As Israel continues to pound Gaza to powder, the unpleasant prospect of what will happen to the tens of thousands of Palestinians who are being made homeless by Israel’s campaign to annihilate Hamas is being considered.
Where will they go?
The obvious destination is next-door Egypt. But Egypt doesn’t want the Israeli-Palestinian problem to become a three-way mess. The Palestinians will not stop carrying out terrorist attacks against Israel just because they’re not in Gaza. Plus, the Palestinians would pose an internal threat to the Egyptian government, given their history of being invited “guests” in Jordan and elsewhere.
So Egypt is likely to politely decline the honor of hosting more than a handful of Palestinians. The same holds true for Syria and Lebanon, which already have Palestinian refugee camps that cause a lot of problems for host governments. Jordan has already had the pleasure of hosting Palestinians, which led to a civil war and the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan into Lebanon.
The Gulf States? Saudi Arabia is beginning to value its commercial ties with Israel more than the future of the troublesome Palestinians. The smaller Gulf states — the Emirates, Qatar, Qatar — won’t accept refugees from anywhere.
That leaves Europe. And the attitude toward accepting refugees has much changed from a decade ago when Germany alone accepted nearly a million migrants from North Africa and Libya.
At a European Union summit in Brussels last week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban warned, without citing specific evidence, that instability in Israel and Egypt would “immediately” send people fleeing to Europe. He also sought to link all migration to terrorism, saying “those who support migration also support terrorism.”
Though some E.U. leaders and officials bristle at Orban’s tone, Hungary is not a total outlier. Politicians from Poland to Italy to Germany have stressed that the violence in Israel and Gaza necessitates an ever-greater focus on closed doors. Fear of besieged Palestinians escaping to Egypt seems to have added fresh momentum to a European Commission proposal to pay Egypt to keep migrants away from the E.U.
Paying Egypt to keep the Palestinians virtually locked up smacks of desperation on the part of the Europeans. But they’re already familiar with where their good intentions led them in 2015: a spike in crime, terror attacks in France and elsewhere, and a generational problem of trying to assimilate two million refugees.
When Israel began its aerial counterstrikes against Hamas terror infrastructure in the northern Gaza Strip last month, the IDF suggested that Palestininans there head for the border with Egypt, prompting Cairo to leak warnings to reporters about an imminent “Palestinian exodus.”
That has not happened, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has told Italy’s Giorgia Meloni that Israel is not looking for a repeat of Dresden — the German city heavily damaged by British and American aerial bombardment in World War II. But there are estimates that some 300,000 Gazans could still want to flee the Strip.
Deciding where to put 300,000 refugees will occupy the energies of Europe and the U.S. for the next few years. Let’s hope someone tells Biden to keep his hand down when they ask for volunteers to accept Palestinian refugees.