Barry Roth: A proposal for peace: Connect Gaza, West Bank

By BARRY ROTH

Published: 11-27-2023 3:54 PM

Editor’s note: The following was submitted to the U.S. State Department by Rep. Jim McGovern at the author’s request, on Dec. 21, 2014. Nothing came of it.

At the time of this writing December 21, 2014 (the winter solstice) things appear very dark and dimming as to the possibility of finding a workable two-state solution to bring peace between the Palestinian and Jewish people, in the lands comprising Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Here is a plausible vision for a step toward bringing a peaceful two-state solution.

It transforms the isolated 140-square-mile block of land, known as the Gaza Strip, from a forlorn region of nearly 2 million trapped Palestinians into a vibrant and sought-after resort community along the Mediterranean intimately tied to the West Bank.

It requires sacrifice on the part of Israel and hard work on the part of the Palestinians. The idea was inspired by observing the extensive tunnel work constructed by Palestinians within the Gaza Strip. These tunnels reportedly ran for 100 miles, led into Israel and included the construction of rail tracks for transporting materiel and people.

It raised the obvious question, “why not use those engineering skills for constructive purposes, to build a road for peace, both figuratively and literally?”

The distance between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is at some points less than 30 miles. This means that it is entirely feasible to create a subway system linking the two. Indeed, the Chunnel, which runs under the English Channel connecting Great Britain and France, is approximately 32 miles long.

Were a comparable underground rail linkage built between the West Bank and Gaza, it could have beneficial effects in many ways.

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1. It would allow for the integration of Palestinian society between the two divided regions of Gaza and the West Bank.

2. It would in effect create space and land where there is none, and might provide a measure of compensation for the settlements that have been developed in the West Bank.

3. Being underground, it would not impose itself on the day-to-day life of the Israelis whose land it would cut through.

4. It would minimize the risk to Israelis as at this time in history as measures could be put in place to ensure that the tunnel/subway was used for peaceful purposes.

5. It would provide a means of quick travel for the Palestinians, removing a significant source of frustration with Israeli checkpoints.

6. It would be beneficial to the Israelis as it would show their willingness to cooperate in working toward peace, when many in the world at this time are condemning them, fairly or not.

7. It would call attention to just how tiny a country Israel is at its narrowest point.

8. It would be a wonderful opportunity to have these ethnic cousins, Israelis and Palestinians, cooperate in making life better for all the people of the region.

With time, and as peace took hold in body and soul, it could become a wonder of the world, not as engineering feat but as a symbol of turning weapons into instruments for peace.

Barry Roth lives in Florence.