By MARTIN SHERMAN
Once inconceivable, the dismantling of UNRWA; the naturalization of
stateless Palestinian residents in Arab countries; and the emigration of
Palestinians from Judea-Samaria & Gaza are slowly emerging as
Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth –
Sherlock Holmes, in “The Sign of the Four”.
Over a quarter-century ago (in 1992) , I warned of the consequences—for both Jew and
Arab—if Israel were to evacuate Gaza.
I cautioned: “…the inevitable implications of Israeli withdrawal can be ignored only at
great peril to Israelis and Arabs alike”, observing:“…no measure whether the total
[Israeli] annexation or total [Israeli] withdrawal can be reconciled with either Israel's
security needs or the welfare of the Arab population there.” Accordingly, I concluded
that the only viable and durable policy was the resettlement and rehabilitation of the non-
belligerent Gazans elsewhere—and I underscored: “this was not a call for a forcibly
imposed racist “transfer” by Israel, but rather…a humane and historically imperative
Confusing economic enhancement with “ethnic cleansing”
Today, after a more than a decade-and-a-half of bloody confrontations, including three
large scale military engagements—imposed on Israel to protect its civilian population
from predicted assaults—and a fourth appearing increasingly inevitable; with the Gazans
awash in untreated sewage, with their sources of drinking water polluted, and with
perennial power outages, my predictions appear to have turned out to be lamentably
Perversely, earlier this month I was excoriated for…being proven right—and my fact-
based professional assessment as a political scientist that, because of the overtly
unremitting enmity of the Gazans towards the Jewish state: “Eventually there will either
be Arabs in Gaza or Jews in the Negev. In the long run, there will not be both”, was
denounced as a call for ethnic cleansing.
Of course, my detractors conveniently ignore that, time and time again, I have called for
providing generous relocation grants to help the hapless non-belligerent Gazans find
more prosperous and secure lives for themselves elsewhere, in third party countries,
outside the “circle of violence”; and to extricate themselves from the stranglehold of the
cruel, corrupt cliques who have led them astray from debacle to disaster for decades.
Confusing an unequivocal call for economic enhancement with one for “ethnic
cleansing”, they apparently believe—in their “infinite benevolence and wisdom”—that
compelling the Gazans to languish in their current conditions is somehow more humane.
But, more on these wildly unfounded recriminations against me perhaps in a future
A tripartite plan
Several years after my 1992 article, I extended the idea of incentivized emigration to the
Arab population in Judea-Samaria (a.k.a. the “West Bank”) and in 2004 I formulated a
tripartite plan (The Humanitarian Paradigm) for the comprehensive resolution—or rather
the dissolution of the “Palestinian problem”, which include the following components:
The first was the dismantling of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency), an anomalous UN entity, charged with dealing exclusively with the Palestinian-
Arab diaspora (a.k.a. Palestinian “refugees”), displaced by the 1948 and 1967 wars with
Israel. As I pointed out back then, because of its anomalous definition of who is
considered a “refugee” (which extends to the descendants of those originally displaced),
and its anomalous mandate (which precludes resettling them anywhere but in the country
from which they were displaced), UNRWA is an organization which (a) perpetuates
(rather than resolves) the predicament of the stateless Palestinian “refugees”; (b)
perpetuates (rather than dissipates) the Palestinian-Arab narrative of “return” to pre-1948
Israel. Accordingly, the continued existence of UNRWA is an insurmountable obstacle to
any resolution of the “Palestinian problem”—and hence its dismantling—or at least,
radical restructuring—is an imperative precondition for progress toward any such
The second component was the launch of an international campaign to induce the Arab
countries to desist from what is essentially a policy of ethnic discrimination against the
Palestinian diaspora, resident in them for decades, and to grant its members
citizenship—rather than keeping them in a perpetual state of stateless “refugees”, as a
political weapon with which to bludgeon Israel. To date, any such move is prohibited by
the mandate of the Arab League.
A tripartite plan (cont.)
The reasoning behind this prohibition was made clear in a 2004 LA Times interview with
Hisham Youssef, then-spokesman for the 22-nation Arab League, who admitted that
Palestinians live "in very bad conditions," but maintained that the official policy on
denying Palestinians citizenship in the counties of decades-long residence is meant "to
preserve their Palestinian identity.” According to Youssef: "If every Palestinian who
sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country,
there won't be any reason for them to return to Palestine."
The significance of this is clear.
The nations comprising the Arab League are prepared to subordinate the improvement of
the dire humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians, resident throughout the Arab world,
to the political goal of preserving the “Right of Return” — i.e. using them as a pawn to
effect the elimination of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews.
It is to the annulment of this pernicious policy that international pressure must be
The third—and arguably the most controversial—element was to offer the non-
belligerent Arab residents in Judea-Samaria generous relocation grants to provide them
and their families an opportunity to seek a better and safer future in third-party host-
nations, than that which almost inevitably awaits them—if they stay where they are.
Atomization & de-politicization
To overcome potential resistance to accepting the relocation/rehabilitation grants, I
stipulated two elements regarding the manner in which the funding activity is to be
carried out: (a) the atomization of implementation of the grant payments; (b) the de-
politicization of the context in which they are made.
(a) Atomization: This implies that the envisaged compensation will be offered directly to
individual family heads/breadwinners—not through any Arab collective (whether state or
sub-state organization), who may have a vested interest in impeding its payment.
Accordingly, no agreement with any Arab collective is required for the implementation
of payment to the recipients—merely the accumulated consent of fate-stricken
individuals, striving to improve their lot.
(b) De-politicization: The incentivized emigration initiative is not cast as a political
endeavor but rather a humanitarian one. This 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 the resolution of the conflict. Accordingly,
efforts should be channeled into dissipating the humanitarian predicament of the
Palestinian-Arabs, which the insoluble political impasse has precipitated.
These two elements–direct payments to individuals and the downplaying of the
political nature of the relocation/rehabilitation grants and the emphasis on the
humanitarian component are designed to circumvent—or at least attenuate—any
claims that acceptance of the funds would in some way entail an affront to—real
or imagined—national sentiments.
Once inconceivable, now slowly materializing
For many years, advocating these three elements—the dismantling (or at least the radical
restructuring) of UNRWA; the naturalization of the Palestinian diaspora resident in Arab
countries as citizens; and the emigration of Palestinian-Arabs from Judea-Samaria and
Gaza—seemed hopelessly unrealistic.
However today, all three are slowly but inexorably materializing before our eyes in a
manner that would have appeared inconceivable only a few years ago.
Of course, a major catalyst for this nascent metamorphosis has been the Trump
The US administration has—despite hitherto unexplained and inexplicable Israeli
reluctance—exposed the fraudulent fiasco of UNRWA. As its erstwhile biggest
benefactor, the US has retracted all funding from the organization. But more importantly,
it has focused a glaring spotlight on the myth of the “Palestinian refugees” and the
spectacularly inflated number of such alleged “refugees”—which even include those who
have long acquired citizenship of some other country!
This salutary US initiative has the potential to rescind the recognition of the bulk of the
Palestinian diaspora as “refugees”. Thus, even if they continue to receive international aid
to help ameliorate their humanitarian situation, this will not be as potential returnees to
their alleged homeland in Israel.
Once the Palestinian diaspora is stripped of its fraudulent refugee status, the door is then
open to settling them in third party countries other than their claimed homeland, and to
their naturalization as citizens of these counties.
Naturalization of Palestinian diaspora in countries of residence
In this regard, the Trump administration has reportedly undertaken an important
initiative–see here; here; and here. According to these reports, President Trump has
informed several Arab countries that, at the start of 2019, he will disclose a citizenship
plan for Palestinian refugees living in those countries.
Significantly, Palestinian sources told the news outlet: “Trump informed several Arab
countries that the plan will include Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.” According to these
sources: “the big surprise will be that these countries have already agreed to naturalize
Palestinian refugees.” Moreover, it was reported that senior US officials are expected to
seriously raise an American initiative with several Arab countries—including stipulation
of the tools to implement it, the number of refugees, the required expenses, and the
logistics demanded from hosting countries for supervising the process of “naturalization
It is difficult to overstate the significance of such an initiative, which coincides precisely
with the second element in the foregoing tripartite plan. For, it has the potential to
remove the ominous overhang of a five million strong (and counting) Palestinian diaspora
that threatens to inundate the Jewish state and nullify its ability to function as the nation-
state of the Jewish people.
As such, the Israeli government and all pro-Zionist entities should strive to ensure its
Emigration: The preferred option of the Palestinians?
As for the third element of the tripartite plan, emigration of the Palestinian population to
third-party countries, there is rapidly accumulating evidence that emigration is emerging
as an increasingly sought-after option. Indeed, earlier this month, Israeli mainstream
media highlighted the desire to leave Gaza in order to seek a better life elsewhere. For
example, the popular website, YNetnews, ran a piece entitled, Gaza suffers from brain
drain as young professionals look for better life, with the Hebrew version appearing a few
days previously, headlined The flight from Gaza: What Hamas is trying to conceal from
the media. Likewise, the KAN Channel ran a program reporting very similar realities
These items come on the heels of a spate of previous articles that describe the widespread
clamor among Gazans to find alternative places of abode—see for example For Young
Palestinians, There’s Only One Way Out of Gaza (Haaretz) ; Thousands Abandon
Blockaded Strip as Egypt Opens Crossing (Alaraby); As Egypt Opens Gaza Border, A
Harsh Reality is Laid Bare (Haaretz); and How Turkey Has Become the Palestinian
Promised Land (Haaretz).
The Ynetnews piece describes the fervor to leave: “Leaving Gaza is expensive,
particularly for the residents of the impoverished coastal enclave…The demand is high,
and the waiting list to leave is long…Those wishing to cut short their wait must pay for a
place on a special list, which is run by a private firm in Gaza…The price for a place on
this special list is $1,500—a fortune for the average resident of Gaza…”
It would appear then, that the only thing preventing a mass exodos from Gaza is…money.
Which is precisely what the tripartite plan proposes providing.
Let their people go: A slogan for April’s elections?
There is, of course, little reason to believe that, if Israel were to leave Judea-Samaria,
what happened in Gaza would not happen there. After all, the preponderance of
professional opinion appears to hold that, if the IDF were to evacuate Judea-Samaria, it
would likely fall to elements very similar to those that seized power in Gaza—and the
area would quickly be transformed into a mega-Gaza-like entity, on the fringes of Greater
Tel Aviv—with all the attendant perils that would entail.
Sadly however, despite its clear strategic and ethical advantages over other policy
proposals, few in the Israeli political system have dared to adopt incentivized emigration
as part of their platform. The notable exception is Moshe Feiglin and his Zehut party
–and, to certain extent, Bezalel Smotrich, the newly elected head of the National Union
faction in the Jewish Home Party, previously headed by Education Minister Naftali
It is, however, time for the idea of incentivized emigration to be embraced by the
mainstream parties as the only viable policy paradigm that can ensure the continued
survival of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. It is time for the mainstream to
adopt an election slogan that sounds a clarion call to “Let their people go”.
Dr. Martin Sherman served for seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli Defense establishment. He was a ministerial adviser to Yitzhak Shamir’s government and lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations and Strategic Studies. He holds several university degrees: a B.Sc. (Physics and Geology), an MBA (Finance), and a PhD in political science and international relations. He was the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference and is the author of two books and numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of political, diplomatic and security issues. He was born in South Africa and has lived in Israel since 1971.
Dr. Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net ) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org)
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