Friday 23 November 2012

Make peace thru prosperity in Gaza (PO)

By M D Nalapat

Friday, November 23, 2012 - As are many other citizens of India,this columnist is an admirer ofIsrael,and even more so,the Jewish people. Person to person,the Jewish community has created more works of art,literature and science than any other community across the globe.Only the tiny Parsi community in India or this country’s Jains comes close to matching the achievements of the Jews. As a people,they are liberal and tolerant,and avoid proselytizing as a means towards increasing their number. Which is why it has been a surprise to see the way in which successive governments in Israel have implemented policies designed to ensure that the people of Gaza (and to a lesser extent,the West Bank) remain mired in the hopelessness of poverty. Such a strangulation of the economic potential of Gaza is negative not only for the Palestinian people - who are among the most talented within the Arab world - but for Israel itself. Just as swamps breed deadly mosquitoes, the gullies and ghettoes of Gaza have become the homes of tens of thousands of unemployed youth, each of whom nurses anger against Israel for denying him or her a future

Certainly non-violence of the kind made world famous by Mahatma Gandhi in the 1930s is the only way the Palestinian people will ever gain full sovereignity.Israel has become a permanent part of the architecture of West Asia,and cannot be airbrushed from the map the way Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran imagines will happen.Should there be normal diplomatic and commercial relations between the Arab world and Israel,it would be to the benefit of both sides.The Israelis would vastly increase their prosperity and thereby free themselves of their present fiancial dependence on a cash-strapped United States of America. The Arab world would gain access to Israeli technology in water harvesting,solar power and numerous other fields in which laboratories in Israel have become world leaders. The Muslim people lived in peace and harmony with the Jewish people during the Golden Age of Islam,a period when the faith spread not through the sword but by the power of Example. Certainly harmonious relations between two “People of the Book” are essential to a better future for a region that is one of the cradles of human civilisation

With its decision to shift from Damascus to Doha,Hamas has clearly accepted that the way of violence is no longer a geopolitically feasible option in its struggle to ensure a better life for Palestinians. Unlike Syria,which is the opposite of a strategic partner of the NATO powers,the State of Qatar is closely aligned to NATO,especially the US. Thus,it is unlikely to allow Hamas to launch operations which would compromise Doha’s own cosy relationship with Washington. The re-location of Hamas from Damascus to Doha has been immensely helpful in enabling President Obama to enforce a cease-fire ending nine days of hostilities between Gaza and Israel. As in the past,it is ordinary Gazans who have suffered horribly during this period,having lost many lives and homes at the price of five Israeli deaths.Although the Republican Party falsely accused Barack Obama of abandoning Israel,an untruth in which Bibi Netanyahu participated because of his desire to ensure a Romney victory on November 4,the fact is that the policy of the US President has been to give Israel robust means of self-defense,such as the Iron Dome Missile Defense System,which blocked more than nine out of ten Hamas rockets from ever hitting the ground in Israel

Bibi Netanyahu seems to be a far cry from the 5000-year culture and traditions of the Jewish people. He seems to be in the mould of Ariel Sharon,who too believed that Palestinians could be bludgeoned into permanent submission. Unfortunately for both Israel as well as the Palestinians,Netanyahu has continued Sharon’s policy of blocking trade and commerce into and out of Gaza. He has prevented that territory from achieving its natural destination,which is to be the Singapore of West Asia. Were Gaza to be allowed to set up a world-class airport and an international airport, the people inhabiting the tiny territory would soon turn their minds away from violence into commerce.Hopefully,President Morsi of Egypt will join hands with President Obama to persuade Netanyahu to allow Gaza to develop into a modern city capable of providing high-income jobs to the versatile and talented Palestinian people. Both the US and Egypt can set up a security system which ensures that Gaza be made wholly demilitarized and there be zero security risk to Israel from permitting a modern seaport and airport to get built in Gaza. The Arab people are true to their tradition of hospitality and generosity,and it is certain that Abu Dhabi,Qatar,Kuwait and Saudi Arabia will provide the funds needed to rapidly modernize infrastructure in Gaza

While a comprehensive settlement between Israel and its neighbours may be some time away,just as took place over the Sinai desert,a settlement between Israel and Gaza can be arrived at,which ensures the speedy development of Gaza in a manner that safeguards Israel’s security needs. Certainly Egypt and the US together have the clout and ability to ensure such an outcome. For too long have the people of Gaza suffered from the restrictions imposed by Israel,blockades that have degraded rather than improved Israel’s longer-tern interests. A close fit between Israel and its neighbours is vital for both sides,and should Bibi Netanyahu follow the example of Menachem Begin,he would begin the process in Gaza.Incidentally,the NATO powers (who are their own worst enemies) need to remember that Hezbollah refused to open a Second Front out of Lebanon whileIsrael was battling Hamas. Had the present masters of Gaza been in Damascus,a second front may have been an option,but with the shift to Doha,coordination with Hezbollah has snapped.And yet,despite its refusal to attack Israel at a time when that country has been engaged on its southern border,NATO seeks to ensure for Bashar Assad the same fate meted out to Muammar Gaddafy.In other words,punish those that help you!

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