Eyeless in Gaza


"Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves,

Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke."

- John Milton, Samson Agonistes



Visitors to this website will probably know that I sanction a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, but one which favours the long-term survival and character of the Jewish state. This involves developing Jordan as the Palestinian state par excellence (70% of its inhabitants are Palestinian anyway). Once achieved, Israel should unilaterally annex the entire "West Bank," historically known as Judea and Samaria, and give the Palestinian Arabs the option of either swearing an oath of allegiance to the Jewish state or giving them Jordanian citizenship.

The Gaza Strip, though, is another problem entirely.

The biblical story of Samson, which forms the bedrock of John Milton’s celebrated poem, takes place in Gaza, a stronghold of the Philistines. Samson’s imprisonment symbolises the Philistines’ hatred of the Jews. Fast forward to the 21st century and nothing has changed. The Gazans refuse to accept Israel as a political reality and show their hatred by raining down rockets on Jewish civilians.

In both the Biblical story and Milton’s poem, Samson – who symbolises Israel –  destroys the Philistines but only by destroying himself in the process. This cannot be allowed to happen today. Israel has to find a solution to the Gaza crisis without doing irreparable harm to its own security.

The disengagement from Gaza in 2005 has not brought peace. After Israel withdrew its troops and uprooted the Jewish population in 2005, the Palestinians immediately destroyed Israeli infrastructure, thereby ruining their own economy. Within a  year, terrorist group Hamas had taken over the territory, murdered its rivals and started a campaign of rocket attacks on Israel.

Since 2007, Israel has stepped up its blockade on Gaza to prevent weapons from entering by air, sea, and land. However, weapons are still being smuggled into Gaza, and blockade has had the adverse effect of strengthening Hamas's grip.

Besides, the rest of the world still considers Israel to be an occupier because of the blockade. The recent Gaza war, which did untold damage to Israel’s reputation, had a short-term effect on Hamas’s capabilities, but the terrorists are still in power and they are still capable of sending missiles into southern Israel.

The Gaza Strip has been a millstone around Israel’s neck for the past seven years.

Israel withdrew in 2005 but is still an occupier because of the blockade, which is only in place because of militant activity, which got significantly worse as a result of the withdrawal. This is the Gaza conundrum.  

If Israel is to solve this conundrum, then something radical has to be done.


The options


1. Israel annexes Gaza and declares it part of the Israeli state, giving Gazans full citizenship.

2. Israel takes control of Gaza but without making it part of the State.

3. Israel seizes Gaza and forcibly transfers some or all of the population to Egypt or Jordan.

4. The UN or other international consortium takes control of the territory.

5.  Gaza becomes an independent Palestinian state.

6. Egypt takes administrative, economic, political and military control of Gaza.


Having listed half a dozen options, let's eliminate the most unfeasible ones...

1. Israel annexes Gaza and declares it part of the Israeli state, giving Gazans full citizenship.

Historically, the Jewish people have little physical or spiritual connection to Gaza, whereas Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) have always been considered the heartland of Eretz Israel. Anyway, giving Gazans full Israeli citizenship endangers the Jewish character of Israel, putting it in danger demographically.

2.  Israel takes control of Gaza but without making it part of the State.

Between 1967 and 2005, Israel was the reluctant occupier of Gaza. Tensions between Gazans and Israeli troops culminated in a violent uprising in 1987. Israel disengaged in 2005 following the signing of the Oslo Accords. Israel is unlikely to play the role of occupier yet again.

3. Israel seizes Gaza and forcibly transfers some or all of the population to Egypt or Jordan.

This would outrage world opinion, turning Israel into a pariah state, and would probably result in a Muslim uprising against Jews everywhere in the world. The accusation of ethnic cleansing would be hurled at Israel. Besides, it is highly unlikely either Jordan or Egypt would cooperate.


The following are the least controversial options open to Israel...

4. The UN or other international body takes control of the territory.

Israel could say to the UN/EU etc: "We are no longer prepared to provide money, aid, electricity or supplies to Gaza, but neither will we blockade it. Instead, you deal with it. But be warned, if Gazans continue to fire rockets into Israel, we will hold you accountable and we reserve the right to retaliate." The trouble is, the UN and the EU has a terrible track record when it comes to policing and maintaining peace. The UN and EU are also inherently anti-Israel and may be unwilling partners.

This is similar to an idea mooted by Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman whereby full responsibility over the Gaza Strip is transferred to the international community. He suggested that the Gaza-Israel border be sealed, with French Foreign Legion and commando units from EU member states securing the Gaza-Egypt border crossings to prevent the smuggling of weapons. Ships loaded with humanitarian aid would be inspected in Cyprus or Greece and then allowed to dock in Gaza. In the meantime, the EU would build civilian infrastructure, including the mass construction of apartments, in the hope that one day Gaza becomes a fully independent entity.

This leads to proposal number 5.

5. Gaza becomes an independent Palestinian state

Developing Gaza as an independent (but demilitarized) state is a promising possibility, but there is no guarantee that the Gazans will recognise Israel. But even a cold peace between Gaza and Israel is better than the status quo. A consortium of EU troops and state-building agencies would lay the foundations of a viable economy, and it would absolve Israel of responsibility. Helping Gaza tap into gas reserves twenty miles off shore would also boost the economy. Another plus point is the fact that the border between Gaza and Israel is fixed, a dramatic contrast to the fluid border between Israel and the West Bank. This means there will be no protracted negotiations over land swaps.

6. Egypt takes administrative, economic, political and military control of Gaza.

A benign annexation by Egypt would enable the Gazans to become Egyptian citizens. Gaza’s economic, political and security needs would all handled by the Egyptian authorities. If Gazans continue to hurl rockets at Israel, the latter would have the right to take up arms against Egypt rather than fighting an asymmetrical war with Hamas.


The best option


At first, I thought option 6 was the best proposal. But the ousting of President Mubarak, the political success of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the possibility of the Israel-Egypt peace accord coming to an end, mean that cooperation between the two nations is very unlikely. In fact, Mohamed Morsi, the Brotherhood's candidate for the 2012 presidential election, has endorsed the idea of a revived caliphate with Jerusalem as its capital!

This leaves options 4 and 5; or more ideally, implementing option 4 and then option 5, i.e. The UN, EU or other international body takes control of the territory in the hope that one day Gaza becomes an independent state.

Gaza, if managed properly, has a lot going for it. It has a very young population who desperately need employment and a sense of purpose. In time, Gaza may become an attractive Mediterranean tourist resort.  After all, it has a fine beach, a five-star hotel, good restaurants, shopping malls, several universities, a zoo, a number of important religious landmarks, a cultural centre and an archaeology museum, all of which would attract holidaymakers and foreign investors. When Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, there were hopes that Gaza would be transformed into the Hong Kong or the Singapore of the Middle East. Unfortunately, this didn't happen. Instead of state building, Hamas roused the population into believing that the 2005 withdrawal was the first step towards the ultimate defeat of the "Zionist entity." But with proper handling, dreams of a Middle East Singapore may come true. 

Furthermore, handing control over to the international community would mean an end to flotillas and "free Gaza" protests. There would be no more accusations that Gaza is an Israeli-run prison. Combined with a political resolution in Judea and Samaria, the neutralisation of Gaza would be the final nail in the coffin of the boycott movement.

Something has to be done. The people of Gaza cannot prosper under the rule of Hamas. Israel cannot feel secure when it is being bombarded by missiles. If the international community can get boots on the ground and develop the Mediterranean enclave, Hamas will be weakened, allowing the people of Gaza to live in freedom.  Only then will there be peace between Gaza and Israel, even if it is a cold peace.