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U.S. Looks to Rebuild Gaza, but Aid Could Hinge on Hamas’s Rocket Arsenal

A Brookings Institution analysis concluded in 2017 that the reconstruction effort largely failed because of intractable political opposition to Hamas — not only from Israel, but also from Egypt, which opposes the militants’ ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Restricted access to Gaza — as enforced by Egypt and an Israeli blockade — limited building supplies, humanitarian assistance and other equipment to the area, the analysis concluded. That fueled already-simmering tensions between Hamas and its political rivals in the Palestinian Authority, whom Egypt was pressuring to take over security operations in Gaza as a way to open access.

At the same time, the analysis found, international donors were slow to send money they had committed to the 2014 rebuilding effort in Gaza. The vast majority of donations that were unfulfilled, three years after the cease-fire, had been pledged by Arab states in the Persian Gulf that also opposed Hamas’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood has renounced violence but has some links to extremist groups. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by both Israel and the United States.

Taken together, Gaza’s reconstruction fell flat, confining residents to temporary housing amid soaring unemployment and diminished services in electricity, clean water and waste management.

Mr. Ross said that the earlier efforts to rebuild Gaza had largely failed and that any future monitoring system, potentially by the United Nations, would need to be an effective, round-the-clock endeavor that would halt reconstruction if Hamas was found to be storing, building or preparing to launch rockets.

“The issue is massive reconstruction for no rockets,” Mr. Ross said. “There has to be enough oversight of this process to know that it’s working the way it’s intended. And the minute you see irregularities, everything stops.”

He said that would not necessarily mean a complete disarming of Hamas, and that some immediate humanitarian aid should be delivered to Gaza. But, Mr. Ross said, the offer for broader reconstruction assistance should be made publicly to assure donors of consequences if Hamas resumes its rocket program. He predicted Hamas would, at least in the beginning, agree to some sort of arrangement. “Right now, the needs are so profound that they will go along with something,” Mr. Ross said.

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