Israel confirmed on Sunday evening that it had consented to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire that would end Operation Breaking Dawn. Above all, this operation constituted additional proof of the colossal failure of Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip. The vicious rounds of fighting have become more frequent, Israelis’ daily lives have been repeatedly disrupted and Palestinians’ lives in Gaza have become an ongoing nightmare.
Days of war: Understanding this weekend's Israel-Gaza flare-up
To stop this march of folly, Israel needs a complete change of direction. In the first stage, it must promote Gaza’s reconstruction and issue more permits for bringing construction material and other merchandise into the territory. Improving Gaza’s economic and civic situation is an Israeli interest of the highest order.
It’s important to return as quickly as possible to the approach Israel had adopted before the operation. The number of Gazans allowed to work in Israel was then 14,000, and was slated to increase to 20,000 or even 30,000. At the same time, a program had come into force that connected workers directly with specific employers and was supposed to ensure that workers were paid their benefits.
But beyond the immediate needs of reconstruction, Israel must change its strategy on Gaza. One good option would be to adopt the two-stage plan proposed by the person who was foreign minister in September 2021 and is now prime minister – Yair Lapid. That plan was called “Economy for Security.”
Lapid’s plan had two stages. The first stage was humanitarian reconstruction, under which Israel would allow Gaza to rehabilitate its electricity system, connect to a gas pipeline, build desalination plants and improve its health system in exchange for long-term quiet. But the second stage went even further. It called for building an artificial island off Gaza on which a seaport could be built, as well as promoting international investment and joint economic projects involving Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority.
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Lapid didn’t make do with a hypothetical proposal. He said at the time that then-Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense Minister Benny Gantz were familiar with the plan and supported the principle behind it, adding that he had held many preparatory talks with “parties in the Arab and Western worlds who are studying the idea, with the Egyptian government and leaders in the Gulf States, with U.S. Secretary of State Blinken, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and the European Union.”
Even though Lapid heads a caretaker government and elections are looming on the horizon, he now has a rare opportunity to implement parts of the plan he conceived. More importantly, this is a golden opportunity for him to chart a completely new course in Israel’s relations with Gaza and instill hope in many Israelis, and also many Gazans, who are fed up with the brutal cycle of violence that has become the daily reality of their lives.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.