Israeli-Hamas Truce : A New Deal
Rene Wadlow *
 

The truce between the Israeli government and the Hamas-led authorities of the Gaza strip began on Thursday morning 19 June 2008.  The truce was mediated by Egypt and holds the possibility for new relationships if strong follow-up measures are taken quickly.  There are many in Israel, in Gaza, and in the Fatah-led West Bank who believe that the truce will be short lived and will not change the deep divisions among Palestinians and between Palestinians and Israelis.

Nevertheless, after a year-long economic embargo, frequent Israeli air strikes and incursions, and a steady rain from Gaza of rocket fire on near-by Israeli cities, the truce opens some doors for creative action.

Measures to re-establish and develop the economy of Gaza are important as the embargo has crippled and in some cases destroyed manufacturing and agriculture, much of which was destined for the Israeli market.  The Gaza Strip is 25 miles long and 6 miles wide with some one and a half million people who depend on imports for most basic goods and on export for livelihood.  The Israeli blockade has led to a very difficult economic and social situation in Gaza with high unemployment, poor health facilities, a lack of food and other basic supplies.

There is also a need to break the psychological barriers which can be overcome by  cooperative economic measures.  A possibility for socio-economic recovery of Gaza would be a trans-national economic effort that would being together energy, knowledge and money from Gaza, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt .

A possible model is the trans-state efforts of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) of the US New Deal.  The TVA was a path-making measure to overcome the deep economic depression of the 1930s in the USA.  In May 1933, the Roosevelt administration and the Congress created the TVA.  In his message to Congress, Roosevelt suggested that the Authority should be a “corporation clothed with the power of Government but possessed of the flexibility and initiative of a private enterprise.  It should be charged with the broadest duty of planning for the proper use, conservation and development of the natural resources of the Tennessee River drainage basin and its adjoining territory for the general social and economic welfare of the Nation…This in a true sense is a return to the spirit and vision of the pioneer.  If we are successful here, we can march on, step by step, in the development of other great natural territorial units.”

The central idea back of the TVA was that it should do many things, all connected with each other by the concrete realities of a damaged river full of damaged people.  To do all these well, it had to be a public corporation: public, because it served the public interest and a corporation rather than a government department, so that it could initiate the flexible responsible management of a well-run private corporation.  As Stringfellow Barr wrote in Citizens of the World “The great triumph of the TVA was not the building of the great dams.  Great dams had been built before.  Its greatest triumph was that it not only taught the Valley people but insisted on learning from them too.  It placed its vast technical knowledge in the pot with the human wisdom, the local experience, the courage, and the hopes of the Valley people, and sought solutions which neither the Valley folk nor the TVA technicians could ever have found alone.  It respected persons.”

The Gaza strip is not one of the great natural territorial units of the world, and respect for persons has been in short supply.  However, only a New Deal is likely to break the cycle of violence and counter-violence.  A Gaza Development Authority, an independent socio-economic corporation devoted to multi-sector and trans-national planning and administration would be an important start in a new deal of the cards. Such a Gaza Development Authority would obviously have Hamas members but also persons chosen for their expertise as well as persons from community organizations.  

The Israeli-Hamas truce must be accompanied by strong socio-economic structures which can hold during periods of inevitable future tensions.  A Gaza Development Authority can be a framework for these strong follow up measures to the truce.

 

* Rene Wadlow, Chief Representative to the United Nations, Geneva of the Association of World Citizens (www.worldcitizens.org) and editor of the on-line journal of world politics and culture, www.transnational-perspectives.org.