An earlier version of this article appeared on LeviRandolf.com on 25 May 2018.
As the turmoil in the Middle East continues, there will soon be an opportunity for the US to alter the demographics in Israel and change the regional balance of power in a way that has not received much attention. As Sun Tzu said, “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity”.
Sooner or later, action will be required to address the deteriorating situation in Gaza. The immediate obligation usually falls to Israel to step in and mow the grass. However, it is possible that some consensus is building for a multilateral effort to address the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, even if the crisis is largely fabricated. When the time comes, the US and Israel should be prepared to move aggressively to alter the demographics in Israel.
In Gaza, it is often the civilians that bear the brunt of hardship, while the leaders of Hamas enjoy luxuries. For example, on 19 May 2018, a 20 year old Arab father of two, tried to immolate himself in protest of Hamas rule and the poor conditions in Gaza created by Hamas. It has also been Hamas, at the bidding of Iran, pushing civilians toward the border fence for weeks, in the hope that some would be shot.
One potential solution to the humanitarian crisis is to evacuate as many civilians from Gaza as possible, leaving the militants to be dealt with separately. According to surveys taken several years ago half the population of Gaza has already said they want to leave. The number is probably much higher now as conditions are said to have worsened significantly in recent years.
This is where the US and a few other willing states, can step in and actually make a difference through migration. Mass migration has been supported and encouraged by United Nations Migration Agency Director-General William Lacy Swing who claims “Migration is inevitable, but also necessary, it is in the national interest. And it is absolutely desirable if we have the right policies rather than being stuck in the past.”
While Swing was promoting migration to the United States, his theory should first be tested by migration from Gaza to the Arab states of North Africa. If Swing is correct that migrants are beneficial to the receiving country, then migrants will also benefit the Arab nations of North Africa.
A large scale evacuation of civilians from Gaza could be organized and facilitated through coordination with Egypt and perhaps Saudi Arabia. While both countries have reasons to resist, both also need US support. Neither country would be asked to resettle migrants. Diplomatic coercion should persuade them to join the effort to help evacuate the Arab civilians from Gaza.
Each evacuated family would be provided with a resettlement package, including a cash payment upon arrival in the host country. Since most of the residents of Gaza are registered with UNRWA, resettlement would also resolve their claims for a ‘right of return’. The distinction must be made that these people will arrive as migrants, not refugees.
Host countries for the resettlement program should be sought among Arab States first, then other muslim states before seeking placement in states with a non muslim majority. Acceptance of migrants could be encouraged through foreign aid that many states are already receiving and the economic stimulation that will come from the cash and economic activity the migrants bring.
Financing for the program could begin with funds previously allocated for UNRWA. The Arab Gulf States might be persuaded to help fund the program. Other donor nations may come forward once the viability of the effort is demonstrated. The focus of public discussion should be on the humanitarian aspect of helping the people oppressed by Hamas, people that want to leave Gaza to escape the authoritarian rule of Hamas.
The effort could be led by an Arab country if one were willing. Egypt or Saudi Arabia might be interested if the project can be pitched in a way that shows they are a leader among Arabs in the Middle East. That’s not likely to happen, but it’s not impossible.
So how would this alter the regional balance of power in the Levant you ask? Imagine what would happen in Gaza if suddenly half the population were able to leave? What would happen to the economy? How many people would stay in Gaza?
The first people to leave would be the poor who have no other hope and as the economy in Gaza collapses further, then the middle class, if there is one, would flee. Many business owners who know they can do better in another country would leave Gaza if they had a place to go. The more people that leave, the more others will follow.
Only 40,000 to 50,000 families would be sent to any one country so the burden on individual nation states would be minimal. The tax revenue generated from the economic activity of these relatively wealthy immigrants bring would be significant and would offset any costs associated with their arrival.
Once started, this process may not take very long. Perhaps only a few months, then most of those left in Gaza will be militant islamists, the terrorists. Remember during the summer of 2015, 1.5 million muslims invaded Europe in an uncontrolled (allegedly unplanned) mass ‘migration’.
The evacuation of Gaza could be planned and controlled if a few leaders are farsighted enough to see the opportunity amid the chaos.
Levi Randolf is a regular contributor of Blitz.