence and wisdom”—that compelling the Gazans to languish in their current conditions is somehow more humane.
But, more on these wildly unfounded recriminations against me perhaps in a future column.
A tripartite plan
Several years after my 1992 article, I extended the idea of incentivized emigration to the Arab population in Judea-Samaria (a.k.a. the “West Bank”) and in 2004 I formulated a tripartite plan (The Humanitarian Paradigm) for the comprehensive resolution—or rather the dissolution of the “Palestinian problem”, which include the following components:
The first was the dismantling of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency), an anomalous UN entity, charged with dealing exclusively with the Palestinian-Arab diaspora (a.k.a. Palestinian “refugees”), displaced by the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel. As I pointed out back then, because of its anomalous definition of who is considered a “refugee” (which extends to the descendants of those originally displaced), and its anomalous mandate (which precludes resettling them anywhere but in the country from which they were displaced), UNRWA is an organization which (a) perpetuates (rather than resolves) the predicament of the stateless Palestinian “refugees”; (b) perpetuates (rather than dissipates) the Palestinian-Arab narrative of “return” to pre-1948 Israel. Accordingly, the continued existence of UNRWA is an insurmountable obstacle to any resolution of the “Palestinian problem”—and hence its dismantling—or at least, radical restructuring—is an imperative precondition for progress toward any such resolution.
The second component was the launch of an international campaign to induce the Arab countries to desist from what is essentially a policy of ethnic discrimination against the Palestinian diaspora, resident in them for decades, and to grant its members citizenship—rather than keeping them in a perpetual state of stateless “refugees”, as a political weapon with which to bludgeon Israel. To date, any such move is prohibited by the mandate of the Arab League.
A tripartite plan (cont.)
The reasoning behind this prohibition was made clear in a 2004 LA Times interview with Hisham Youssef, then-spokesman for the 22-nation Arab League, who admitted that Palestinians live "in very bad conditions," but maintained that the official policy on denying Palestinians citizenship in the counties of decades-long residence is meant "to preserve their Palestinian identity.” According to Youssef: "If every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won't be any reason for them to return to Palestine."
The significance of this is clear.
The nations comprising the Arab League are prepared to subordinate the improvement of the dire humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians, resident throughout the Arab world, to the political goal of preserving the “Right of Return,”
The nations comprising the Arab League are prepared to subordinate the improvement of the dire humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians, resident throughout the Arab world, to the political goal of preserving the “Right of Return” — i.e. using them as a pawn to effect the elimination of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews.
It is to the annulment of this pernicious policy that international pressure must be directed.
The third—and arguably the most controversial—element was to offer the non-belligerent Arab residents in Judea-Samaria generous relocation grants to provide them and their families an opportunity to seek a better and safer future in third-party host-nations, than that which almost inevitably awaits them—if they stay where they are.
Atomization & de-politicization
To overcome potential resistance to accepting the relocation/rehabilitation grants, I stipulated two elements regarding the manner in which the funding activity is to be carried out: (a) the atomization of implementation of the grant payments; (b) the de-politicization of the context in which they are made.
(a) Atomization: This implies that the envisaged compensation will be offered directly to individual family heads/breadwinners—not through any Arab collective (whether state or sub-state organization), who may have a vested interest in impeding its payment. Accordingly, no agreement with any Arab collective is required for the implementation of payment to the recipients—merely the accumulated consent of fate-stricken individuals, striving to improve their lot.
(b) De-politicization: The incentivized emigration initiative is not cast as a political endeavor but rather a humanitarian one. This reflects a sober recognition that, after decades of effort, involving the expenditure of huge political capital and economic resources, there is no political formula for the resolution of the conflict. Accordingly, efforts should be channeled into dissipating the humanitarian predicament of the Palestinian-Arabs, which the insoluble political impasse has precipitated.
These two elements–direct payments to individuals and the downplaying of the political nature of the relocation/rehabilitation grants and the emphasis on the humanitarian component are designed to circumvent—or at least attenuate—any claims that acceptance of the funds would in some way entail an affront to—real or imagined—national sentiments.
Once inconceivable, now slowly materializing
For many years, advocating these three elements—the dismantling (or at least the radical restructuring) of UNRWA; the naturalization of the Palestinian diaspora resident in Arab countries as citizens; and the emigration of Palestinian-Arabs from Judea-Samaria and Gaza—seemed hopelessly unrealistic.
However today, all three are slowly but inexorably materializing before our eyes in a manner that would have appeared inconceivable only a few years ago.
Of course, a major catalyst for this nascent metamorphosis has been the Trump administration.
The US administration has—despite hitherto unexplained and inexplicable Israeli reluctance—exposed the fraudulent fiasco of UNRWA. As its erstwhile biggest benefactor, the US has retracted all funding from the organization. But more importantly, it has focused a glaring spotlight on the myth of the “Palestinian refugees” and the spectacularly inflated number of such alleged “refugees”—which even include those who have long acquired citizenship of some other country!
This salutary US initiative has the potential to rescind the recognition of the bulk of the Palestinian diaspora as “refugees”. Thus, even if they continue to receive international aid to help ameliorate their humanitarian situation, this will not be as potential returnees to their alleged homeland in Israel.
Once the Palestinian diaspora is stripped of its fraudulent refugee status, the door is then open to settling them in third party countries other than their claimed homeland, and to their naturalization as citizens of these counties.
Naturalization of Palestinian diaspora in countries of residence
In this regard, the Trump administration has reportedly undertaken an important initiative--see here; here; and here. According to these reports, President Trump has informed several Arab countries that, at the start of 2019, he will disclose a citizenship plan for Palestinian refugees living in those countries.
President Trump has informed several Arab countries that, at the start of 2019, he will disclose a citizenship plan for Palestinian refugees living in those countries.
Significantly, Palestinian sources told the news outlet: “Trump informed several Arab countries that the plan will include Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.” According to these sources: “the big surprise will be that these countries have already agreed to naturalize Palestinian refugees.” Moreover, it was reported that senior US officials are expected to seriously raise an American initiative with several Arab countries—including stipulation of the tools to implement it, the number of refugees, the required expenses, and the logistics demanded from hosting countries for supervising the process of “naturalization of refugees”.
It is difficult to overstate the significance of such an initiative, which coincides precisely with the second element in the foregoing tripartite plan. For, it has the potential to remove the ominous overhang of a five million strong (and counting) Palestinian diaspora that threatens to inundate the Jewish state and nullify its ability to function as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
As such, the Israeli government and all pro-Zionist entities should strive to ensure its implementation.
Emigration: The preferred option of the Palestinians?
As for the third element of the tripartite plan, emigration of the Palestinian population to third-party countries, there is rapidly accumulating evidence that emigration is emerging as an increasingly sought-after option. Indeed, earlier this month, Israeli mainstream media highlighted the desire to leave Gaza in order to seek a better life elsewhere. For example, the popular website, YNetnews, ran a piece entitled, Gaza suffers from brain drain as young professionals look for better life, with the Hebrew version appearing a few days previously, headlined The flight from Gaza: What Hamas is trying to conceal from the media. Likewise, the KAN Channel ran a program reporting very similar realities (January 13).
These items come on the heels of a spate of previous articles that describe the widespread clamor among Gazans to find alternative places of abode—see for example For Young Palestinians, There's Only One Way Out of Gaza (Haaretz) ; Thousands Abandon Blockaded Strip as Egypt Opens Crossing (Alaraby); As Egypt Opens Gaza Border, A Harsh Reality is Laid Bare (Haaretz); and How Turkey Has Become the Palestinian Promised Land (Haaretz).
The Ynetnews piece describes the fervor to leave: “Leaving Gaza is expensive, particularly for the residents of the impoverished coastal enclave…The demand is high, and the waiting list to leave is long…Those wishing to cut short their wait must pay for a place on a special list, which is run by a private firm in Gaza…The price for a place on this special list is $1,500—a fortune for the average resident of Gaza…”
It would appear then, that the only thing preventing a mass Exodus from Gaza is…money. Which is precisely what the tripartite plan proposes providing.
Let their people go: A slogan for April’s elections?
There is, of course, little reason to believe that, if Israel were to leave Judea-Samaria, what happened in Gaza would not happen there. After all, the preponderance of professional opinion appears to hold that, if the IDF were to evacuate Judea-Samaria, it would likely fall to elements very similar to those that seized power in Gaza—and the area would quickly be transformed into a mega-Gaza-like entity, on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv—with all the attendant perils that would entail.
Sadly however, despite its clear strategic and ethical advantages over other policy proposals, few in the Israeli political system have dared to adopt incentivized emigration as part of their platform. The notable exception is Moshe Feiglin and his Zehut party –and, to certain extent, Bezalel Smotrich, the newly elected head of the National Union faction in the Jewish Home Party, previously headed by Education Minister Naftali Bennett.
It is, however, time for the idea of incentivized emigration to be embraced by the mainstream parties as the only viable policy paradigm that can ensure the continued survival of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. It is time for the mainstream to adopt an election slogan that sounds a clarion call to “Let their people go”.
Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.