The Israeli officer in charge of Gaza affairs has called for a “Marshall Plan” for substantial economic aid to the Gaza Strip to alleviate hardship and improve prospects for peace, Haaretz reported on Sunday.
Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT), co-authored an article in which he argued that if positive economic change does not come soon, not only Gaza but Israel will also face the consequences.
“Without getting into the Israeli interest regarding who controls the Gaza Strip, if nothing is done to bring about genuine change in the outlook of the deteriorating reality, we could be faced with a situation in which forces even more extreme than Hamas take control in the future,” it said.
Mordechai wrote the piece, published by the Institute for National Security Studies,
in collaboration with his colleagues in the military, the head of the Palestinian affairs department in his office, Col. Michael Millstein, and with Lt. Col. (res.) Yotam Amitay.
The article warns of a new generation of Palestinians between the ages of 15 and 30 who are relatively educated but cannot find work opportunities and see no future in Gaza. Such are the conditions that it is now common for people under the age of 20, mostly from refugee camps, who cross the border into Israel, intending to be arrested by Israeli authorities, who can at least provide them with regular meals.
Their detention in Israel then generates an income for their families back in Gaza. For they are considered security prisoners, and Hamas and the Palestinian Authority therefore provide assistance to their families.
This frustrated cohort, the authors wrote, “defy the sources of authority and even sometimes demonstrate reservations regarding the traditional ideology.”
They say that Hamas is aware of the explosive situation, and that it could explode against the Hamas leadership.
The only way to defuse the situation is by “turning the strip into a place that is developing, with advanced industrial zones, tourist areas, innovative means of transportation and infrastructure that responds to the residents’ needs.”
Funding methods for such a plan was beyond the scope of the article, but the authors acknowledged that it would require the cooperation of all the principal parties – Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt – plus help from outside the region, which has only come intermittently and without large focus in recent years.
“The process is fundamentally complex, but not impossible. What is mainly missing to advance it is the goodwill of those with interests in the region,” they wrote.