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The Self Shelf: Parity for peace: Solving the Middle East crisis

Published: November 13, 2009
Section: Opinions

The release of the controversial Goldstone Report has once again focused the world’s attention on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The true nature of this conflict is fairly muddled depending on the bias of the particular news outlet.

There are some who purport that Israel utilized a policy of collective punishment in an attempt to destroy Palestine, during its latest offensive. Others state Israel was simply offering a proportional response to the rain of rockets that rocked northern Israeli towns during the 2009 Gaza War.

Heated debates erupted in political forums across the world about how to react to this conflict. The Goldstone Report was the United Nation’s attempt to shed some light on the matter. Unfortunately, the report only further complicated the situation. I cannot attest to the factuality of the report itself, but the fact that it was initially only targeted at investigating Israel for war crimes certainly would appear to belie any chance of impartiality.

Obviously, both sides of the debate have relevant points. The Israeli response to the Palestinian rocket fire was somewhat disproportionate in the amount of destruction it wreaked in Gaza. However, one has to realize that constant bombardment of a nation by any organized group will generally lead to that nation fighting back.

Also, there are the conflicting reports of whether Hamas used human shields or whether Israel specifically targeted civilians. Naturally there are reports of brutality on both sides, but I’m not here to talk about any of these investigations.

Regardless of what you believe on the matter, the cause of this conflict will never truly be relevant in its resolution. Israel and Palestine, for better or for worse, find themselves at each other’s throats, and no amount of finger pointing will solve the problem. I believe everyone with any opinion on this situation would agree that peace is nowhere in sight. This is the problem I will try to address.

Now, the question of how to create peace between the Israelis and Palestinian is a quandary that’s vexed a myriad foreign policy exports. I will not pretend to offer a quick fix—I’m merely presenting a practical solution that I believe, if implemented, could steadily erode the foundations of this senseless bloodshed.

My plan is quite the antithesis of current policy suggestions on the issue. Firstly, I believe that Israel should provide more humanitarian aid to Palestine than it currently does. The state of the Palestinian people is currently deplorable and this leads to insurrection that can only favor Hamas. The second part of my suggestion would involve Israel lifting the blockade on Palestine and instead investing infrastructure there to bolster its economy.

Some may deride this solution as a pointless gesture which will only waste Israel’s time and money, while others will criticize it as missing the heart of the matter. However, I believe that the extremism in Palestine is based largely on the lack of economic stability there, along with the Palestinian perception that Israel is isolating it via the blockade.

The Palestinians believe that Israel is trying to drive it into the ground through its blockade. Israel claims that this is simply a precaution against Hamas. By dropping the blockade, Israel could foster at least some economic development in the currently depressed Palestine.

After lifting the blockade, humanitarian aid is the most pressing part of the plan, as time is of the essence. Thousands are suffering in Palestine and this much-needed aid would not only save these people, but also strengthen the relationship between the two states and hopefully in some way repair much of the damage incurred from the fighting.

Meanwhile, with humanitarian and economic aide rolling in, the people of Palestine would get a clear message that Israel does indeed care about its neighbor. This would help Israel, as Palestinians who believe Israel is helping rather than hurting Palestine will be far less likely to engage in violence (i.e. firing rockets).

This would also help defeat or at least weaken Hamas, as an extremist organization is not propped up by times of economic prosperity. The reason that the Palestinian people are buying into such an extremist ideology is mostly because they have nowhere else to turn. One can raise countless examples of how poverty leads to terrorism.

Infrastructural investment would not only spur a more stable Palestine, but also help tie the two states closer together. If Israel and Palestine could develop a profitable economic relationship, it would help forge better relations between the two. Today, the economic relationship the two states share is not mutually profitable. If my solution is implemented, this future would be inevitable.

Of course, the obvious question for this plan concerns how this would stop the violence.

To the Israeli supporters, I would state that this would strongly lessen the chance of violence. The idea of basically isolating the Palestinian people will only strengthen the Palestinians’ perceptions that the Israelis truly hate them and police actions will only create more animosity. One does not generally defeat terrorists through military campaigns alone.

Currently, no matter what your opinion is, you cannot deny public support for Hamas (in Palestine) higher because of Israel’s military approach. If Israel took this more humanitarian approach, it would be much harder for Hamas to recruit others into its hardliner ideology and harder for it to draw world support.

Please don’t misinterpret this solution as involving Israel adopting pacifism. If it is attacked, it should still respond. However, much more moderation should be employed in responses (a massive offensive will most likely create more members of Hamas than there were before). There is no need for complete invasions of Gaza—simple precision strikes have been proven to be a much more effective and much less costly (both in terms of human life and expenditure) way to uproot terrorists.

Also, if precise military action was taken in addition to the humanitarian and infrastructural aid, much of the negative effects on Palestinian perception of Israel could be avoided. Hamas’s main recruiting tool is the image of an Israeli tank rolling into Palestinian territory and inevitably killing innocent civilians. However, if precision strikes were employed, and aid was immediately delivered by Israel to fix any collateral damage, the negative externalities associated with such strikes would be greatly lessened.

In addition, if Hamas continued attacking Israel after this plan was adopted, they would be condemned worldwide, as well as by their own people. Today, their actions are condemned but the responses by Israel always overshadow the initial acts of violence. Eventually, Hamas would lose all legitimacy as it would literally be undermining the main force of economic recovery in Palestine.

Just in case one thinks this solution is too heavily predicated towards Israel’s wellbeing, I would propagate that this solution would provide a myriad of benefits for Palestine as well. The economic gains alone would make this solution a godsend for the Palestinians. In combination with humanitarian aid, this would transform Palestine from a poverty-stricken state to a thriving country. The net benefits for the Palestinians in this plan are enormous.

This is the main strength of this course of action—there is little chance of downside. In fact, the worst outcome of this solution would be the possibility that it could be a waste of money for the Israelis. In light of all the benefits I’ve laid out, there are no real harms in pursuing this solution.

At the very least, it will gain Israel more worldwide support and at least some more support from the Palestinians. Out of all the solutions proposed, this seems to have the most upside. As a final part of this plan, Israel should curtail the spread of new settlements in Palestine–these new establishments can only lead to conflict and are an anathema to peace.

Other solutions proposed today have little merit. Further expansive military solutions by Israel will not actually solve the problem but only satisfy it temporarily at best, and aggravate it at worst. Further partitioning Israel would only increase tension between the two–the redrawing of maps has gone on long enough.

Instead, this solution would support a relationship between the two countries that doesn’t involve a blockade. Rather, the ideal endpoint of this solution would have two economic partners with high GDP and low poverty rates. This