The trouble with Gaza repairs
Germany’s foreign minister was in Gaza the other day, surveying the miserable conditions there, including the lack of repair to the thousands of homes and other buildings damaged or destroyed during the Gaza War last summer – Operation Protective Edge, as it is formally called by Israel.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German diplomat, was one of a steady stream of Western representatives who have trudged through the Hamas-controlled enclave since the end of major hostilities last year. He said the success of repairs to Gaza requires that Israel open the borders to the free flow of materials required for the project – and he’s right.
But, he also made the case very clearly that Israel cannot be expected to live up to that part of the bargain as long as missiles keep falling into Israel from Gaza-based terrorists. And, of course, he was right again.
While much of the world seems to think that Israel’s policies toward Gaza are spite-motivated efforts to drive the residents of that place into despair, they are actually founded on legitimate defence requirements. Materials intended for civil reconstruction in Gaza – not just since last year, but since Hamas seized the Strip and even before – have been misappropriated and turned into weaponry, tunnels and other infrastructures for further terrorism. Steinmeier, however, is one of too few among world leaders who recognize, or at least publicly acknowledge, this reality.
After Operation Protective Edge, nations gathered in Cairo to pledge funds to restore the civilian infrastructure of Gaza. In sum, $5.4 billion was pledged by countries worldwide. However, a new report says that barely one-quarter of the pledges made in Cairo have been realized.
The Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA) released a report last week titled Charting a New Course: Overcoming the Stalemate in Gaza. It set out the results of the top seven donor countries and their record of delivering.
The most generous pledge – $1 billion – came from Qatar. The amount received to date from that country is $102 million.
The second-place European Union pledged $348 million and has handed over $141 million.
The United States comes closest to their pledge, having delivered $233 million on their $277 million pledge.
Oil-rich Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, which each pledged $200 million, have delivered nothing.
Turkey, whose leader has made grandstanding theatrics around Gaza a cornerstone of his country’s foreign policy, has likewise delivered not a dime of the $200 million pledged, according to the report.
Seventh-place Saudi Arabia, which pledged $500 million, has given just $48.5 million.
In their defence, the idea of throwing good money after bad in Gaza could reasonably lead donor countries to hesitate. There has been precious little evidence that funds flowing into Gaza will be applied to the projects for which they are intended rather than being used by Hamas warlords to strengthen their own fiefdoms or launch new assaults against Israel (not that the latter concerns some of the donor states).
However, while some voices, like the new United Nations Middle East peace envoy Nickolay Mladenov, acknowledge that the Gaza terror regime needs to lay down its arms, he and others most vocally blame Israel’s blockade for all the problems facing the people of Gaza.
The AIDA report, for example, outlines actions deemed necessary to alleviate the misery of Palestinians in Gaza that seem to recognize that there is plenty of blame and room for improvement all around. But at the top of the list were things Israel needed to do, such as “lift the blockade and open all crossings into and out of Gaza” and “allow free movement of Palestinians across the occupied Palestinian territory,” as if there were no legitimate security concerns behind the unfortunate policies that prevent the free movement of people and goods in and out of Gaza.
The first step to resolving a problem is acknowledging its root. There are numerous reasons why the people of Gaza continue to suffer, and Israel’s policies are among them. But they are neither alone among the reasons nor the lynchpin upon which resolving the problem rests.