Wednesday, September 18th | 18 Elul 5779

June 2, 2017 1:02 pm

The Humanitarian Paradigm: FAQs Part 1

avatar by Martin Sherman


Palestinians in Ramallah. Photo: Ralf Lotys via Wikimedia Commons.

“Consideration should be given even to the heroic remedy of transfer of populations…the hardship of moving is great, but it is less than the constant suffering of minorities and the constant recurrence of war.”

— President Herbert Hoover, the so-called Great Humanitarian, in The Problems of Lasting Peace.

“With all the money that has been invested in the problem of the Palestinians, it would have been possible long ago to resettle them and provide them with good lives in Arab countries.”

—  Andrei Sakharov, cited in New Republic, June 22, 2009.

Related coverage

September 17, 2019 5:34 pm

New York Times Jerusalem Cable Car Story Sparks a Furor

A front-page New York Times article by the newspaper’s architecture critic, Michael Kimmelman, attacking a plan for a cable car...

“The rise in the number of international migrants reflects the increasing importance of international migration, which has become an integral part of our economies and societies. Well-managed migration brings important benefits to countries of origin and destination, as well as to migrants and their families.”

— Wu Hongbo, UN under-secretary general, 2016.

Followers of this column will recall that for well over a decade, I have promoted what I have termed “The Humanitarian Paradigm” (HP) as the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This paradigm prescribes, among other things, large-scale, financially-incentivized emigration of the Palestinian Arab population resident across the pre-1967 lines as the only comprehensive, non-kinetic policy blueprint that can enable Israel to adequately address both the geographic and the demographic imperatives necessary to contend with in order for the country to endure as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

Unfounded skepticism

Several reservations have been raised regarding my proposed prescription on various grounds, including skepticism as to its economic affordability, political feasibility and moral acceptability. Some have claimed that an alleged sense of “intense nationalism,” social pressures and fear of retributory fratricide will preclude any chance of large-scale emigration of Palestinian Arabs.

Such skepticism flies in the face of logical reasoning, historical precedents, empirical findings and the revealed preferences of significant segments of the Palestinians Arabs themselves.

Accordingly, in the ensuing paragraphs I will attempt to address these reservations, show them to be largely unfounded and demonstrate that the HP is not only eminently feasible, but unequivocally imperative if the Jews are to preserve their national independence and political sovereignty.

But, before addressing the FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) regarding such feasibility, allow me to convey — in brutal brevity — what sets the HP apart from ALL other proposals for resolution.

This differentiation resolves chiefly around two elements: (a) the atomization of implementation; (b) the de-politicization of context.

The former envisages compensation to be offered directly to individual family heads/breadwinners, so no agreement with any Arab collective (whether state or sub-state organization) is required, merely the accumulated consent of fate-stricken individuals striving to improve their lot.

The latter reflects a sober recognition that, after decades of effort, involving the expenditure of huge political capital and economic resources, there is no political formula for resolving the conflict and efforts should rather be channeled into dissipating the humanitarian predicament of the Palestinian Arabs.

FAQ 1: How much will it cost

One of the most common queries raised is the question of the HP’s cost.

In addressing this issue, it is important to keep three things in mind:

(a) The absolute cost of implementation is irrelevant; (b) There is inherent difficulty in reaching precise estimates of the required outlay; however (c) There is no need for fine-tuned precision estimates, since political resolve is the real constraint on implementation — not economic resources.

On the first, it is crucial to grasp that the absolute cost of the proposed measures is not really the issue, but rather the comparative cost relative to other proposals — including the two-state formula, whose implementation is also certain to entail an ongoing multi-billion dollar price tag. Indeed, one of the few (or only) comprehensive study of the overall cost of the Oslo Process suggests that by 2014 it inflicted expenditures of almost a trillion shekels (a quarter trillion dollars) on Israel’s economy — excluding the cost of the 50-day long Operation Protective Edge — and produced nothing but trauma and tragedy for Jew and Arab alike.

As to the second point: The overall cost for large-scale relocation and rehabilitation of the Palestinian population across the pre-1967 lines clearly depends not only on the scope of emigration grants offered, but on the actual size of the Palestinian Arab population in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. There is fierce ongoing debate about the true population figures for those areas, with competing estimates revealing a discrepancy of well over a million.

Fortunately, precise appraisals of the required costs are not essential for assessing the affordability of the HP. Rough order-of-magnitude estimates are sufficient for this purpose.

As we shall see, the amounts required by the HP are dwarfed by the expenditures on other ventures, which have produced predictably disappointing results.

As I do not wish to become embroiled in an argument as to the real size of the Palestinian Arab population, and as the envisaged financial grants would be distributed per family unit, I shall sidestep the issue and take as my point-of-departure a figure of 850,000 families (just over 60% of the Judea and Samaria population). This is far closer to the official Palestinian figures than to the alternative, more optimistic and plausible demographic estimates, which count nearly 300,000 fewer families! Assuming an average emigration grant of US$250-300,000 per family (which is roughly 100 years of GDP per capita in Palestinian terms) this would amount to a total budget of US$200-250 billion for the full implementation of the HP project.

While these figures might appear somewhat daunting, two points should be borne in mind: Today Israel’s annual GDP is approaching US$300 billion. Accordingly, the total outlay would be 8-10 months of GDP.

Spreading this over, say, a decade-and-a-half (considerably less time than has been invested in the fatally flawed two-state endeavor) this would amount to 4.5-5.5% of total GDP. Accordingly, even if Israel was to bear this economic burden on its own, the economic burden of the HP would not reach the 11-15% of GDP that defense spending ate up in much of the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s.

Moreover, if the wider international community could be induced to help shoulder the task, the entire enterprise could be completed far more rapidly, at a cost which would be virtually imperceptible, amounting to a mere fraction of a percentage point of the GDP of the OECD nations.

It must be firmly emphasized that the sums referred to here are inconsequential in global terms. Indeed, they pale in comparison to the multi-trillion dollar cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, of which over 90% was spent after Saddam Hussein was apprehended and the Taliban dislodged, in efforts that by the most benign assessments produced meager results.

It would appear that financing the HP is not a real impediment to its implementation.

FAQ 2: Is large-scale, financially-induced Palestinian emigration feasible? 

Of course, no one knows precisely how many Palestinian Arabs can be induced to emigrate without putting the matter to test. However, available evidence strongly suggests that extensive emigration is indeed eminently feasible. And there is certainly far more empirical support for it than there is for a stable two-state outcome.

A survey I commissioned as far back as December 2004 for the Jerusalem Summit, conducted by a leading Israeli polling institute in collaboration with a well-known Palestinian center, showed that over 40% of the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria had actively considered emigration, while up to 50% did not discount such a possibility. The figure rose to over 70% when material compensation was introduced.

It appears that this sentiment has only grown stronger over time.

Since then, opinion surveys have emerged from Palestinian institutes repeatedly showing a keen wish among the Palestinian Arab population to emigrate, as evidenced in a 2007 Birzeit University poll (cited in the New York Times) showing that “35 percent of Palestinians over the age of 18 want to emigrate. Nearly 50 percent of those between 18 and 30 would leave if they could.”

The desire to emigrate grew so widespread that the Palestinian Authority’s mufti felt compelled to issue a fatwa in 2007 forbidding Muslims to leave.

More recent polls conducted by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research have shown that between 25-35% of the Arab residents of Judea and Samaria and 45-55% of those in Gaza wish to emigrate permanently.

But perhaps more compelling than the findings of any poll is the fact that Gazans are so desperate to seek a better life elsewhere that they are willing to pay massive bribes and risk drowning at sea in rickety boats to get out of the area. These headlines in Al Jazeera and Al Monitor bear poignant testimony to their predicament:” Palestinians paying thousands in bribes to leave Gaza,” “Escaping Gaza, hundreds of Palestinians drown,” “Gaza’s intellectuals are fleeing abroad.”

Surely establishing an orderly system of ample financial aid to enable them to extricate themselves from the dire situation foisted upon them by the misguided statehood project would be eminently more humane, moral and pragmatic.

FAQ 3: But who would accept them?

One of the most frequently asked questions regarding the feasibility of the HP: “Which countries will accept them?”

I find this question particularly puzzling, especially given today’s realities of massive global population flows. The UN recently published a report on global migration, revealing that in 2015 there were almost a quarter-billion migrants globally (up 40% since 2000), the majority of which were motivated by economic considerations. It is difficult to understand why an envisaged yearly increase of a fraction of 1% in this number over the next decade would be such an inconceivable circumstance.

Moreover, it should be recalled that, in contrast to many other migrants, the Palestinian Arab recipients of generous relocation grants would not be arriving as a stream of destitute refugees. Rather, they would be arriving in an orderly fashion as individual immigrants of relative affluence by global standards, who traditionally have brought great benefit to the host countries that have accepted them.

In addition, the funds the Palestinian Arab newcomers would bring with them would constitute a very significant influx into the host countries’ economies; for every hundred Palestinian families admitted, the host country could count on the influx of around US$25-30 million into its economy. Absorbing 2,500 new Palestinian Arab family units could mean the injection of up to three-quarter billion dollars into the host nation’s economy.

Consider the following example, which if entirely realistic is instructive in conveying the principle involved: Suppose Indonesia — the world’s most populous Muslim country — were to open its gates to the Palestinian Arabs across the pre-1967 lines, who, in turn, decided to emigrate to that country. This would entail an increase of a little over 1% of the Indonesian population (around 270 million), but an influx of over US$250-300 billion into the Indonesian economy, where total GDP is around US$900 billion. Moreover, each of the Palestinian breadwinners would arrive with a sum worth around 80 years of Indonesian GDP per capita (around US$ 3,500) — the equivalent of over US$4 million in America. They would in no way be impoverished refugees, or a burden on the local society/economy. Quite the opposite. They would be rather well-to-do individuals, capable of making a positive contribution to their new homeland

It is of course unrealistic to believe that all the Palestinians would head for a single destination. However, if Palestinian Arab emigration was distributed over several countries, they could be absorbed, resettled and rehabilitated with very little difficulty by a number of host nations with compatible domestic socio-cultural and religious environments — with the financial benefits accruing to these host nations being proportional to the number of Palestinian Arab immigrants they accept.

Next week…

Given the crucial importance of this issue, I intend to continue this response to FAQs about the HP, including addressing the economic issues, the question of threatened fratricide and the moral superiority of the HP over all other proposed policy prescriptions.

Until then, Shabbat Shalom.

Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.