Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Gazza-us Some Peace...

Another flare-up in the Middle East and the usual insults, the polarised opinions proliferate in the blogsphere and elsewhere. For many, Israel can do no wrong - its actions are wholly legitimate and Hamas are terrorists who need to be crushed. Others see Israel as a brutal aggressor inflicting disproportionate suffering on the Palestinians in the name of security.

As always, both sides are right and both sides are wrong.

However, I'd rather move away from apportioning blame and look at a solution. I've not heard much about the role of Egypt and its own chequered history relating to Gaza isn't insignificant. Any solution to Gaza has to involve both Israel and Egypt, the two states bordering the Strip. In 1979, such a move seemed possible as it did in the days of the Oslo Accords. Unfortunately, the hardliners have asserted since then.

The same is true in Gaza where Fatah was ruthlessly usurped by Hamas. Now, I'm no apologist for Hamas and firing rockets into Israeli towns and villages is totally unacceptable but the economic plight of the population of the Strip cannot be ignored or forgotten. Each round of violence serves only to impoverish and radicalise another generation and perpetuates the cycle.

So, how to end it ?

The Arab states have wealth to spare - the Saudis should make an immediate pledge to provide massive infrastructural aid to Gaza, funds for rebuilding schools and the local economy. Egypt needs to restore and strengthen economic ties with Gaza. Prosperity is the main threat to Hamas rule and it will take time but if the Gaza Strip can be turned round economically, it will turn round politically.

If the current situation is the failure of politics in the Gaza Strip and Israel and the West Bank, then it is also the failure of Arab co-operation. Radical Islamism is a threat to moderate Arab Governments too. Economic prosperity and the development of a prosperous middle-class often mitigates against revolution and radicalism.

It's time all states looked at the longer-term economic future of Gaza as being connected to the short-term military and social crisis.

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