Prevent Hamas Re-Arming Before Investing in Gaza
Will the reconstruction of Gaza also mean a serious effort to prevent the re-arming of Hamas? One without the other is folly.
And yet the international donor community seems to discount the imperative of seeking the prevention of Hamas re-arming before turning over piles of cash.
At the recent Cairo conference on rebuilding Gaza, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged more than $200 million in additional U.S. aid to help the Palestinians. Conference attendees pledged a total of $5.4 billion in aid, with about half specifically set aside to rebuild Gaza.
The money comes with seemingly few strings attached. Not even the most basic concessions were secured from the Palestinian Authority, such as a demand that it stop Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel or even a commitment to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Hamas, which runs Gaza, is designated by the United States, the European Union, Israel and a few other nations as a terrorist organization. The Hamas charter still calls for Israel’s destruction. Are these the people to be entrusted with billions in rebuilding aid?
On a per capita comparison, Palestinians are near the top of the list in terms of receiving international aid. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Since 2007, the Gaza Strip has been under the control of Hamas. The aid pledged in 2014 in Gaza looks suspiciously like previous aid efforts.
Nearly seven years ago in Paris, a broad international coalition pledged more than $7 billion to the Palestinian Authority. As with other aid commitments, too little made its way to ordinary Palestinians. Instead, funds were misdirected and misused.
When Israel withdrew from Gaza, it left behind a working infrastructure to help give the new leadership a leg up on establishing self-sufficiency. This included commercial greenhouses—which produced a variety of produce and employed many local Palestinians—that were quickly “repurposed.” The materials were looted, some of which were used to build rocket launchers and terror tunnels.
A month ago, the European Union floated an idea for monitors to watch goods coming into Gaza, particularly materials like cement, which can be used for tunnels and other elements of a terrorist infrastructure. But in 2006, EU monitors assigned to supervise crossings fled at the first sign of trouble, not unlike the recent flight of U.N. peacekeepers from the Golan Heights, fleeing jihadist elements. Would new monitors fare any better? Without such oversight, it will be impossible to ensure aid is going to help the Palestinian people create an economically viable society and not the perpetuation of the terror-based hold that Hamas imposes on Gaza today.
It is reported that Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar noted after the conclusion of this summer’s violence that the terror group’s goal is to expand to the West Bank “the Gaza example of resistance.” These are the people the international community wants to provide money to rebuild Gaza?
The very act of committing such funds serves as another reminder of global myopia when it comes to Israel. The Jewish state is held to a singular standard on almost every issue affecting the conflict, while the rest of the world lives by other rules. Israel is routinely castigated for attempting to defend itself, however restrained and conscientious its approach, whereas no other country in a comparable predicament would ever have to endure such criticism. The Cairo conference is another example of the international community turning a blind eye to the regional threat posed by Hamas.
If Western leaders now wringing their hands over this situation don’t want to endlessly pledge funds to rebuild Gaza, they should be serious about preventing the re-arming of Hamas. Otherwise, the aid dollars won’t advance the peace process, and in fact, will set it back by ultimately allowing Hamas to acquire more rockets and weapons to fulfill its aim to destroy Israel.
The Cairo meeting on rebuilding Gaza also included not so subtle finger pointing at Israel.
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon himself told attendees: “Yet we must not lose sight of the root causes of the recent hostilities: a restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations.””Ž
There are some curious omissions in such a statement. Ban doesn’t focus on Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza or how Gaza has fared under its own chosen leadership. Ban gives no credit to Israel’s ongoing willingness to negotiate with the Palestinians. And he fails to condemn years-long Palestinian intransigence when it comes to bilateral negotiations.
Even as the Cairo conference was under way, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas continued his call on the United Nations to circumvent the negotiation process entirely and enforce an imposed agreement on his terms only.
The donors at the Cairo conference have their priorities confused. Without a serious plan to prevent the re-arming of Hamas, the conference will stand as yet another example of throwing good money after bad.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is the executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International. As the organization’s top executive officer, Mariaschin directs and supervises B’nai B’rith programs, activities and staff around the world.