Rattling the Cage: Compensation for Sderot

The only thing that will heal these people is security, and Israel doesn't know how to give them security.

larry derfner 88 (photo credit: )
larry derfner 88
(photo credit: )
If I knew a way to bring security to Sderot, I'd be in favor of trying it. But I don't know a way, which puts me in league with the seven million other people in this country. We've tried military occupation in Gaza, we've tried unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, we've tried negotiating with the Palestinians, and we are now bombing and killing Palestinian terrorists in Gaza every single day. We've been trying different solutions for seven years; nothing has worked and nothing is working. The Kassams are still coming down. So what do we tell the 20,000 people of Sderot? Like everyone says, the first obligation a state owes its citizens is security, and the State of Israel has not met its obligation to the residents of Sderot. So what should it do? A lot of people say the army should invade Gaza. But they can't explain how that will stop the Kassams, and they have to admit that many, many Israeli soldiers will get killed, and that after the army withdraws Sderot will be back to square one or worse, and that if the army doesn't withdraw but instead reoccupies Gaza indefinitely, it'll be a national disaster. A few people say we should negotiate with Hamas. But even if we take Hamas at its word, it is only offering a tahdiyeh - a lull in the fighting - in return for Israel's lifting of the blockade on Gaza. Hamas is not offering a cease-fire that might become permanent, they're offering a temporary cease-fire, a lull, and when the lull ends, the fighting resumes. When would the fighting resume? When Hamas wanted it to - presumably, when it had increased its ranks, strengthened its arsenal, and caught up on enough lost sleep to go back into battle refreshed. They're spelling it out for us that they want negotiations not for the sake of peace, but for the sake of war. And that's what Hamas says publicly; I wonder what they're saying privately. So I think Israel is right to pass on their offer. Which leaves Israel with no conceivable military or diplomatic way to try to bring security to Sderot without inviting disaster. SO WHAT should the state do for these 20,000 people since it can't offer them a future any more secure than the last seven years have been? The state should do the only thing it can do - compensate them financially. Pay them damages. How much? Enough to end this horribly unjust situation in which a few thousand Sderot residents who can afford to move out have done so, while the great majority who don't have the money to leave - mainly because they can't find buyers for their homes - are forced to stay. If Israel can't give these people security, doesn't it owe them a chance to find security on their own? I'm not saying the state should relocate them, or build houses for them, or "disengage" from Sderot. No one should force them to leave. I'm suggesting that the state give each family a big chunk of compensation money that they can use any way they want - to stay in Sderot and pay off their debts, or put the money away for their children's future - or, alternatively, to move out of Sderot and rent or buy a home somewhere that's safe. Israel can afford to do this. Israel can easily afford to do this. There are about 4,000 families in Sderot, including the nearly 1,000 that have left in the last few years; for $1 billion, Israel could give each family $250,000, which would be more than enough for them to relocate if they wanted. For Israel today, that's not a lot of money at all. We already get $3 billion from the US every year. On top of that, the 2007 budget surplus - the money the government had left over at the end of last year - was close to $2 billion. So Israel can easily afford to give every Sderot family the means to find security. But, of course, such a remedy is unthinkable in this country, because this country is filled with false pride and hypocrisy. INSTEAD OF admitting that it doesn't know how to stop the Kassams, the government is preparing for a ground invasion of Gaza. This seems inevitable. Even Haaretz editorialized in favor of such an assault - "to prove that the blood of [Israel's] citizens cannot be forfeited." As if Israel hasn't been proving this in Gaza for the last seven years, day in and day out. Meanwhile, the government won't even give rent subsidies to financially-strapped Sderot residents so they can go find a safe place to live. This would be "encouraging" the city's abandonment, say government officials, and the government won't consider it. Instead, the government, like the Israeli public at large, follows a "don't blame, don't encourage" policy toward the city's abandonment: There's no shame, no shame at all in leaving Sderot, everyone has to protect their family, we're in no position to judge you, if we were living down there we'd probably do the same thing - still, we will not lift a finger to help any family, any poor old lady, any scared-stiff little boy to leave Sderot because that would be running under fire, that would be surrender, that would be letting the terrorists win. Such hypocrisy. Israel sympathizes so completely with the thousands who've left Sderot and found security, yet it refuses to give an equal chance at security to the many more thousands who can't leave. So the effect of Israel's "don't blame, don't encourage" policy is this: The blood of Sderot's "have-nots" is worth less than the blood of the city's "haves," or rather its former "haves." SOME READERS are probably thinking: Why should Israel compensate people in Sderot when it didn't compensate the people on the northern border during the years of Katyushas, or the people in Jerusalem and the other cities during the years of suicide bombings? My answer is this: (1) Sderot's residents, unlike northerners or city-dwellers in the past, have become unique in Israel as full-time victims of terror, and (2) Israel had untried options against the Katyushas and suicide bombings - unilateral withdrawal, peace negotiations, the security fence, a fortified occupation. Remedies were eventually found. Against Gaza's Kassams, Israel has tried all the conceivable options. There's no remedy in sight. The hard fact is that what's been going on in Sderot for the last seven years may not have a remedy. Israel may never find a military or political answer to the residents' demand for security. And when the rest of the country is living in peace, and prosperity is growing, the misery of Sderot makes Israelis, beginning with Israeli politicians, feel guilty and frustrated, and justifiably so. The problem is that all this guilt and frustration is likely to translate into a massive invasion of Gaza, which is what Sderot's people have been clamoring for. But it won't do any good. It'll only pile up the Israeli and Palestinian casualties, and when the firing of the Kassams resumes, so will the anguish of Sderot's residents. The only thing that will heal these people is security, and Israel doesn't how to give them security. So all Israel can offer is financial compensation - to do what's possible to make up for the state's inability to meet its primary obligation to these citizens. More importantly, to finally offer them a way to find security - by leaving Sderot, like thousands of their more prosperous neighbors have done. To give these people that choice. It's the least, and probably the most, Israel can do.