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Could Israel’s ‘Good Neighbor’ Policy Work for the Migrant Caravans?

Amid the controversy of President Trump ordering 5,200 active-duty soldiers to deploy to the United States’ southern border, tension has once again peaked politically. The Trump administration’s decision has come as a caravan of over 3,000 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala begins arriving at the Mexican-American border to claim asylum. Democrats have been quick to highlight images of women and children among the caravan, and have echoed the claims that the caravan is composed of families fleeing violence and poverty that must be offered entry into the United States. Meanwhile, Republicans have taken a hard stance against the thousands of unknown individuals, arguing that national security must be our nation’s primary consideration and that the caravan should be unreluctantly turned away. Once again, this country is seemingly at yet another impasse.

Little attention has been paid though to a small country several thousand miles away that seems to face a similar dilemma: Israel.

A country of only 8.7 million people with an area just smaller than the size of New Hampshire, Israel is the only industrialized country adjacent to Syria amidst their civil war. Having been involved in eight wars, two intifadas, and a series of armed conflicts in the country’s 70-year history, Israel is all too aware of the risks associated with bringing in unknown refugees. As thousands of Syrians continue to flee to their northern Golan Heights border, Israel has to decide how it is going to respond.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it perspicuously clear that Israel would not open its northern border, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began providing tents, food, clothing, medicine, and humanitarian aid to the refugees as they amassed at the border, a mission they termed “Good Neighbor.” Further, as sick and injured Syrians approach the border for medical aid, after being screened by the IDF, the individuals are taken via Israeli ambulances to nearby hospitals for medical treatment and hospitalization before being returned to the border. Lastly, following the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israel and Syria signed the "Agreement on Disengagement,” which created a demilitarized zone between the two countries in which the refugees are now dwelling. Israel has made it categorically clear that any attack on the demilitarized zone would be militantly reciprocated, and Israel has moved tanks, artillery cannons, and troops to their northern border accordingly. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has yet to violate the decades-old agreement, and a degree of military protection is thus additionally offered to the refugees.

The question is how applicable, or even humane, such a model is for the United States.

After all, Israel is 446 times smaller than America, and the U.S. is arguably far better equipped with vastly more resources to absorb refugees. Further, Israel is a nation constantly at war and lives in fear of bus-bombings, kidnappings, and intifadas. While fingers can be pointed at the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and at 9/11, the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks committed domestically in the United States are done so by those legally residing in the country.