Six months later, Gaza has little hope of recovering from last summer’s war, reports the Washington Post:
Reconstruction of the tens of thousands homes damaged and destroyed in the hostilities has barely begun, almost six months after the cease-fire. At current rates, it will take decades to rebuild what was destroyed.
The economy is in deep recession; pledges of billions in aid have not been honored; and the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the enclave, refuses to loosen its grip and is preparing again for war.Diplomats, aid workers and residents warn of a looming humanitarian crisis and escalation of violence.“After every war, we say it cannot get worse, but I will say this time is the worst ever,” said Omar Shaban, a respected Gaza economist. “There is no sign of life. Trade. Import. Export. Reconstruction. Aid? Dead. I’m not exaggerating when I tell my friends abroad: Gaza could collapse, maybe soon.”
While Hamas and its dwindling band of supporters try to put the blame for everything on Israel, the reality is that the major Arab governments have united to break the Muslim Brotherhood-linked group. Egypt has cracked down ferociously on its side of the border, and the Gulf sheikdoms make large pledges but don’t honor them. Inside the Gaza strip, life is becoming more nightmarish than ever, and groups even more radical than Hamas are trying to provoke a new round of war with the Israelis.At one level Hamas is holding the population hostage—it’s fundamentally the lack of trust from both Arabs and Israelis that has led to the collapse of its access to aid and trade. In the end, nobody bears the full blame for the suffering of the people in Gaza—neither Israel, nor the PLO nor Hamas is happy with this situation or wanted it to exist. Gaza is not the unhappiest place on earth and there are people—many in the Middle East—who are much worse off and who live with greater insecurity day to day. But the suffering in Gaza remains uniquely compelling because it isn’t the result of sudden catastrophe, like the refugee crisis of the Syrian war or the wretched fate of those under ISIS rule—and it isn’t the result of natural causes or underdevelopment. Gaza is a man-made disaster, developing slowly over many decades. It represents a failure of civilization.Israelis say, and they are right to say so, that the world unfairly singles the Jewish state out as the sole and unique author of Gaza’s sorrow. This is true, and while Israel bears some share of responsibility, so do the Arabs, the Palestinian leadership, the UN, and the great powers. Many cooks worked together to spoil this broth. Turkey’s Erdogan, who urges Hamas along a destructive and dead-end path from the safety of his magnificent palace, is more guilty of the suffering of Gaza than the Israeli and Egyptian soldiers guarding the border crossings. The hate-filled preachers spewing bile in the mosques are as responsible as the donors who welsh on their pledges.As far as one can tell, the goal of the current Arab blockade of Gaza (and that is what it is, combining the cut-off of money with the clampdown at the border) is to force Hamas from power. Presumably, those responsible will (with support from the Israelis) move in with relief and assistance if Hamas steps down or is kicked out. In that sense what we are seeing is a continuation of the intra-Arab dimension of the summer war. The war between the oil sheiks and the Egyptians on the one hand and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood on the other, is still going on. Because no weapons are being fired—and because the Israelis aren’t conspicuously involved—there is no global outcry against what is essentially a siege of Gaza in which the civilians are suffering the most.Neither Egypt nor Israel benefits from radical poverty and deep distress in Gaza, but both see an opportunity to dismantle a force that neither trusts.The only thing that seems certain in all this is that the hard times for the people of Gaza are going to continue. Ultimately a solution will have to be found that allows many of those now trapped here to move into the wider world and start new lives—whether in the West Bank or farther afield. But the first thing Gaza needs is a governing authority that can work constructively with the larger and more powerful nations that surround it and without whose help it cannot prosper. Egypt, the Gulf states and Israel are necessary to Gaza’s peace and economy, and Gaza must somehow get a government that they will accept.