Council on Foreign Relations
by Elliott Abrams, December 23, 2014
At the end of last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas, all sorts of pledges were made about rebuilding Gaza. Hamas in particular claimed victory because it had broken the “siege of Gaza” and now all Gazans would benefit.
This was nonsense, and clearly so back then. It was obvious from previous experience that goods would not flow easily into Hamas-controlled territory, especially with Egypt smashing the network of smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Sinai.
What is the reality at year end? This is from the Saudi Gazette:
Two months after donors pledged $5.4 billion to help rebuild Gaza after the war between Israel and Hamas, Palestinian, UN and other officials say barely 2 percent of the money has been transferred. The conference in Cairo had been hailed as a success, with Qatar promising $1 billion, Saudi Arabia $500 million and the United States and the European Union a combined $780 million in various forms of assistance. Half was expected to go to rebuilding houses and infrastructure in Gaza destroyed during seven weeks of fighting, and the rest to support the Palestinian budget. But of the total, only $100 million or so has been received, according to UN and other officials. While the EU and the United States have accelerated some funding that was already in the pipeline, very few new pledges have come to fruition.
Who is to blame? Donors who have not met their pledges, to start.
Then add the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, fighting over power and uninterested in the actual welfare of the people of Gaza. This is from Politico:
The Gazan population is growing increasingly agitated as conditions in the territory worsen, and all because of the continued standoff between Hamas and Fatah over Palestinian reconciliation. This was the deal that ended the fighting in late August — reconciliation as a precondition to reconstruction — and the deal that all the relevant parties — Hamas, Israel, the PA, Egypt, as well as the United Nations — ostensibly agreed to. Seven years of Hamas control over Gaza would be gradually replaced by the Fatah-dominated PA, billions of dollars in donor aid would flow in, and the Gazan people would be liberated from the continued rule of an internationally-designated terrorist organization (and the continued need for an Israeli and Egyptian blockade around the territory). Or at least that was the idea. But all these plans are on hold as Hamas and the PA engage in a game of political chicken, staring each other down….
Who is not to blame? Israel, it seems. More from Politico:
Perhaps even more surprising is that Israel, of all the parties involved, has shown the greatest degree of flexibility towards a Gaza Strip still ruled by Hamas. In addition to acquiescing to the salary payments, Israel has begun easing restrictions on construction materials and other goods entering the territory, and on certain products (fish, cucumbers) and people exiting. Israel has given its consent to an elaborate UN-led inspection mechanism for reconstruction, which as mentioned has not yet begun in earnest due to the lack of a PA presence on the ground. “I can’t say that it’s because of Israel that there has been no movement [on reconstruction] at present,” the senior UN official said, a sentiment shared by several other foreign diplomats I spoke to in Jerusalem.
Actually this should not be “surprising” to anyone. Israel has no interest in immiserating the people of Gaza, but solely in protecting its own security.
A final note: how much credit has Israel gotten for this? None, as was predictable. There are many newspaper stories about the awful situation in Gaza, but very few point out what Politico did: that Israel is playing a positive and humane role in Gaza reconstruction, while the top Palestinian “leaders” in both the PA and Hamas jockey for money, power, and advantage and don’t seem to care much about the people they claim to represent. And as the Europeans debate BDS resolutions and recognition of a Palestinian state, the actual facts about Gaza never even cross their minds. For all too many politicians in Europe, Palestine and Palestinians aren’t a real cause anyway: their real motivation is to attack Israel. Facts that get in the way are easily ignored.