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Peace through construction?
Photo: Herzl Yosef
Nisim Ezra. 'Only positive feedback so far'
Photo: Tommy Harpaz
Building peace, literally
IDF colonel's idea to bring peace by building new city next to Gaza impresses Obama

An end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not seem to be on the horizon. There is non-stop talk of the next war, and it has been four years since Gilad Shalit was captured by Hamas. Is there any a solution that will put an end to the current situation? Is there a solution to the conflict between the two peoples? Nisim Ezra believes there is. 

 

Ezra, a resident of Or Yehuda, believes he has in his hands the ultimate solution for peace in the Middle East. He even shared his idea with US President Barack Obama.

 

Ezra, an IDF reserves colonel, sent a letter to Obama in which he laid out a model for building a city in the Gaza Strip – "New Gaza" – a move which he believes will put an end to international conflicts, which he says are caused by socio-economic distress that prompts terrorism and undermines world peace.

 

When asked whether he believes his plan is realistic, Ezra says: "Children in Gaza are born into poverty, misfortune, torn clothing, and gutters with the knowledge that the shahid (martyr) is their leader. I love my people, but they, too, are people, and we must think like a state. As of now, we are in a situation where our neighbor has it bad, and as long as it is bad for them, it will be bad for us."

 

According to the model he built, the US together with other countries, such as Indonesia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, and Saudi Arabia will take responsibility for solving the conflict through new building (not reconstruction or renovation) of the leadership, society, education, and physical infrastructure for the weak populations in the Gaza Strip, he wrote.

 

The aid will not be in the form money transferred to bank accounts and from there to the hands of the Hamas regime and terrorism, he wrote, and instead focus on handing over a 'final product' in stages - that is, infrastructure projects including operation and maintenance for 10 years.

 

A project in stages

At the beginning of the project, a meeting will be held to coordinate between local leadership and the countries providing support. After this, virgin territory will be located on which the new city can be built. Within 20 years, 500,000 residents will receive outside aid. During the first stage, some 10,000 houses will be built for 50,000 people.

 

According to the plan, the neighborhood built during the first stage will include residences in multi-storey buildings, nursery schools, municipal libraries, hospitals, health clinics, sports facilities, community centers for after-school activities, hotels along the beach, and commercial and industrial aspects as well.

  

"A dedicated international oversight mechanism will be established that will oversee the construction (to prevent corruption and blackmail by terrorist elements) on the one hand, and will ensure the preparation of a rehabilitation process, on the other hand," Ezra says.

 

"Representatives of the aid providers together with the international oversight mechanism will accompany and support the first stage from up close for five years and will cut off their involvement for the next five years."

 

After 10 years, the project will be handed over from the contractor, who will have maintained the project and paid manpower salaries, to the local government that by then, Ezra hopes, will become democratically stable.

 

Ezra sent a copy of the model to President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Opposition Chairwoman Tzipi Livni, Italian President Silvio Berlusconi, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordanian King Abdullah, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and German President Angela Merkel. Livni's office indicated that he could send the proposal to US President Barack Obama, and this is just what Ezra did.

 

The response letter, signed by Obama, said the US president supports the diplomatic effort to promote peace in the region because achieving long-term security and peace is critical not just to Israel and the Palestinians, but also to their neighborhoods and the US. The letter noted that continued lack of stability in the Middle East makes everyone less secure, and expressed support for the two-state solution.

 

"The Italian Embassy invited me more than once for talks," Ezra adds. "I am presenting the model to many Arabs, Israelis, and architects from countries around the world. Until now, I have received only positive reviews and desire for cooperation."

 

Ezra says his initiative is prompted by his desire to see his children growing up in a peaceful place.

 

"I truly believe that it can happen if they have a place of their own, if they have money, cars, their own tourism. We don't need to fight all the time. We also need to know how to work together," he says.  

 

 

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