The future of Gaza: Searching for an end-game solution

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The Search is on for an End-game Solution

By Chuck Stephens

In the Battle of Gaza, the latest round in a war between Israel and Hamas, everyone’s attention has so far been focused on the present.  The hostage drama, bombing by both sides, massive displacement of civilians on both sides, blockade, siege and the emerging humanitarian crisis.  This has generated more heat than light.

In spite of his crazy proposals, Emmanuel Macron’s shuttle diplomacy did us a favour – to refocus attention on the future.  Is there a plan?  Where is the Battle of Gaza going?  There is little doubt at this stage who will win the battle, so what will replace the Hamas reign of terror?

Will it be re-occupation, with direct rule by Israel?

Will the Gaza strip be split in two parts?  (Gaza city under Israeli military rule to the north with a looser self-rule of some kind in the south?)

Will the Palestinian Authority – led by its decrepit leader Abbas – be reinstated?

Is a two-state solution even possible anymore?  How many Israelis would be willing to return to the villages and kibbutzim of border regions if Gaza resumes autonomy?

It seems necessary to somehow diminish Iran’s influence in the wider region for real peace to flourish?  Some Arab states have normalized relations with Israel, others were on the way, but that was interrupted.  Do Arab states really see value in a wider regional conflict?  Do they really condone terrorism?

What about colonization of the Gaza strip along the lines that has been happening for some time on the west bank?

Ultimately, the choice is between bundling Israel, the west bank and the Gaza strip into one entity… or splitting it into the “two-state solution”.

In South Africa, all attempts at revising and restructuring the colonial legacy distilled into apartheid were thwarted because the liberation movement had an end-game solution.  They said they wanted a democracy.  Free and fair elections.  One person, one vote.  Not a two-state solution.

What is missing in the Middle East is a prevailing vision.  The only future envisioning is offered by Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran – namely the total destruction of the state of Israel.  But the lack of a better definitive solution is plaguing the Middle East and perpetuating conflict.

In India, before the launch of the United Nations, the colonial power imposed Partition.  It was a two-state solution.  India for Hindus and Pakistan for Muslims.  Apparently they couldn’t get along in a future (i.e. post-colonial) democracy?  The Quit India Movement opposed this, but it went ahead anyway.  Gandhi and Nehru believed in the same vision of pluralistic unity that John Dube, Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela believed in.

Since then, a term called “ethnic cleansing” has come into use, although it is not yet defined by international law.  The practice of “ethnic cleansing,” used most notably in the former Yugoslavia, aims to artificially create geographic zones (usually using violent methods) in which the population is composed exclusively of persons of the same nationality or ethnicity. Such policies violate the rules of legitimate governance as foreseen and accepted by the international community. 

How is that different from a two-state solution? Isn’t that an end-game apartheid?

The fact that no Arab states are willing to take in Palestinian refugees says a lot.  Israel and the Palestinians have to figure it out between them.  Just like Spain and Catalonia have to figure it out.  Just like England and Scotland have to figure it out.  Just like Canada and Quebec have to figure it out.  So why should we impose a two-state solution on Israel and Gaza when most democracies oppose divorces?

Arabic is the language of Arabia.  It is not the language of Iran.  But is has become a regional trade language or “lingua franca”.  It is not the language of Egypt or Morocco – they also have indigenous languages.  And it is not the original language of the Palestinians.  Nevertheless these are all often lumped together as “Arab countries” because of the lingua franca they share.

The Palestinians speak Arabic, or Hebrew.  They adopted these local languages because they are not “indigenous” like the Egyptians, Arabians and Iranians.  The Palestinians descend from the Philistines of Old Testament times.  They first appeared in the Levant as sea invaders at the time when Ramses III was pharaoh of Egypt.  They raided ports in the Levant, wiping out port cities like Ugarit, which had been the link between the East and the West for six centuries already by then.

Egypt was the regional super-power at the time.  So Ramses II got intel about these sea invaders.  They may have been climate refugees?  Because around 1200 BC, Mount Hekla in Iceland had blown its stack.  The Hekla-3 explosion belched 7.5 cubic kilometers of volcanic ash into the atmosphere, darkening northern Europe and causing famine.  This was one cause of the Bronze Age crash.  Ramses II readied for their arrival by sea.

Then there was a famous sea battle in the Nile delta.  Ramses III had prepared his forces and won the day.  He later built a huge temple at Medinet Habu.  In the inscriptions on its walls are detailed accounts – of how he repulsed these sea invaders, who they were, and where they went.  The various forces that conjoined into this hit-and-run maritime operation were soundly defeated.  Some were eliminated.  Some fled.  Others surrendered and were re-settled.  Notably, a group called the “Peleset” (P-r-s-t) were re-settled where Gaza is today.  Their name morphed into the “Philistines”.  That is the etymology of the word “Palestine”.

Soon after this, Moses led the children of Israel out of Goshen in the north-east Nile delta, and back to Canaan.  But they entered the promised land from the east side of the Jordan River, not by crossing what is now the Gaza strip.  They became perennial enemies of the Philistines.

This was roughly six centuries after Abraham had arrived in Canaan from Ur.  Neither Abraham nor Moses grew up speaking Hebrew.  Abraham spoke Akkadian and Moses spoke Egyptian.  Hebrew emerged later as a language in its own right.  We still don’t know where the sea invaders came from, or what their original language was.  But it was not Arabic.

So while both Israel and the Palestinians speak of their “homeland”, they are both erstwhile immigrants.  Going back to the Bronze Age.

Unless they can find a common vision of future co-habitation, peace talks seem a bit pointless.  Peace is the end of war, but at this stage, there is no solutions on the table.  Only problems.

One thing is certain, that the destruction of the state of Israel is not a solution.  So side-lining Hamas is an imperative, as is diminishing the regional influence of Iran.  To the extent that this is really a factor, as many “Arab countries” have moved on from radicalism.

If there are peace talks after Hamas is decapitated, who will speak for the Palestinians?  At this stage, Israel has to openly embrace or reject the two-state solution.  Only then would a summit make any sense.

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