Resettle Gazans to End the Endless War

The Biden administration thinks that a reformed Palestinian Authority (PA) could run a post-war Gaza Strip at peace with Israel, but that ignores several inconvenient facts:

1) The latest poll of Palestinian public opinion shows that the PA is deeply unpopular.

2) The same poll shows that 72% of respondents supported the massacre of October 7. But somehow a new Palestinian state in Gaza would embrace coexistence with Israel?

3) The PA has an abysmal track record of corruption and was too weak to prevent a Hamas-led coup in Gaza, less than two years after Israel’s 2005 withdrawal. So why would the PA perform any better this next time?

4) The Gaza Strip has one of the highest population densities in the world and the problem will only get worse, thanks to an estimated population growth rate of 4% (among the highest in the world).  A 2018 study by Mario Coccia found that “terrorism thrives … with high growth rates of population combined with collective identity factors and low socioeconomic development.”

5) The plan to create a post-war Palestinian state in Gaza would establish an unthinkable precedent with far-reaching consequences for global security: terrorist movements can now rape and behead their way to statehood.

6) There is no Arab or other power with the popularity, authority, and morality to educate for coexistence and to ensure that all reconstruction funds rebuild Gaza as Singapore instead of Somalia.

Yet the international community – including the U.S., EU, and U.N. – still clings to the delusional idea that if they just pressure Israel into accepting a future Palestinian state in Gaza, that the impoverished, overcrowded, and radicalized territory will suddenly flourish.

While Japan and Nazi Germany were successfully de-radicalized, that was only after the kind of absolute defeat and extended occupation that global opinion would never allow for Gaza.

Given the six inconvenient facts above, resettlement is the only solution that avoids perpetual war between Gaza and Israel.

Refugee resettlement is what normally happens to belligerents who lose wars, as Bill Maher amusingly explains in a brief historical summary that notes the many millions who have been resettled after wars in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

And there are countless other examples, including from last September, when over 100,000 Armenians had to abandon their ancestral lands in a matter of days after Azerbaijan militarily outmaneuvered Armenia (and the world hardly cared).

Why should Gazans be treated any differently after losing a war that they started? If 850,000 Jews could be forced to resettle in tiny Israel after fleeing Arab and Muslim lands where they had lived for centuries, why can’t Gazan refugees settle in some or all of the exponentially larger Arab countries?

Instead, the international community insists that Gazans stay in the overcrowded and now largely destroyed Gaza Strip, despite their hateful determination to keep attacking Israel. That's even though leaving them in Gaza is a recipe for humanitarian disaster and endless extremism: a failed state with a fast growing population, no economy, no infrastructure, and now huge numbers of homeless. How is insisting that Gazans remain in Gaza actually helping them?

And the longer the international community coddles Palestinians with massive humanitarian aid and diplomatic pressure that prevents Israel from conclusively winning the wars that Palestinians start, the longer they'll think that “resistance” might someday pay off – maybe by the 34th war, in the year 2075.

Why are Palestinians the only people not allowed to lose a war? What makes Gazans worthy of such preferential treatment? The Tibetans never blew up a bus in Beijing nor massacred their Chinese occupiers, and yet they must submit to China's military superiority.  But somehow Gazans have a stronger moral claim to a state and are therefore exempt from the rules of war and history?

Adding to the absurdity of insisting that Gazans remain in Gaza, they aren’t even indigenous to that land, which has been ruled and inhabited by countless peoples over the centuries, as this brief history explains.

Most Gazans are the children or grandchildren of people who arrived as refugees. Indeed, one of the root causes of the Israel-Gaza conflict is the conviction among Gazans that they are refugees who will one day return to live in the territory of sovereign Israel. Their real desire is not to live forever in Gaza City, Khan Younis, and Rafah, but to move to Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem (after removing the Jews "from the river to the sea").

Putting aside the lack of historical connection to the Gaza Strip and the consequences that normally apply to those who lose wars, resettlement is also the most practical solution to the present humanitarian crisis. Even if the war magically ended today, clearing all the rubble and rebuilding Gaza will require far more time, effort, and money than permanently resettling Gaza’s refugees.

For the sake of moral consistency and fairness, the countries that have most supported Hamas -- Qatar, Turkey, and Iran -- should receive the largest number of Gazan refugees fleeing the consequences of that support. And those who genuinely care about improving the welfare of Gazans (rather than simply hating Israelis) should be pressuring those countries to accept Gazan refugees.

Qatar bears particular responsibility for the present Gazan war. Qatar hosts Hamas’s political office and leadership, has given over $1.8 billion to Hamas, and uses the state-owned Al Jazeera network to amplify pro-Hamas propaganda that inflames and incites Gazans and the rest of the Arab world. And Qatar certainly has the resources to absorb the entire Gazan population of roughly 2.1 million, considering that it spent an estimated $220 billion just on preparations for the World Cup (that would be enough to give each Gazan almost $105,000). Qatar could easily employ most, if not all of the Gazan refugees, considering that there were almost two million foreign workers in Qatar in 2023.

Turkey, which has also hosted Hamas’ political leaders while diplomatically defending the terrorist group, doesn’t enjoy the same wealth as Qatar but has enormous territory (302,000 square miles) that could be used to absorb many thousands of refugees. Turkey has just 289 people per square mile (versus 14,000 in Gaza).

There are also moderate Gulf states like Saudi Arabia that could easily solve the Gaza problem, not because they helped to create it, but because they are more responsible, regional leaders seeking stability and prosperity for the Middle East. Indeed, Saudi Arabia has successfully controlled Islamist movements in its own territory and opposed them elsewhere (as with the Houthis in Yemen). And with Saudi Arabia’s vast land and wealth, the country could easily absorb 2 million refugees from Gaza.

According to the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Saudi Arabia:

As of February 2023, there are approximately 10.9 million foreign workers, constituting 75 percent of the total workforce in Saudi Arabia…

Resettling Gaza’s refugees would help to solve Saudi Arabia’s labor-shortage problems with workers who are much more linguistically and culturally compatible than, for example, Filipinos.

Saudi Arabia has spent over $6 billion on sports deals since 2021. When divided by the population of Gaza, that's about $3,000 per person – almost the per capita GDP of Gaza in 2022 ($3,789). Saudi territory comprises 830,000 square miles, with about 45 inhabitants per square mile, versus 14,000 in Gaza. Thus, Saudi Arabia could swiftly and easily help its Gazan brethren while boosting its labor force.

As part of the Israel-Saudi peace efforts, which include significant security and other enticements for Saudi Arabia, the U.S. should push Saudi Arabia to accept the vast majority of Gazan refugees. While Saudi Arabia has the most unpopulated land, other uber-wealthy Gulf States like the UAE could accept some refugees and help to finance the resettlement.

To the extent necessary, the resettlement burden can be shared by countries beyond the Gulf. Rather than just virtue signaling by speaking and voting against Israel, states that claim to care about Gazans should offer them a better life in a new country, as has been done for so many refugees of other wars. 

Insisting that Gazans stay in a ruined and overcrowded Gaza, with the simmering hostility revealed in the latest Palestinian poll, is to condemn both Gazans and Israelis to endless war.

Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic submarine thriller about Iranian nukes, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

Image: Pexels // Pexels License

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