Just the last 24 hours have seen another 10 IDF soldiers killed as well as another 100 Palestinians: though that last number is no more than an estimate. Over 2,300 rockets and mortars have been launched by the Palestinians into Israel since July 7th, marking the second escalation of the crisis which began when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped in mid-July and barbarously murdered. The initial escalation was the Israeli Operation Brother’s Keeper: a nation-wide “sweep and clear” operation that had the dual purpose of searching for the missing children while also rounding up “the usual Hamas suspects” even though Hamas denied all responsibility for the triple kidnapping and murder. Already during Brother’s Keeper, 10 more Palestinians were killed in clashes and up to 600 arrested, including much of Hamas’ leadership.
World opinion was initially wholly favorable towards Israel. Three innocent boys kidnapped and murdered and the search to find them, and then their killers, was basically uncontroversial outside of the Arab world. The situation deteriorated quickly for the Israeli position after that: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that Hamas was the guilty party despite a lack of evidence – indeed in the face of circumstantial evidence to the contrary – made the Israeli escalation into air strikes seem more aimed at breaking down the recent Hamas-Fatah agreement than in getting at the killers of the three teens. From there, the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict took over and all the rest has been playing out without regard to first causes or proportionality.
This is the same conflict that has been going on for 60 years, which is why the current bout of bloodshed is proving so difficult to stop. After all, what is really the end game? The only realistic outcome is a status quo ante: it’s not like the Palestinians are going to fundamentally change their political alignments because of the ground and air assault, quite the opposite outcome is likely. The Israelis are no doubt hoping to destroy a goodly portion of Hamas’ offensive rocket capability, both through destruction and attrition. Yet Israel proved incapable of interdicting Hamas supply lines after the failure of Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.
Israel is constrained by the facts on the ground: they cannot occupy Gaza, because it would be an enormous financial and manpower drain that the country could not afford. They cannot get rid of Hamas; the Palestinians will support them all the more for the punishment inflicted by Israel. They cannot interdict the supply lines of rockets and other munitions into Gaza; or at least, they have been unable to do so in the past. Why then continue to degrade public support, which is not yet wholly against the Israeli position but turning more so, for minimal security gains which can be made good by Hamas in a few months?
The Palestinian Box
The fact is that Israel is locked into the Palestinian Box, and it cannot get out. So, of course, are the Palestinians. The Box exists because the nature of the problem is insoluble given what is currently acceptable to both parties. Three basic solutions have been proposed:
- One-state solution: This is “Greater Israel” that incorporates Gaza and the West Bank, though not Sinai or the Golan. Within Greater Israel, Palestinians would become Israeli citizens rather than having their own state, and would enjoy all the rights and privileges of Israeli citizenship. The one-state solution could be unitary or binational, referring to whether the Palestinian and Israeli citizens would share a common set of institutions (unitary) or essentially have two parallel governments within a single state (binational).
- Outlook: Both sides reject this solution, more or less categorically. The Israelis certainly have Arab and Christian minorities in their country who enjoy full citizenship, but accepting another 4.4 million Palestinians in addition to the 1.7 million who already live in Israel, whose Jewish population is only 6.4 million, would be an unacceptable relinquishment of political leadership from the Jewish to the Palestinian Muslim inhabitants. That is without taking into account the demands of the other 6.7 million Palestinians living outside of either Israel or the Palestinian Authority Areas who would demand a “right of return” as part of such a solution.The Palestinians reject this solution because they want their own sovereign state, not citizenship in the Jewish state. Furthermore, they would not be willing to be second-class citizens with limited rights in a one-state solution, which is the only way that the Israelis could guarantee the continuing Jewish nature of their country (and not even then realistically).
- Two-state solution: Israel returns to its pre-1967 borders while recognizing a sovereign Palestinian state that is divided between Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians would for their part recognize the right of Israel to exist, acknowledge the negotiated borders, renounce all past claims on Israeli territory or the “right of return” and acquire some degree of free transit and shipping rights between the two halves of their divided country.
- Outlook: This is the preferred solution for everyone who doesn’t actually have to live under this arrangement. Leaving aside the sticking point of the shared capital, Jerusalem, this “logical” arrangement makes no practical sense anywhere except on a map.A divided Palestinian state would not prove politically stable or economically viable without a degree of access to the Israeli economy that would make the claims of Palestinian sovereignty ring hollow. The transit rights and amount of traffic between the Palestinian halves would prove a security nightmare for the Israelis, at a minimum; or else it would be so limited and so tedious as to kill any possibility of real economic integration for the Palestinian state.
Any Palestinian military whatsoever would prove to be an existential threat to the Israelis to a far greater degree than that of any of their other neighbors: Lebanon is too small, Syria has the Golan Heights, Jordan has the River Jordan and a small population, and Egypt is separated by the Sinai. There is nothing more between the main population centers of Israel and a future Palestinian state than 500 meters. For the Israelis to feel secure, the Palestinians would either have to renounce a military completely or accept a degree of Israeli supervision and intervention in their military that would again turn them into nothing more than a client state.
- Three-state solution: This is the basis of Egyptian peace proposals. It would involve Israel maintaining its pre-1967 borders, Jordan absorbing the West Bank and Egypt absorbing Gaza. There would be no sharing of Jerusalem; it would remain exclusively the Israeli capital.
- Outlook: This option is being mentioned more favorably with greater frequency, though it has problems. It would be relatively favorable to Israel; there would be no independent Palestinian state to worry about and hence no need to bother about transit corridors and similar problems of the two-state solution. It would also be relatively easy to guarantee that the state of Israel maintained strategic depth as any settlement with Egypt and Jordan could easily include prohibitions on the stationing of military forces in Gaza or the West Bank, just such agreements already exist with respect to Sinai. Any serious build-up could be detected long in advance of it becoming a threat.The Palestinians are less keen on this solution for the obvious reason that they remain without a homeland and are denied sovereignty. The people of Gaza would be but a drop in the sea of 80 million Egyptians, while the people of the West Bank would join another 3.2 million Palestinians in Jordan to actually form a majority of the population. Which raises another key objection: it is questionable whether the Hashemite dynasty is keen on becoming a minority in its own country, however much they would like to support the Palestinian cause.
This option nevertheless seems the most feasible of the three in the short-term.
That brings us to Israel’s other big existential problem: the solutions are short-term, but it faces big problems long-term. Israel remains a very small country among very big, and potentially hostile neighbors. Today, Israel enjoys a degree of military and economic superiority over potential adversaries that have brought it a historically unparalleled degree of security for the Jewish state. The Israeli Air Force is unchallenged, the IDF remains pre-eminent among ground forces, the Mossad still inspires fear and respect (…there is no Mossad…), Israeli technology has produced the hugely successful Iron Dome, and there is always the undeclared but still widely acknowledged nuclear deterrent.
Unfortunately, it is never going to get any better than it is now for Israel. It is true that Israel has peace treaties with all of its neighbors barring the Syrians (and even here there is a peaceful modus vivendi): but the events in Egypt prove how fragile those accords are. A well-entrenched Muslim Brotherhood might renege on the Camp David Accords and re-occupy the Sinai. King Hussein of Jordan, a moderate and a statesman, might nevertheless be toppled by radical forces in his country. Who knows what might come out of the mess in Syria. Israel could be surrounded by a ring of steel in a matter of months or even weeks.
Israel’s population is unlikely to grow any faster than it is now, which is considerably slower than the growth rate of its Arab neighbors. Indeed, the Jewish population growth rate is slower than that of the Arab Israelis, which raises another long-term question for the Jewish State. That also means that the economy – intimately tied to the absolute population – is also unlikely to grow much faster, whereas the Arabs have vast potential for improvement. Nor is an alliance between a Russia seeking outlets for its advanced weaponry and a suddenly hostile coalition of Arab states with financial backing from, say, Saudi Arabia out of the question. Israel’s military superiority was already brought into question by failure of IDF ground forces to secure a decisive victory over Hezbollah in the 2006 conflict in Lebanon.
Is there any hope of solving this intractable mess? Perhaps there is, though it requires thinking outside of the “Box” to consider what would usually be highly distasteful solutions.
A Unique Moment in History?
Let us first acknowledge that many of the problems besetting the Middle East today are directly attributable to the failures of the European powers after the First World War to take into account any of the ethnic, tribal or religious factors on the ground in their division of the spoils of the defeated Ottoman Empire. Famously – or infamously – two bureaucrats drew up the lines of demarcation which would separate the British and French spheres of influence. Mr. Sykes of the British Foreign Office and Mr. Picot, a French diplomat, had signed this secret agreement which included spheres for Imperial Russia and Italy as well. The disclosure of the contents of the Sykes-Picot Treaty by the Bolsheviks in 1917 caused an enormous uproar, especially among Britain’s Arab allies who, justifiably enough, felt betrayed.
The British rushed to placate their Arab allies, especially their chief ally of the 1916 Arab Revolt, Hashemite Sharif Hussein bin Ali. His son Faisal had proclaimed himself King of Syria when Damascus fell to his forces. The British forced him to give up Syria to the French, but compensated him with Iraq, despite the fact that “Iraq” was actually composed of three not necessarily related Ottoman provinces. Another son, Abdullah, was granted the Kingdom of Transjordan and his descendants still rule, a territory which had never previously existed as a state in any form. It was not all gain for the Hashemites: in 1925, another British client, Ibn Saud of Nejd, invaded their tribal homeland of Hejaz and conquered it, declaring himself King of Saudi Arabia in the process. The British connived in this territorial swap, perhaps because Hussein bin Ali himself had already died and they felt less obligation towards his son.
Meanwhile, the British had also made promises to the leaders of the Zionist movement, who were attempting to create a new Jewish homeland for their scattered people. Once the Ottoman Empire entered the war on the side of the Central Powers, the British and the Zionist saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. It is perhaps important that the Zionist movement was strongly supported by the Rothschilds, who were the pre-eminent European banking family at the time. Alfred Baron de Rothschilds was an active Zionist in Britain, deeply involved in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and a key element in Britain’s financing of the war effort.
The French were not exactly gentle in their “liberation” of Syria and Lebanon, which required French troops to put down a local Arab revolt when it was learned that the new League of Nations had confirmed the French mandate rather than the self-proclaimed Kingdom of Syria. Yet the French were not completely blind to the differences in the population they were determined to rule and set about dividing Greater Syrian into smaller sub-divisions that took these religious and ethnic differences into account. The French mandate was thus divided into 5 states: Greater Lebanon (predominantly Christian), Alawite State (predominantly Alawite Shia), State of Damascus (predominantly Sunni Arab), Jabal Druze (predominantly Druze) and State of Aleppo (predominantly Sunni, but including Arabs, Kurds and Turks in different regions). The State of Aleppo eventually lost control of mostly Turkish Alexandretta (modern Hatay) which was eventually reincorporated into the Republic of Turkey.
If we thus accept that the current national frontiers are historical anachronisms, it is possible to not see them as something fixed and permanent, an obstacle to a more stable Middle East.
The second realization is that Syria and Lebanon are already essentially failed states, the former wracked by a nightmarish civil war and the latter held together only by the most fragile balance of power, but suffering from chronic instability and violence. Thus, we are living through a unique moment in history, a situation so fluid that we can propose and rationally discuss a proposal that would be anathema under most other circumstances:
- The Four-State Solution: A proposal to provide a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian Civil War and the chronic instability of Lebanon through the creation of a new Alawite state in Syria, cessation of territory from Lebanon to Syria and large-scale population transfers on predominantly ethnic and confessional lines.
The specific territorial changes would be as follows:
- The minority Alawites, led by Bashar al Assad, would form a new state conforming to the current Syrian border with Turkey, running down the Jabal an Nusayriyah mountains and terminating at the current Lebanese border. It would include the current Syrian governates of Latakia and Tartus, as well as the districts of Al-Suqaylabiyah, Masyaf, Muhardeh, Talkalakh and the part of the Homs District west and north of the city;
- The now predominantly Sunni state of Syria would retain its current borders, but would receive the “Northern Corridor” of Akkar-Minieh Dinnieh-Tripoli from Lebanon as an outlet to the sea, with Tripoli as the main port;
- Israel would give the Golan Heights to Lebanon, returning to the pre-1967 borders in that area. The new Syrian state would cede all claims over the Golan to Lebanon in compensation for the “Northern Corridor” to the Mediterranean, and would recognize Israel’s right to exist and sign a definitive peace agreement with them. The Lebanese Golan, resettled by Syrian Christians, would now act as a buffer between Israel and Syria.
These territorial changes would be followed by large-scale population movements:
- The Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank would be resettled in Syria. This would Involve the resettlement of approximately 4.4 million people;
- The Christians in Syria – heavily concentrated in the new Alawite state – would be resettled in the predominantly Shia lands of Southern Lebanon and the Bekaa Valley, while the displaced Lebanese Shia would join their coreligionists in the new Shia Alawite state. This would involve the resettlement of approximately 1.8 million Syrian Christians and 2.0 million Lebanese Shiites;
- The Lebanese provinces of Akkar, Minieh Dinnieh and Tripoli are already pre-dominantly Sunni Arab, so their transfer to Syria would involve minimal displacements.
Most readers will already be thinking that I’ve finally gone off my rocker, to casually talk about the displacement and relocation of more than 8 million people. That would normally be true; but again, we are living in a unique moment of history. There are already more than 7 million Syrian refugees from the civil war. All of those people will have to be relocated with massive international support, because for the most part their homes, businesses and belongings are already destroyed. Furthermore, what is Gaza, but a massive Palestinian refugee camp? Many of the populations I suggest relocating are already in a state of flux; the others, such as the Syrian Christians and the Lebanese Shiites and Alawites, will have to be convinced that their futures are brighter in a national state that conforms to their ethnic and religious beliefs.
This plan, like every plan, produces winners and losers. The winners:
- Israel, which finally extirpates the cancer of an internal Palestinian problem while at the same time keeping Gaza and the West Bank for Israeli settlement. This is necessary to provide Israel with the strategic depth that is the only way it will agree to any solution;
- The Syrian Alawites, who have lost control of Syria and who are facing severe retribution from the majority Sunni population should they lose the civil war. An Alawite state is the best guarantee of future security for themselves;
- The Lebanese and Syrian Christians, who will no longer be a minority in a Middle Eastern country for the first time since the crusades, and whose small state will be able to become an economic powerhouse through enhanced political and social stability, close economic links with Israel and improved relations with all of their neighbors;
- The Sunni Syrian people, who will no longer be under the rule of an oppressive minority Alawite government and who could finally develop their rich cultural heritage and economic opportunities. What they lose in terms of the Latakia and Tartus coast must be compensated with Tripoli and the Sunni corridor through northern Lebanon in order to avoid future crises involving a Syrian “drive to the sea”. Lebanon has other ports it can use for its economic well-being;
- The Palestinian people who, except for their shared history of suffering as Palestinians, are a Levantine Arab people indistinguishable from the Lebanese and Syrians. They will have no problem “blending in” and given that they are a well-educated, industrious and culturally advanced people, they will undoubtedly prosper in creating a Syria greater than it was before and greater than any two-state Palestine could hope to be. Syria will desperately need their talents and their industry to rebuild after the utter ruin of the Civil War.
- Hamas and Fatah are not going to be happy because they will cease to be significant if the Palestinians are absorbed into a Greater Syria. They will continue to exist, at least for a while, but they will be merely two parties amongst many in the new political landscape. There is no guarantee that Palestinians will be lumped together when they get to Syria – in fact, that should be avoided through careful management – and the “Palestinians” will quickly find that local issues will erode their “national identity”. This loss of power may be unacceptable to them, despite the fact that any final solution would tend to diminish their power, since their political identity is almost entirely framed by the conflict with Israel;
- Hezbollah might also object to losing control over Southern Lebanon, which is practically an autonomous Shiite province. Hezbollah faces a similar situation to Hamas and Fatah: they are defined by their conflict with Israel; if they move to the new Alawite state, they will be only one more Shiite political party, rather than the kingmakers they currently are in Lebanon.
- Sunni extremists everywhere. These carrion-eaters survive in the shadows and feed off of the hate and fear engendered by war, repression and bloodshed. Anything that offers peace, economic progress and the possibility of co-existence would be a stake in the heart of their chances to create a new radical Caliphate. Even in a confessional Sunni state like the new Syria I propose, they would shrivel and die, rejected by the majority of the people who only long for jobs, schools and a chance to see their children grow into adulthood.
Of course this is not a complete list. For the sake of brevity, I will leave out the probable stance of major external actors like Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, the US, the EU and Russia. Perhaps I will treat them in a second article if there is sufficient interest.
How to turn a War Crime into a Peace Treaty
Normally I would find confessional states to be a repugnant throwback to medievalism; but let’s face the facts. The history of the Middle East since the end of the Cold War is not a shining example of religious tolerance. Multi-ethnic and multi-confessional states, like Syria, Egypt and Iraq, have only been stable so long as there has been a strongman in power. Remove the strongman, and the countries break apart across those precise divisions that have been papered over. I suggest that stability, peace and economic prosperity can best be achieved in the Middle East by aligning borders along ethnic and confessional lines. Once peace and prosperity have been achieved; then those states can experience their own Enlightenment, democratization and humanism. We’ve been trying to do it the other way around, putting the cart before the horse and the result has been chaos.
Mass population movements is not so atypical a solution either. Modern Europe is the creation of the mass displacements of the Second World War. There is no longer a “German question” because there are no longer any Germans in the Czech Sudetenland or in the “Polish Corridor”. There are very few Poles in what was the Soviet Union, today Belarus and Ukraine. Italians in the former Yugoslavia? Not so many. Modern Greece and modern Turkey were formed by forced population transfers throughout the 1920’s that were calamitous because of the poverty and hostility of the two states involved. Similarly, there were mass displacements in the Yugoslav Civil War of the 1990’s. When done at gunpoint, it is called ethnic cleansing, and it is a crime against humanity. I am proposing a solution which comes very close to being a crime against humanity, I realize; but if handled properly through the auspices of the United Nations and with international supervision and financial support, it need not be.
The main precondition of success is that all parties agree to the solution. By that, I mean all parties: including regional powers, international organizations and the UN Security Council. This will have to be sanctioned by the international community, and it will take money, lots of money. It should all be run out of the United Nations with major chunks outsourced to the Arab League and other reputable NGO’s like the Red Crescent, Red Cross, and Medecins Sans Frontiers.
The first step would be to submit the proposal to a popular referendum in each country affected, with the possible exception of Syria. The precondition in Syria is that the armed combatants agree on a ceasefire first; then to come to the bargaining table with representatives from Lebanon, Hezbollah, the Palestinians and Israel.
The UN is going to have to provide a lot of blue helmets to make sure this is a peaceful and orderly process: thousands of peacekeepers, probably tens of thousands. They should not be American, British or French for starters. Egyptians and Pakistanis, Brazilians, Japanese and Italians: that’s more the ticket. There are today approximately 100,000 UN peacekeepers deployed along with 18,000 civilian personnel at a cost of $7.8 billion. Syria alone would probably require 50,000 peacekeepers and 10,000 civilians to administer, with additional requirements for Lebanon and the Palestinian territories (let’s assume and additional 10,000 blue berets and 4,000 civilians). So we can estimate the yearly cost of this operation at $4.9 billion. If we assume that it will take about a decade to do the job properly, the total budget for peacekeeping and administrative operations alone would be between $30 and $50 billion. That is still less than the total damage inflicted on Syria in the course of the civil war.
- There would need to be a UN Population Registry, to accurately and impartially collect the personal data of the millions of people who are about to be affected. This will be immensely challenging: not only because the aforementioned 7 million Syrian refugees won’t want to stay in camps a minute longer than necessary, but also because Lebanon hasn’t had a census survey since 1932, precisely to avoid tabulations of population that may upset the fragile balance of power in the country;
- There would need to be a UN Property Registry, to assess property claims and values, to act as an honest broker in the sale of aforementioned property where possible, and to adjudicate the proper compensation to displaced persons when prior sale of the property or business is not possible. In effect, these assets would have to be nationalized, compensation paid out by the government purchaser, and then re-privatized over time as economic conditions permit. The UN’s role would be to ensure, as much as possible, that people weren’t being fleeced simply because they were part of the relocation program;
- There would need to be a UN Relocation, Reconstruction and Resettlement Bureau that would take the information from the other two aforementioned agencies and turn that into a construction and relocation schedule. It’s going to be necessary to set one up in Syria anyway, given the scale of destruction there, but this bureau would have a greatly expanded remit to “optimize” the population distributions and try to match people and properties as much as possible. This Bureau’s task is probably the most important; if it succeeds, the population transfers could run like a train schedule. If it fails, it could be a calamitous human disaster of Biblical proportions.
This will, as I said, take lots and lots of money. The reconstruction of Syria alone will be on the order of $50 to $60 billion of dollars. The current cost per refugee per year is approximately $4,000, according to the Jordanian government. Assuming that the cost of the existing refugees is excluded from this program, as it is already being funded through a multitude of other sources, and assuming that each relocated person will bear the full year cost of “refugee” status, the relocation program would cost another $33 billion. Thus the costs of the Four-State Solution would be:
At $14 billion per year, that’s a lot of money. Also bear in mind that the costs would be front-loaded, so Year 1 and 2 of the operation might cost $30 billion each. Even so, to put this in perspective, $14 billion per year is equivalent to:
- One-tenth of Chinese “official” military expenditures for 2014;
- The 2014 appropriations request for the spectacularly unsuccessful F-35 Joint Strike Fighter;
- The estimated cost of hosting the 2014 World Cup in Brazil;
- Just 30% of the total cost of the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia.
Given the degree of world instability generated by instability in the Middle East and the Levant, it seems to me a wise and perfectly manageable investment. In other words, financing should not be the show stopper on a Four-State Solution.
Fortunately, the Sunnis have friends with deep pockets: the Saudis should very definitely make large contributions. The Alawite state does not have such generous friends, but Bahrain is not a poor country and Iran could be a rich country once again. As for the Palestinians, there will certainly be a good market for their properties, at least in the West Bank. The UN will have to make sure that prospective Israeli settlers do not strong-arm the departing Palestinians into accepting fire-sale prices; it can do this by fixing property prices based on recent historical valuations. Not the easiest process, but probably the least of all the headaches we are contemplating.
Bear in mind that the “Four-State Solution” could easily become the “Six-State Solution” if we wanted to provide a Kurdish homeland out of Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq; but that goes far beyond the scope of this article.
I fully recognize that this proposal might seem radical to the point of folly; that it utterly ignores the “rights and wrongs” of all sides to the various conflicts it is trying to solve. It has numerous and significant drawbacks, some of which I have outlined and others which I am perfectly sure numerous readers will – with a greater or lesser degree of acerbity – point out in a wealth of painful detail. Yet I offer it as a sincere attempt to resolve an otherwise insoluble problem. If we are going to break out of the “Gaza Box”, then a radical solution which ignore rights and wrongs and focuses on what just might work over the long-term is precisely what is called for.
Sources and Notes:
 “Gaza: Live Updates,” Haaretz, 29 July 2014
 Naftali Fraenkel (16), Gilad Shaer (16), and Eyal Yifrah (19)
 Peter Beaumont, “Hunt for missing Israeli boys stirs up familiar recriminations,” The Guardian, 26 June 2014
 The population of Jordan is estimated at 7.9 million, with 3.2 million Palestinians and 4.7 million “Jordanians”. Adding the 2.7 million Palestinians of the West Bank would give them a majority of 55%
 It is a debatable question who “won” or lost that war, but no one can argue that the IDF failed to destroy either the Hezbollah command structure or eliminate its capability for military action.
 The Russians never received an inch of territory because the Russian Revolution caused them to fall out of the war, and when the Bolsheviks came to power, they denounced all such capitalist-imperialist bargains. The Italians did get a protectorate over parts of Asia Minor, along with the Greeks, but both were eventually kicked out by the resurgent Turks under Mustapha Kemal.
 Played by Alec Guinness for those of you who love “Lawrence of Arabia”.
 The Basra, Baghdad and Mosul vilayets.
 Not necessarily in the Levant. At one point, a plan to give the Jews part of British East Africa was looked upon favorably and almost came to fruition.
 In which the British promised to create a Jewish homeland out of some unspecified liberated Ottoman territory.
United Nations Peacekeeping Factsheet, 31 May 2014
 “The Socioeconomic Roots and Impact of the Syrian Crisis,” Syrian Center for Policy Research (SCPR), reprinted from Al-Monitor on 13 February 2013. The study estimated cumulative losses for Syria through 22 months of conflict of $48.4 billion, of which about half was destruction of capital stock. Assuming the rate of capital stock destruction remains constant, that means the damage through the end of 2014 would approach $50 billion, much of it residential housing.
Nikita Malik, “The Cost of Syrian Refugees,” Sada – Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 19 September 2013