The argument that tackling poverty in Gaza will curb radicalization is faulty on many counts.
Voices inside and outside the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are advocating for a "Marshall Plan" – a massive international mobilization – for the improvement of Gaza's living conditions. They believe that an improved Gaza economy will reduce anti-Israel violence, whereas further economic deterioration in Gaza will accelerate the radicalization process resulting in elements more extreme than Hamas taking control.
This rationale is faulty on many counts.
First, the belief that poverty leads to terrorism is an unsubstantiated liberal myth. There has been no proven connection between one's standard of living and political violence and terrorism. Poor countries, such as India, produce little terrorism. When the Second Intifada began in the year 2000, the Palestinian economic situation was on the rise.
Second, the belief that greater affluence for Gazan civilians will bring moderation to the Hamas military leadership is naïve. Radical ideology and religious fervor are unlikely to be influenced by the wealth of unarmed civilians. In a dictatorship, it is the guys with the guns who call the shots. Middle East dictators are not afraid to kill their opponents.
There is no proven connection between standard of living and political violence & terrorism.
Third, massive economic aid for Gaza is synonymous with supporting Israel's bitter enemy, one which seeks Israel's destruction. Did the West ever consider granting economic aid to Islamic State (ISIS) for fear of greater radicalization?
We need not be concerned with the demise of Hamas rule. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. Radical Islam will only be defeated when enough Muslims realize that radicalism leads to suffering, not deliverance.
Fourth, a weakened Hamas is in Israel's interest. This is also the desire of Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA). A weak Hamas presents a weaker threat to Israel as well as to the PA. And a weakened Hamas will be also more susceptible to Egyptian pressure for curtailing assistance to Islamist insurgents in Sinai.
Massive economic aid for Gaza is synonymous with supporting Hamas.
Fifth, any strengthening of Hamas will come at the expense of the PA. Although neither are "real" partners for peace for Israel, the PA is nevertheless a less belligerent and more convenient partner for tense coexistence.
Sixth, Israel's struggle against the Iranian quest for hegemony in the Middle East will be undermined by an Israeli policy that preserves the Hamas regime.
After all, Hamas is in close cooperation with Tehran.
Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Sunni moderate camp detest the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. These countries fear Iranian encroachment. Better relations with these countries will not be served by a campaign to help Gaza.
Islamism will be defeated when enough Muslims realize that radicalism leads to suffering, not deliverance.
In short, aid to Hamas only strengthens the position of radical Islam throughout the Middle East.
The Marshall Plan concept is misguided and counterproductive. Israel should adhere to its longstanding approach of using sticks and carrots in the Palestinian arena; a policy that has scored impressive successes over the years, although the balance is always delicate and fraught with uncertainty. While Israel is not interested in a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, the suggestion to importune for a Marshall Plan clearly undercuts the advantageous equilibrium between punishment and incentive.
Efraim Inbar is president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, professor emeritus of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, and a Shillman-Ginsburg fellow at the Middle East Forum.