It looks as if Anthony Blinken and his nominal boss Joe Biden are willing to take a chance, without the slightest evidence it will succeed, on the possibility that the PA will manage to find a way to distribute aid money to NGOs and individuals in Gaza while keeping Hamas at arm’s length. Writes Hugh Fitzgerald
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been busy trying to drum up “international support” for Gaza. As we all know, in the latest round of fighting between Hamas and Israel, a great deal of damage was done to Hamas’ “infrastructure” – that is, to the places where the terror group hid its huge armory of rockets (some 14,000 at the start of the conflict), including schools, hospitals, apartment houses, mosques and the buildings, too, where it had its intelligence offices, its weapons development facilities, its command-and-control centers. And then, of course, there was the extensive network of tunnels deep underground — dubbed the “Metro” by the Israelis — 62 miles of which the IAF managed to destroy, a network that Hamas had spent one billion dollars to build, starting its effort just after the last Gaza war in 2014; and which it had only recently completed.
On his recent trip to the Middle East, during his visit to Ramallah, Blinken announced $110 million in new economic assistance for the reconstruction of Gaza. And just before his trip the government announced other aid to the Palestinians, including $15 million that would go to COVID-related expenses, and another $75 million would go to the PA in order, the announcement by the Biden administration explained, to win back the “trust and goodwill” of the Palestinians. Why America needed to spend large sums to win the “trust and goodwill” of the Palestinians, instead of the Palestinians needing to behave quite differently if they wish to have our “trust and goodwill,” was not explained.
Including commitments of aid to the Palestinians already made to the PA in April, this new sum brings the American aid package pledged to the Palestinians to a total of $360 million. The Biden Administration has also pledged to renew hundreds of millions of dollars in annual contributions to UNRWA, an organization that continues to inculcate antisemitism in its schoolbooks, despite many promises to revise that material. UNRWA is also responsible for treating the status of “Palestinian refugee” as an inheritable trait, able to be passed on by the original refugees to their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, world without end. Of the tens of millions of refugees created since World War II, only one group – the Palestinian Arabs – have been allowed to pass on this status to all of their descendants. Thus do the UNRWA rolls continuously increase, with no conceivable letup.
Blinken seems to think that the money he has just pledged for the reconstruction of Gaza, as well as whatever share of the other aid pledged by donors to the Palestinians will be allocated to Gaza, can be kept out of the hands of Hamas. He plans to route the aid through Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, apparently oblivious to the fact that the PA has no visible presence in Gaza, having been expelled by Hamas from the Strip in 2007; Gaza is now securely under the rule of Hamas, which is newly empowered, despite its loss, because it managed to “stand up” to Israel, will insist on being involved in the distribution of aid, and will manage to find a way to inveigle others into agreeing.
It looks as if Blinken and his nominal boss Joe Biden are willing to take a chance, without the slightest evidence it will succeed, on the possibility that the PA will manage to find a way to distribute aid money to NGOs and individuals in Gaza while keeping Hamas at arm’s length. Just the other day, a “senior State Department official” admitted to reporters that” there are no guarantees” that Hamas won’t be able to get hold of some of that aid money. It should, of course, enrage the public to discover that American money was ending up In the hands of the terror group Hamas.
There is a way out. Why not admit publicly that “the government has concluded that it would be impossible to prevent Hamas from benefiting from aid money that goes to Gaza,” so “we [the American government] have decided not to participate, after all, in funding the reconstruction of Gaza. And what has finally convinced us to leave the reconstruction of Gaza to others is the latest news from Qatar”?
What news from Qatar? Here’s what:
Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, announced on Wednesday [May 26] that the Gulf state would give $500 million to help rebuild the Gaza Strip after an 11-day conflict with Israel.
The hostilities began on May 10, when Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Strip launched rockets towards the Jewish state that numbered more than 4,000 by the time a truce was declared on May 21.
Islamist-supporting Qatar has long supplied Hamas with money and certain goods, and Israel has acquiesced to help maintain a level of stability for the 2 million residents of the coastal enclave.
$500 million is enough to cover the complete cost of reconstruction aboveground in Gaza. But it will not be enough to also rebuild the tunnel network, so much of which was destroyed by the IAF. The estimated total cost to Hamas of building those tunnels is $1 billion; hundreds of millions of dollars would now have to be spent to rebuild the 62 km. of tunnels Israel pulverized. But the West must insist that all aid money for Gaza, whatever its source, must not be used to rebuild the tunnel network. All foreign aid should be channeled not through the hopelessly corrupt PA, which is despised in Hamas-supporting Gaza, but through Egypt, whose civilian officials and soldiers could be stationed not just at the Rafah checkpoint between Egypt and Gaza, but throughout the Strip. Egypt can inspect all the truckloads of material aid going through Rafah into Gaza, halting the transfer of any goods that have a possible military application. As for aid money, it can be routed through Gazan branches of Egyptian banks to the ultimate recipients, both individuals and organizations, who can be vetted for possible ties to Hamas. While Hamas can intimidate PA operatives, keeping them from being involved in aid distribution and spending in Gaza – the PA remembers how hundreds of Fatah (part of the PA) members were killed by Hamas in 2007 — the terror group wouldn’t dare try to intimidate Egypt. El-Sisi’s government has itself pledged to supply Gaza with an astonishing $500 million in aid, but if angered by Hama, it could always renege on whatever part of that pledge had not yet been fulfilled; furthermore, the Egyptians regard Hamas with great antipathy and distrust, for the terror group is correctly seen as the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, the archenemy of General El-Sisi’s regime.
Here’s an idea: let Qatar deliver on its promise of $500 million in aid for Gaza, as long as the aid is channeled through Egyptian officials inside Gaza. Egypt is at least as determined as the Biden Administration to keep Hamas from benefiting from aid money, and the Egyptians themselves are less naïve and will be more forceful in their methods than American donors; they are not about to be taken in, as Westerners so often are, by Arab guile; Hamas cannot play the innocent or otherwise bamboozle the Egyptians..
Just two Arab states – Qatar and Egypt – had between them pledged $1 billion in aid for Gaza, within a week of the cessation of hostilities. That is enough to completely rebuild Gaza’s aboveground civilian infrastructure. And there are still other Arab countries to be heard from. No doubt deep-pocketed Kuwait, and perhaps other Gulf Arab states, even including Saudi Arabia, might be willing to contribute if they become convinced that Hamas will be shut out of the distribution of aid, and the choosing of the aid recipients, in Gaza.
We in the West should not be sending more of our own money, as the Bidenites want, to the Palestinians in Gaza yet again, as we have after each of the last three Hamas-Israel wars. If the Arabs want to spend – or rather throw away — their money on Gaza, to build up the Strip and then, as long as Hamas rules, see the fruits of that aid go up in smoke when the terror group starts yet another war with Israel, a war its leaders have already promised, then is hammered by the IDF, loses disastrously, with enormous damage to Gazan infrastructure, but again it will claim, as it did on May 21, that it had won a great “victory” because it is “still standing” despite the devastating attacks by the Zionist enemy. And the Hamas leaders will after that future war again crow about their latest “victory” — as they are now doing — while all about them will lie the heaped ruins of buildings where Hamas weapons had been stored and Hamas terrorists had lived or hid.
Now that Gaza has been assured, at the very least, of $1 billion in reconstruction aid from two Arab states, and likely will get still more from other Arab countries, why should the American government not take back its own offer as no longer needed? After all, we don’t want the Palestinians to continue to assume that no matter what they do, in starting a war and firing more than 4,360 rockets at Israeli civilians, that the Americans will always come to their financial rescue. Nor do we want the headache of trying to monitor how our aid money is spent in Gaza, and whether Hamas can be kept from being one of its recipients. How embarrassing it would be if American aid were discovered to be ending up in the coffers of Hamas.
Let Muslim Arab states help their fellow Muslim Arabs. It’s not our affair, not our duty, not our obligation. When Hamas tries to skim off the top from the largesse offered by Egypt and by Qatar, and it will, both Egyptians and Qataris will know how to deal with Hamas leaders who are determined to help themselves to a cut of whatever Arab states provide. After all, in the past, two Hamas leaders, Khaled Meshaal and Mousa Abu Marzouk, each managed to amass a fortune of at least $2.5 billion. Why wouldn’t today’s Hamas leaders – Ismail Haniyeh and Yahyah Sinwar — try to emulate their predecessors?
Israel will also be keeping close tabs on how that aid money is spent in Gaza. Should it decide that some of the money is being spent, despite efforts (by Egypt and others) to prevent it, on a Hamas-linked project that could threaten Israel’s security, Israel might well feel compelled to act, to use the IAF to put paid to such an undertaking. That would be a lot harder to do if American, rather than Arab donors, had paid for the project Israel deemed sufficiently threatening to destroy. From Israel’s point of view, American funding of reconstruction in Gaza is likely to lead to more possibilities for friction arising between Washington and Jerusalem. Thanks to Biden’s policies, there is already so much friction; Israel doesn’t need more to worry about.
In any discussion of American aid to Hamas in Gaza or to the PA in the West Bank, one always comes back to the question that continues to puzzle me: “Why”? Why does the United States owe the Palestinian Arabs any aid whatsoever? Who first decided we should be sending hundreds of millions of dollars annually to support a population of Muslim Arabs who are violently ant-Israel, deeply antisemitic, and haters, to boot, of the United States, despite the billions we have provided them, both directly and through UNRWA, over many decades? Why have we decided that we “owe” such aid to the Palestinian Arabs, especially since they can count on other sources of aid, including a half-dozen Gulf Arab states that are among the richest countries in the world? I simply want to understand — don’t you? – how this state of affairs came about, and why few have questioned this state of affairs. Why do the Palestinian Arabs have an apparently endless claim on our pocketbooks that many far poorer peoples – the Burkinabè, the Nepalese, the Bolivians, the Congolese, and a hundred other peoples in a hundred other impoverished countries — do not?
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