An economic joker

Gaza cannot contemplate complete detachment from Israel and hope to survive.

By GIDEON ISRAEL
February 4, 2009 22:16
3 minute read.
An economic joker

unrwa aid gaza 224.88. (photo credit: AP)

War is the strongest evidence of a political direction that has not borne fruit. We would be negligent as citizens if we fail to think of creative solutions now that the war in Gaza has ended. As a direct result of the disengagement, Gaza was turned over to the Palestinian Authority in 2005, which was subsequently voted out of office in favor of Hamas. The political goal of the disengagement was to create a separation between the residents of Gaza and Israel, so that this country would no longer be connected to Gaza, and Gaza would become an independent geopolitical entity. However, this goal is not now and never was viable. The reality is that Gaza is so dependent on Israel that it cannot contemplate complete detachment and hope to survive economically. Gaza, a strip of coastal land 25 miles long by four miles wide, has few natural resources and an extremely dense population. Israel supplies Gaza with NIS 3.5 billion of gas and water per year to compensate. A larger problem is that the Palestinians don't have the ability to build a successful economy without being connected to the economies of the countries that surround them. It is imperative that the Palestinians have access to Israeli ports, free movement through Israel and free trade with it. Financial aid that is given to the Palestinians annually by the UN and other countries does not have the ability to alleviate these basic economic needs. The World Bank Report of 2008 identifies and articulates these economic problems. The UN report "Palestinian War Torn Economy, 2006," also acknowledges this reality and tries to offer possible solutions. However, its proposed solutions rely on unattainable conditions, politically, socially and regionally. Although it is clear to many that he understood the importance of addressing these economic problems. THE LAST eight years of terror attacks and more than 7,000 rocket attacks from Gaza have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that open borders is not a viable option in the coming years. The last half century of searching for a comprehensive political solution has yielded no positive result. If we are a society that learns from its mistakes, then new avenues must be explored. A recent survey by the European University Institute has shown that at least 35 percent of Palestinians in Gaza are interested in emigrating. Haaretz put that number at 40% a month ago. Other surveys have shown that only 20% would never emigrate, while 70% would consider it if there were economic as well as other incentives. Forcing the Palestinians to stay in Gaza only serves to prolong the problem. At the Paris Conference more than $7 billion was pledged to the Palestinians over the next two years. Significant amounts of aid will be necessary to rebuild Gaza (war damage has been estimated at $1.4 billion), yet in any event the Strip will not be able to prosper as an independent entity. It would be more worthwhile to use this money to help those who are interested in emigrating. A smaller population would enable an inevitable Israeli presence in Gaza to stave off infiltration by Iranian-backed terrorists - and thereby allow the open borders that would benefit the Gazans who choose to stay. Since the war's end, nothing has happened to suggest there has been any change in the dire predicament of Gazan residents - a situation that will sooner or later lead to further violent conflict. Humanitarian aid entering Gaza has been confiscated by Hamas. Hamas has prevented residents of Gaza from accessing the field hospital that Israel set up on the border. It only took a day for Hamas to start torturing those suspected of being collaborators. It has been reported that Arabs with dual citizenship have already left the Gaza Strip. In many card games, the joker is the missing card for a winning hand. Understanding Gaza's inability to be economically independent, the desire of many of its inhabitants to emigrate and the inability to live with open borders given the current reality is the key to finding a solution. Our politicians have so fair failed to recognize the economic joker that would secure a successful strategy for the future of Gaza. The writer is a student at the Jewish Center for Statesmanship and Strategic Thinking.


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