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Take out the hostages


Take out the hostages

Levi Randolf

Correction: This article has been edited to clarify the recent success rate of UNHCR and remove a statement that may have been unintentionally misleading. The original version contained less detail about the number of refugees successfully resettled by UNHCR and a reference that included numbers integrated in the host country as opposed to resettled in a new country. According to the Refugee Center, most refugees are integrated into the host country where they initially flee to escape the conditions of their home country. The author apologizes for the error and any confusion caused by it.

The Israeli government tried to shift attention to the northern border for a few days, but Hamas is back claiming responsibility for multiple attacks in Judea and Samaria. Of course, it is Iran that is coordinating these attacks as Hamas, Fatah, Hezbollah, and Iran are all connected and working together against Israel. The weakest link in their network might actually be Gaza and it is time to try something different.

The issue in Gaza is not just Hamas, but a sizable portion of the population as well. Contrary to what the media and government officials claim, the issues are much deeper than the terrorist leadership. As others have pointed out, Gaza’s leaders are a product of their constituency, not an outside force imposed on peaceful residents.

Polls indicate that given the opportunity, Gaza voters would likely elect Marwan Barghouti over Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. With an electorate that is predisposed to terrorism, murdering Jews, and virulently committed to the eradication of the Jewish State, any ambition of finding peaceful Arabs to govern Gaza, or Judea and Samaria, is wishful thinking.

Earlier this year, both the US and Israeli governments bemoaned the plight of Arabs in Gaza, claiming they faced an imminent ‘humanitarian’ crisis, a  crisis created and perpetuated by their own elected leaders. But for years, surveys have shown nearly half of the residents actually WANT to leave Gaza.

So why do both the US and Israeli governments ignore this fact? Arabs that have escaped from Gaza had to bribe Hamas to get out, then bribe Egyptians to let them pass through Sinai. In essence, half the population of Gaza is held hostage by Hamas.

Before 1967, Gaza Arabs lived under Egyptian rule; now they are stateless pawns, used by regional powers in a cruel game. The future of Gaza will remain unpredictable, but at the very least, Arabs that escape from Gaza are no longer hostages of Hamas.

If relocating Arabs from Gaza sounds impossible, consider that UNHCR has successfully resettled several million refugees, averaging over 100,000 resettled each year during the past 10 years. There have been cases of more than a million refugees and migrants moving to another country in a relatively short period of time.

The most recent example of a large population migration is the 2015 migration to Europe, when about 1.3 million migrants traveled to Europe in less than a year. Most of these migrants were Syrians, but there were many from other countries. Of course those migrants were not waiting for UNHCR to relocate them.

Currently, one would expect a much smaller number from Gaza, since only half said they want to leave and probably not all would act on the opportunity. Gaza Arabs do not currently meet the definition of refugee under UNHCR, but if they flee the oppression of Hamas and leave Gaza, then technically they could be classified as refugees and come under the jurisdiction of UNHCR. While I’m no fan of the UN, there are alternatives to the status quo. This is one alternative.

The United States, working with regional allies, could remove civilians from Gaza that WANT to leave. All they need is a way out and a place to go. Getting people out of Gaza is the easy part; the challenge will be finding countries willing to accept those fleeing Hamas, but that’s what UNHCR does.

Exploring the potential of evacuating those that want to leave would cost comparatively little. The most important requirement is the will to act. Implementation will of course require diplomatic ingenuity, but delaying action against Hamas is costing lives, precious lives that can never be replaced.

Removing a significant portion of Gaza’s population would weaken Hamas and create the potential to pursue alternative solutions. Throwing money at terrorists, as is now being done, only funds their operations. Negotiating a truce with Hamas practically guarantees a future attack. How many lives have already been lost since the last ‘truce’? It is time to try a new alternative. Take out the hostages.

Levi Randolf is a contributor of Blitz

Blitz’s Editorial Board is responsible for the stories published under this byline. This includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on BLiTZ

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