Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gaza Solution - just $75 B

Reporting on the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in the world, CBC News (Canada) writes that the 34 "Web Billioniares" have a collective net worth of $109.7 Billion. Overall the total worth of just America's wealthiest is, according to "The Forbes 400," worth approximately $1.57 trillion. And in this time of global economic crises, the governments of the world plan on spending many trillions in the next 12 months to help our industries and citizens.

So when we look at the tragedy in the Middle East of the Palestinian and Israeli confrontation, it is helpful to put into context some simple math. 1.5 million people live in Gaza. If you assume an average family size of 20, that is 75,000 families. What if the wealthiest people on earth offered each of these families a relocation package worth $1 million dollars, for a total investment in world peace of just $75 Billion? Add in a few governmental and non-governmental bodies instead of just making this the work of private individuals, and suddenly we could expand beyond Gaza and institute a global relocation program for politically displaced families.

The plan is not without challenges beyond convincing one (or more) wealthy people and countries to donate the funds. And you would have to find 75,000 places around the world ready to accept a Gaza family (albeit now worth $1 million) or a family from one of the other places we would expand this program to include. And there would be an enormous challenge as the program expanded in trying to determine how to distribute funds to non-Gaza families who would also want to join the program. The struggling citizens of a thousand places would wonder why they too shouldn't be the beneficiaries of such largess.

But there is a good reason to start with Palestine. Is there any other people on the planet that have been displayed by the United Nations establishing a nation state for a different group of people? While many injustices have been done to many people around the globe by individual governments, I can't think of anywhere else where the world governments have come together to displace a people (albeit for a great cause in establishing a Jewish homeland).

Of course one might wonder whether a Gaza family would make the rational economic decision to leave their land and relocate to an unknown place and, having done so, whether that family would use the opportunity to build a new life or to plot revenge upon Israel. A program of this kind would need to include a great deal of social and educational support. And not every family would agree to go so there would be the challenge of a diminishing population in Gaza who would be increasingly a concentrated minority of interests which oppose Israel.

But an offer of this kind would also bring into the sunlight two perversities of the current conflict -- first, that Arab states find that it is more valuable to have this embattled civilian population constantly on the edges of Israel and second that some of those people themselves are more dedicated to the destruction of Israel than they are to the well-being of their own people.

And the math points out a fascinating and frustrating asymmetry to the war on terror. We are willing to spend billions of dollars every month on an unnecessary war in Iraq, but we are unwilling to spend the money required to solve one of the most critical issues contributing to political instability in the middle east (and the world).

So here is a challenge to the economies of the world as we launch trillion dollar "stimulus" programs. What can we do to organize resettlement of the Palestinians? How can we create a program into which individuals and governments will be challenged to contribute large sums of cash on an ongoing basis, and regional governments encouraged to accept the resettled immigrants, so that over the next half-dozen years every family who wishes to leave Gaza may have the opportunity to do so?

First step - Begin a fund for the resettlement of Palestinians and invite individuals and governments to contribute funds for this purpose.

Second Step -- Once some minimum funding level has been achieved ($50 million?) establish the Gaza Sweepstakes. Any family who elects to leave Gaza may receive, for free, a lottery ticket. Each week, a number of families will be transported away from Gaza. The relocations will be covered by the media, the relocated families will receive ongoing attention as they integrate with the new communities into which they have been delivered. The families will receive money and counseling to assist them in integrating into their new community.

Third Step -- having demonstrated the success on a small scale, a global campaign of citizens appealing to their governments will be launched to raise a growing fund to relocate Palestinians, and when that project has been completed it will be expanded to the next most problematic population in the world.

Pierre Omidyar, are you listening?