At first it sounds like pure fantasy, an impossible dream from another world, but it’s been alive for so many years that it demands a hearing. The idea is that the poor, woebegone Gaza Strip should recreate itself as an Arab version of rich, dynamic Singapore.
And the same notion goes further. This new Gaza would be good for everyone. The 1.8-million Gaza citizens would have no need to fight Israel — in fact, they would trade with the Israelis, their nearest neighbours. They would stop building tunnels for smugglers below its border to Egypt and do business with that country, too. The economy of the whole Middle East would spring to life under the stimulus of a sovereign state dedicated like Singapore to trade. The people of Gaza would be able to think about their future and answer the question The New York Times mentioned on Wednesday when it reported, “Gaza seems at a loss for what might be next.” Best of all, Gaza would happily face a labour shortage rather than having a quarter of its workers unemployed.
Would it be costly to organize? Yes. It would need a seaport, an airport, a stock exchange and a district full of warehouses. But all that can be managed. At a donor conference in Cairo two years ago, various nations pledged $5.4 billion to help rebuild the community.
Over the last three decades many have explored and publicized this bright idea: copy the pattern of a once forlorn little place like Singapore and make it work in a new setting. Thomas Friedman in the Times has written favourably about this possibility so often that it’s beginning to look like his specialty.