Photo Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90
Israelis stand by the Iron Dome battery stationed in Ashkelon, July 14, 2018.

While the talks between Israel and Hamas are currently being conducted at a rapid pace, at least the Israeli side is optimistic (see: Al Akhbar: Israel Renews Talks with Hamas about Truce, Returning Soldiers’ Bodies), another initiative is being formed, which aims not only to stop the shooting war, but to also establish a true good neighbors relationship between the Gaza envelope communities and the Gaza Strip, Ynet reported Friday.

The ambitious program has been formulated over the recent months, and includes the promotion of several projects along the Gaza Strip border. The projects will be located in Israeli territory, but the workers there will be thousands of Gaza Strip Arabs. As a result, the standard of living of Gaza residents would be greatly improved while the communities in the Gaza envelope will gain new sources of income.

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The entire plan is expected to be implemented in four years, depending on the security situation, according to Ynet. In recent weeks, the program was presented to senior IDF officials, who have expressed their enthusiastic support. They said ventures to improve life in Gaza are a promising approach, since the rising standards of living would reduce the motivation for terrorism.

Were it only true. It must be noted that throughout the intifadas, from the 1990s to the uprooting of Gaza Jews in 2005, tens of thousands of Gaza Arabs enjoyed employment inside Israel-with regular interruptions while they were murdering Jews. But perhaps the necessary lessons have been learned, especially by the IDF, which is presenting the idea to Hamas as we speak.

Two weeks ago, the same program was presented to US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who was asked to pass it on to President Donald Trump. It was also presented to European banks and large European companies, which expressed an interest and a desire to become involved.

Five major projects are being designed, according to Ynet: Three industrial zones, two of which will encompass 500 acres each, and a third with 370 acres, will be established on the Israeli side of the Gaza border. The fourth project is a power plant that will serve both the Gaza envelope communities as well as Gaza Strip homes.

The fifth project will generate energy from waste. Waste from Gaza will be transported through a long conveyor belt to a waste facility on the Israeli side, where it will undergo controlled incineration to generate electricity which will be returned to the Gaza Strip.

Gaza residents do not receive electricity for most of the day, so that these last two projects would immediately improve the situation there dramatically.

Although the Arab side was not involved in formulating the plan, its Israeli authors believe the Gaza Strip will be happy to cooperate with it. Thousands of Gaza workers already enter Israel daily with special work permits, and the assumption is that most Gazans would not refuse more jobs that pay a great deal more than what’s available in the Strip.

The leader of the project is Eshkol Regional Council head Gadi Yarkoni, who lost both his legs in the 2014 Operation Protective Edge. Other regional council heads in the area have expressed their support for the project.

Ynet cited one of the project’s activists who said, ” We must separate terrorism from the needs of the population and the economy. We will work to generate employment and income along the border, in the hope that it would make the population in Gaza think twice before choosing a violent path. And in the midst of all that, we can produce sources of livelihood inside the State of Israel as well.”

Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi recently said in an interview that “every regional development plan to encourage cooperation between Israel and Gaza is welcome. There is no reason not to have an ongoing economic relationship, as long as the other party realizes that in return they must put down their weapons and restrain the terrorist acts.”

Which, alas, always brings to mind that great fable about what had to be a logical cooperation, The Scorpion and the Frog:

A scorpion, which cannot swim, asks a frog to carry it across a river on its back. The frog hesitates, afraid of being stung by the scorpion, but the scorpion argues that if it did that, they would both drown. The frog considers this argument sensible and agrees to transport the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion stings the frog anyway, dooming them both. The dying frog asks the scorpion why it stung it despite knowing the consequences, to which the scorpion replies: “I couldn’t help it. I’m from Gaza. I mean, I’m a scorpion.”

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