This is the second of two articles on Israel and Gaza after the war. You can read the first part here.
SO, WHY should the process of developing Gazan/Israeli peace start now, and how?
The UN and a multitude of NGOs and interest groups will be trying to get in to ‘support’ Gazans and act as a wall between Gaza and Israel. There’s big money involved in rebuilding Gaza, and those who hate Israel will be keen to not just get their hands on the cash, but also to use it as an opportunity to pursue their anti-Israel agenda, and make the Gazans once again mere pawns in their political machinations.
There will be loud opposition to Israel being involved in anything pertaining to Gaza’s recovery from war: a cacophony of shrill voices that will oppose such a move. Those voices will have a hatred of Israel behind their passionate pleas to stop Israel’s involvement with Gaza’s future. That hatred of Israel will be paramount in driving their arguments. The potential peace of Gaza and wellbeing of Gazans will be secondary in their considerations. Israel’s leadership has to stand strong against these voices and the inevitable pressure they will bring to bear against Israel.
A survey by Arab Barometer conducted between September 28 and October 8 in Gaza and the West Bank found that 73 per cent of Gazans polled favoured a two-state solution and only 20 per cent favoured a military solution (77 per cent of whom are Hamas supporters – 15 per cent of the population). About half of Gazans polled supported democracy and 69 per cent surveyed mentioned the strength of their connection to the land on which they live.
Israel can identify the Gazans with whom they can work to set up a functioning civil council that will act as an interim governing body for the civilian population, and oversee the rebuilding of physical and civic infrastructure. By taking the lead as enabler and protector of this group and its work, Israel will be helping Gazans to be self-governing, with civil law and order, developing their economic potential, and aiming for eventual independent democratic elections.
Gazans must be at the forefront of the rebuilding of Gaza, putting their lives and futures in their own hands at last. Israelis should be beside them in their endeavours, offering expertise, assistance, guidance, and security against those who would violently seek to stop such work and split this potential new alliance.
Israel can encourage friendly Arab nations to get involved in politically sponsoring and financially funding this endeavour. The West should be lobbied for additional political support and economic and logistical assistance. For those nations supporting Israel in its war against Hamas, to have such a plan in place and ready to roll once fighting has ended will give them some political protection against internal and external anti-Israel voices.
Having a Gaza at peace with Israel will also help the West in its involvement in the Middle East. A Gaza victimhood ‘cause’ that is delegitimised by the Gazans themselves negates the claims and demands for a ‘Free Palestine’, because there is now a model for that ‘Free Palestine’: one that does not involve death and destruction, vitriol and hate, but one that comprises Palestinians and Israelis working side by side – and an example of what could be for the West Bank.
If there is a successful peace, an economically vibrant Gaza, and a truly independent Gazan people, who knows, maybe the Arab citizens of the West Bank will reject the corrupt, authoritarian, terror supporting anti-Semites of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and ask for the same as the Gazans themselves? After all, they too are a two-tier society – the terror-supporting elite of the corrupt former PLO, and the harassed, relatively poor population under their control.
This route is of course fraught with obstacles, dangers, trial and error. It is a difficult undertaking for Gazans and Israelis alike. Both have grudges, bad faith and suspicions to bring to the table. But if the process can be started, and it is open and transparent, quick to recognise mistakes and put them right, then maybe, just maybe, something good and lasting can be built from it. The alternative is more violence and blood-letting – the children of Gaza trapped in a cult of death and destruction, and the children of Israel waiting for the next missile or terror attack.
Letting others get in the way of potential co-operation and a pathway to a positive future is the biggest danger to long-lasting peace and stability for Gazans. Third-party attempts of mediation between Palestinian leaders and Israel have failed multiple times – now is the time and opportunity to bypass Palestinian leaders whose only goal has been to prolong the troubles, and let those who have a vested interest in a successful peace have the chance to win that peace. Israel and the Gazans must not let others destroy this opportunity. And Israel must start planning and preparing now.
Surely the ultimate victory against the forces of Islam-inspired genocide and Islamic terrorism, Western anti-Semitism and Israel hatred would be to have Gaza and Israel, Gazans and Israelis, working together and living side by side in peace. To overcome and defeat the history of mistrust, hate and violence must be the best possible memorial to all the innocents and those fighting for peace who have lost their lives over the decades and in the current war. That would be a modern-day Middle Eastern miracle.