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To quote Matthew Yglesias:

You can imagine a kind of guy who runs around advocating for the following ideas:

  • Egypt should open the borders with Gaza and allow unarmed people who can pass some kind of background check to leave the “open air prison” and enjoy life in a neighboring Arab state.

  • Lebanon, Jordan, and other countries should either grant birthright citizenship to the descendants of Palestinian refugees who live in their countries or, at a minimum, create an easy naturalization process.

  • The Gulf States, which currently rely heavily on foreign labor, should tilt away from their current reliance on workers from Africa and South Asia and give more visas to Palestinians.

Matthew goes on to explain that this untenable to the Palestinian state because it might actually work and will result in the vast majority of Palestinians settling down elsewhere. But this does seem like a great outcome for the Palestinian people as they'd get the chance to start a new life in a different country, even if they'd be living a few hundred miles away from their "homeland".

So, why is there so much talk about the Palestinian state but not much talk about the people? Wouldn't it be a huge improvement for the residents of Gaza to become Egyptian citizens and live in the whereabouts of Cairo?

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6 Answers 6

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Part of this is due to the fact that no other country really wants the Palestinians.

One such reason would be Black September, where the Palestinian Liberation Organization tried to overthrow the Jordanian government

Acting as a state within a state, the fedayeen openly disregarded Jordanian laws and regulations. On two occasions, they attempted to assassinate Hussein, leading to violent confrontations with the Jordanian Armed Forces by June 1970. Hussein wanted to oust them from the country by force, but had been hesitant to strike; he feared that his enemies would leverage such an offensive by equating the Palestinian fighters with civilians. Continued PLO activities in Jordan culminated in the Dawson's Field hijackings of 6 September 1970, when the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) seized three civilian passenger flights and forced their landing in the Jordanian city of Zarqa, where they took foreign nationals as hostages and later blew up the planes in front of journalists from around the world. Hussein saw this as the last straw and ordered the Jordanian Army to take action.

They were expelled to Lebanon, which destabilized that country as well

Jordan allowed the fedayeen to relocate to Lebanon via Syria. Four years later, the fedayeen became involved in the Lebanese Civil War, which would continue until 1990.

Hamas isn't that much better, sadly.

Nobody knows what to do with the Palestinians as a result. In other words, the fear isn't that there will be too few to form a proper state if they left. The problem is that everyone likes the idea that this is solely an Israeli problem (i.e. they won't create a proper state for the Palestinians), as opposed to a more complex issue of unwillingness of Arab states to accept them as refugees or citizens (see also this answer for why Egypt doesn't want to annex the Gaza Strip).

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Stateless peoples tend to end up in unpleasant situations. Think about the Rohingya, the Kurds, the Azerbaijanis, the Uyghurs, and (notably) the Jews prior to the establishment of Israel. Stateless peoples are often tolerated by host states, but when political or economic stressors affect the host state, it can turn on stateless peoples as scapegoats or as easy targets of hate or oppression.

Almost every state in the Middle-East is going to wonder why they should be asked to host large numbers of Palestinians — Palestinians who will occupy land, consume resources, and (in the short term, at least) need state support and assistance — when the land these Palestinians used to own was taken and reincorporated as Israel. No Western or Eastern country seems willing to take in Palestinians en masse, for similar reasons. Palestinians face the choice of a full diaspora — in which they lose their identity as a people to become mere refugees or emigres — or to be taken in as a stateless people that will always be treated as separate and inferior by whichever host state takes them in. A separate Palestinian state is the only path out of those conditions.

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  • Comments deleted. Please remember that Politics Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum. If you want to debate solutions to the Israel/Palestine conflict, please do that elsewhere.
    – Philipp
    Oct 23, 2023 at 11:11
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Notwithstanding recurring terrorist acts like the Hamas atrocities of Oct 7, 2023 (1300+ deaths, most of them civilians, nearly all of those deliberate, close-range), this would be rewarding Israel for completely ignoring UN Resolution 242, as well as the obligations it signed up to during the Oslo accords.

The Western world, after being largely responsible for mistreating the Jewish diaspora over centuries, would now be complicit in doing the same thing by supporting the expulsion of a people from their ancestral lands.

Yes, please do tell how "the People", would benefit.

The other 3 current answers - undesirability to the neighbors, bad outcomes for stateless people and well, why not relocation in the Western world? all also get my upvote. This is just an all-round crap idea.

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    The median resident of Gaza or the Palestinian refugee camps would certainly benefit a lot from becoming a citizen of Jordan or Egypt. They might be salty about the loss of territory but in terms of day-to-day comfort? Huge win. Oct 18, 2023 at 18:51
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    My point is that I'm surprised that a "give Gaza residents Egyptian citizenship" option is basically not discussed by anyone. Oct 18, 2023 at 19:05
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    @JonathanReez I dunno. Maybe standing for what I think are my rights? This kind of proposal seems to blame the Palestinians for not caving in to Israeli actions. If you want another analogy, a spouse that gets beaten because she does not comply with everything his husband wants has the option of doing everything his husband wants...
    – SJuan76
    Oct 18, 2023 at 19:32
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    @dan04 Many countries recognize both states (including Israel, per the Oslo agreements). But if we move towards "the victor can ignore legality and abuse the other population outside their internationally recognized borders", then both Israel and Hamas are not behaving differentely and the only difference is which side wins. Comments like the OPs about "hey, the Palestinians lost so they should emigrate" really point to this POV. And "the Palestinians have it easier" shows an (intentional?) ignorance of how they were treated in other countries ("they are Arabs, they are all the same...")
    – SJuan76
    Oct 19, 2023 at 0:21
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    @SJuan76 both Israel and Hamas are not behaving differentely is very much missing the point after Hamas' demo of savagery 10 days ago. Defending Palestinian rights on the basis of Hamas actions is a losing proposition. Oct 19, 2023 at 0:23
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Wouldn't it be a huge improvement for the residents of Gaza to become Egyptian citizens and live in the whereabouts of Cairo?

And wouldn't it be an even greater improvement for them personally if they were allowed to move to Germany, the US, etc.? I mean if you put it that way, half the globe would probably emigrate to North America or Europe, if allowed.

Yeah, you're gonna say that they Arabs etc. But absent Israeli bombs and similar retaliation against Hamas terrorism, it's hard to say if the population there would prefer Egypt's military dictatorship to Hamas' authoritarian rule, which was somewhat moderated on the ground, towards Palestinians, by their dependence on UN/Western aid etc. I mean, the Muslim Brotherhood won the elections in Egypt during the brief "Arab Spring" there, a decade ago. And Hamas is fairly close to the Brotherhood, ideologically, as I understand.

Slightly interesting comparison, perhaps. US-based Freedom House ranks Gaza under Hamas as 11/100 free, while Egypt 18/100, but Egypt is a US ally so I would not put that much stock in this comparison. They rank China 9/100, so apparently most Chinese would be better off if they moved to Gaza, in some respects, if FH is to be believed.

Yeah GDP per capita in Gaza seems to be about half that of Egypt, so perhaps quite a few Gazans might make that choice if it were down just to economics. (Although the Chinese would be foolish to move even to Egypt, in that regard.)

Besides political problems that Palestinians may pose to neighboring countries, mere "economic migrants" are generally frowned upon, unless the country receiving them needs them. Which might not be the case with Egypt much:

the Egyptian government aims to reduce the fertility rate from 2.8 to 1.6 children per woman in the coming years.

And there's probably not much appetite for more refugees or migrants in Egypt due to fairly recent influxes:

In its latest assessment of migrant stocks in Egypt, IOM revealed that the current number of international migrants residing in Egypt is 9,012,582 migrants, which is equivalent to 8.7% of the Egyptian population (103,655,989).

This migrant population consists of people originating from 133 countries, among whom the biggest groups are Sudanese (4 million), Syrians (1.5 million), Yemenis (1 million) and Libyans (1 million). These four nationalities constitute 80% of the international migrants currently residing in the country.

There is a notable increase in the number of migrants stock since 2019, due to protracted instability in the neighbouring countries of Egypt, that have driven thousands of Sudanese, South Sudanese, Syrians, Ethiopian, Iraqi, and Yemeni individuals to find refuge in Egypt.

As for the Gulf countries more tangentially mentioned in the Q, they are famous for very narrow criteria for citizenship, despite relying on large [temporary] migrant workforce. And

Jordan was dependent on remittances from (overwhelmingly Palestinian) migrants in the Gulf, until their 1991 expulsion from Kuwait and some other Gulf States. This led to an influx of over 250,000 returnees and resulted in 30 per cent unemployment.

Kuwait was less than pleased with PLO's (symbolic) support of Saddam's invasion, so they retaliated with a mass expulsion of Palestinian workers, after being liberated by the coalition.

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    Correct, relocating to the West is indeed the best theoretically possible outcome and in fact the lives of millions of Ukrainians are now vastly better thanks to being able to move to Western nations freely vs being forced to live in the second poorest country of Europe. But that's much harder to pull off than granting citizenship to refugees in Jordan or Lebanon. Oct 18, 2023 at 17:50
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    As for FH - the right metric is GDP/capita, not some abstract "freedom". Money talks, everything else walks. Oct 18, 2023 at 18:52
  • @JonathanReez: true, but "economic migrants" are generally frowned upon, unless the country receiving them needs them. Which might not be the case with Egypt much. globalissues.org/news/2023/09/20/34794 "the Egyptian government aims to reduce the fertility rate from 2.8 to 1.6 children per woman in the coming years". Oct 18, 2023 at 22:55
  • which was somewhat moderated on the ground, towards Palestinians, by their dependence on UN/Western aid Do you have any evidence for this? AFAICT the dependence on foreign/Israeli aid has left Hamas free to pursue its war aims. "75% of the people in the Gaza Strip are refugees, & it is the responsibility of the UN to protect them...it is the responsibility of the occupation to provide them with all the services as long as they are under occupation." memri.org/reports/…
    – Zev Spitz
    Jan 18 at 6:59
  • @ZevSpitz: moderation is, of course, relative to some reference. What I mean is that they didn't go full ISIS years ago. Westerners could still stroll about in Gaza and not be beheaded, unlike in the ISIS Caliphate. Heck, Israeli leaders believed even long before that Hamas would be more moderate than the PLO, although that changed around Oslo time, if not earlier. Jan 18 at 9:20
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So, why is there so much talk about the Palestinian state but not much talk about the people?

The entire premise here is objectively wrong. Overwhelmingly, Palestinian people want statehood in some form or another. To talk about statehood is precisely to talk about the people and their central demand. To pretend otherwise is an erasure of their voices.

Would Gazans happily move to Egypt if given the chance? Do Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries care more about citizenship in their countries of residence then they do about statehood? I see no evidence of either, and without that, the question as posed is invalid. (Asking why Palestinians in general care more about statehood then about these other things might be a valid question, but an entirely different one.)

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  • I see no evidence of either => is it controversial to claim that peoples lives are better off when living in a stable nation and having citizenship of an internationally recognized country? Yeah a very small percent will keep on worrying about some abstract “homeland” but most people just want a nice house and a good job. Oct 19, 2023 at 3:11
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    I'm not sure the link proves your point. The poll is not "do you want statehood" vs "would you rather emigrate [to a really nice place]". It's "do you want statehood" [in like 3 different configs] vs "no solution" (literally) which is producing rather expected answers. Oct 19, 2023 at 10:08
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Let's expand the idea further - now that the anti-semitism and Nazis have all been but wiped out and is illegal in many parts of the world, and the western Christian nations are not just ashamed but also feel genuine guilt for their silent role in allowing the Holocaust to happen, why don't the Jews who migrated from around the world to the middle-east just go back to the country they originated from?

After all, the root of this problem is that the west forced the idea of a state on the Jewish nation.

They could have carved out a state in Europe for them (they wouldn't have needed to even part with their own lands - after all, they had won WW2 and the land of the defeated Nazis was aplenty). Instead they encouraged the Jews to "share" land with the original inhabitants (the Arab Jews, Muslims and Christians), in a country the west had no right to in the first place as colonisers. And all the conflict was born from this "stupid" political idea of forcing "outsiders" to settle on land that the west had no right to in the first place.

So why not just forgo this whole idea itself of a "Jewish state"? Why does the Jewish nation need a state in this modern era, when it has existed for centuries before without one?

You see the political ingenuity behind this idea, right? Even if all the Palestinians are absorbed by their neighbouring Arab states, there is no guarantee that the conflict will end as many will continue fighting the Israelis. But if the west takes back the Jews they chased away, and the "foreign" Jews in the middle-east go back voluntarily, the conflict resolves itself permanently!

Right?

(Yes, I am being somewhat sarcastic with the above. But I am sure you understand the point I am trying to make - put yourself in the other shoe, and genuinely empathise, and you can see how such ideas are not only callous but also not realistic).

To be more clear, let's seriously compare the pros and cons of both ideas. There are 3 political elements common to them:

  1. Those who migrate from the region, have to forgo the idea of statehood.

Both the Israelis and the Palestinians who migrate away from the region can be assured of a more secure and peaceful life than the violence-ridden society they currently live in. The only thing they have to sacrifice is "statehood" for their people.

However, both sides are also convinced that without statehood, their own existence is in danger.

This is one of the major cons of both proposal - neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians want to give up the idea of statehood. Their history attests to this.

  1. Foreign countries have to offer refuge and accept the migrants / refugees.

For both ideas to work, other countries have to be willing to accept these people.

For Israeli Jewish migrants this is more doable - Israel is a western ally, it has integrated western values in its culture, Israelis have proven to be skilled workers and entrepreneurs (which the west needs), they are mostly economically well-off and will be less of burden on the state, they have a historical association with the west as they migrated from there and, over all, Israeli Jewish migrants, especially if they are Caucasians, would be more preferred in Europe and US than Muslim or Asian migrants.

Palestinian migrants, on the other hand, will have a tough time finding acceptance in other countries. Nearly half a million+ of them are already refugees in their neighbouring states, who are developing countries, that cannot absorb more without facing economic hardship. Most Palestinians are unskilled and impoverished. Many have faced problems in integrating well with their host society due to economic hardship and unwillingness to stop fighting for their statehood, thus threatening the internal security of their host state - another answer has pointed the example of Jordan that faced a Palestinian rebellion. Egypt is one of the few Arab state that has a peaceful and normal diplomatic relationship with Israel. It fears that this could get damaged if the Palestinian refugees use its land and resources to launch attacks on Israel (which has happened in the past). Neither the US nor Europe are welcoming to Arab Muslims. Africa is impoverished and cannot accept foreign refugees. Asia is already overpopulated by the Chinese and Indians who are already struggling to lift 100's of millions out of poverty. The sad reality is that Palestinians really don't have anywhere to go.

  1. The migrants / refugees have to be willing to settle in another country.

Forced displacement of people from their native place is a genocidal act. Both ideas only work if the majority of the population can be convinced to leave, with the guarantee that they will not change their mind and come back again when the region becomes peaceful again. And remember that we are talking about displacing and moving lakhs of people.

The right of return has been a central tenet of the Palestinian nationalist movement since 1948 when many Palestinian refugees left their homes believing that they would return shortly, as a result often taking only a few belongings with them. While events on the ground put paid to these immediate plans, they did not destroy the hope of eventual return in the future. On the contrary, the collective Palestinian desire for repatriation remained strong, buoyed by the United Nations’ (UN’s) formal endorsement of the right of return in Resolution 194. Calls for the realisation of this right became central to Palestinian political discourse, and Resolution 194 remains a popular and effective rallying cry today.

... The suspicion felt by many Palestinian refugees towards resettlement was also due to the perceived implications of the solution’s permanence. This is certainly not exceptional, in view of many refugee groups’ continuing preference for repatriation over other solutions. If people wish ultimately to return home, they are less likely to embrace measures that they fear will undermine their ability to do so.

While Jews in the past have been more than willing to leave Israel, now that Israeli nationalism and statehood has become stronger, it is very doubtful if the majority of current Israeli citizens could be persuaded to migrate. Likewise, with the Palestinians, whose earlier experience with forced displacement has just made their desire for their own homeland stronger over the decades. This again is a major con for both proposals.

As we can see, the cons (point 1 and 3) outweighs the pros (point 2 for Israeli migrants) making both plans realistically very unviable.

Reference:

  1. Why Egypt and other Arab countries are unwilling to take in Palestinian refugees from Gaza

  2. Rejecting resettlement: the case of the Palestinians

  3. Who are the Palestinians?

  4. History of Israel

  5. State, Nation and Nation-State: Clarifying Misused Terminology

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  • Why does the Jewish nation need a state in this modern era, when it has existed for centuries before without one? => one clarification: the people who live in Palestine likewise haven't had a state of their own for centuries prior to 1948 Oct 19, 2023 at 20:44
  • Both the Israelis and the Palestinians who migrate away from the region can be assured of a more secure and peaceful life than the violence-ridden society they currently live in. => Israeli society is quite peaceful and prosperous, even taking the most recent attack into account. Ranked by GDP per capita they're #18 vs #126 for Palestine. So there's only two dozen nations to which Israelis could possibly move to without a downgrade in life quality. Oct 19, 2023 at 20:46
  • As I mentioned I was being sarcastic because that's exactly one of the popular thoughts behind the proposal you mentioned - Palestinians never had a state so far, so they should be happy to live in any that accepts them.
    – sfxedit
    Oct 19, 2023 at 20:48
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    But overall +1 from me. I fully agree that Israel moving out to North America or Europe would likewise fully solve the problem. If anything, I don't think it particularly contradicts the premise of my question. Oct 19, 2023 at 20:48
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    @JonathanReez Largely peaceful? Yes. But with peace of mind? I doubt that. When you have fixed-term military service for nearly all "eligible" citizens, that also reveals something about the psyche of a nation. And yeah, Israelis would only be satisfied migrating to the developed nations like the US, Canada and in Europe.
    – sfxedit
    Oct 19, 2023 at 20:53

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