Palestinian fishermen are reflected in wastewater as they prepare their boat on a beach in the central Gaza Strip June 26, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS/MOHAMMED SALEM)
I live beside Gaza and I know my neighbors are unemployed, oppressed, lack electricity and water and need massive amounts of help. But we don’t need another war with Hamas for change and development to happen in Gaza.
As UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres visits Gaza this week, he has an important task: to pressure the ruling power there, Hamas, to invest in the residents instead of investing in a military buildup and more rounds of combat. Instead of asking ourselves when the next war with Hamas will come, we want to ask ourselves what facilities we will need to welcome new families into our local community.
Looking back three years, the last Gaza war (Operation Protective Edge) in 2014 was the “tie breaker” for the Gaza border area that broke 13 years of constant rocket fire at us. Since then we’ve experienced a level of quiet we haven’t known since before Hamas fired the first of some 18,000 rockets and mortars at us starting in 2001.
We see the results and implications daily: the population of the Eshkol region on the Gaza border has grown to a record high; there are almost no vacant homes in our communities, even adjacent to the border fence; communities are busy expanding their infrastructure for more growth and development; we’ve added school buses and are planning to build new kindergartens and elementary schools.
The growth engine of the communities surrounding the Gaza Strip is first and foremost the collective resilience of the residents. Folks who love people and the land, who live here because they chose community life, working the land and raising and educating their children.
On the other hand, the defense establishment is big here in the Gaza perimeter communities, led by the “barrier” project, a massive and expensive undertaking to protect our civilians from Hamas terrorists, who have brazenly told us they are building tunnels under the border to attack and kidnap us. However, just as we improve our defenses we have no doubt that Hamas in Gaza is not stagnating and is continuing to develop its arsenal.
This is the challenge I see for Guterres. Instead of continuing to invest our resources in more defense systems in an endless arms race where the end product is more generations of hate-filled and fearful children, the time has come to create a change of reality.
The Palestinians of Fatah and Hamas with their limited resources and abilities cannot bring order even between themselves.
We Israelis would love to see Gaza be rehabilitated and growing as we are. We want to live as good neighbors as we have done in the past.
I’m only the local council head. Mr. Guterres is the leader of the world body of almost 200 nations and I know there are indeed talented minds among the bureaucrats there. I want to hear how he accepts the challenge and will act to change the rules for the billions of dollars his organization dumps into the Palestinian well. The world body has to somehow engage the Palestinians and get Gaza back on a productive, developing track that is not constantly threatening us with war.
We know that as long as the residents of Gaza have a peaceful existence and quality of life, we will have stability in the region.The author is head of the Eshkol Regional Council.