As Fatah and Hamas Squabble Over Rebuilding Gaza, Israel Shows Flexibility in Aid

As Fatah and Hamas fight over control of the rebuilding in Gaza, Israel is showing “flexibility” in allowing in raw materials to enter the Strip, Neri Zilber, a visiting scholar at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, reported in an article published Sunday in Politico.

The Gazan population is growing increasingly agitated as conditions in the territory worsen, and all because of the continued standoff between Hamas and Fatah over Palestinian reconciliation. This was the deal that ended the fighting in late August — reconciliation as a precondition to reconstruction — and the deal that all the relevant parties — Hamas, Israel, the PA, Egypt, as well as the United Nations — ostensibly agreed to. …

But all these plans are on hold as Hamas and the PA engage in a game of political chicken, staring each other down, a reality confirmed to me over the past month in conversations with nearly two dozen Israeli and Palestinian officials (from both Fatah and Hamas), international diplomats and non-governmental sources based in Israel and the West Bank, some of whom requested to remain anonymous so as to speak more freely.

While the Palestinian Authority (PA) was supposed to take security control of Gaza from Hamas, Hamas “has resisted surrendering control.” One PA official asked, “How do you expect me to go work in the Gaza Strip, when the Qassam Brigades [Hamas’s elite paramilitary group] goes ahead of me in both power and weapons?” With neither side budging, rebuilding Gaza is largely at a standstill.

Surprisingly, Zilber notes that the one party making concessions for the benefit of Gazans is Israel.

Perhaps even more surprising is that Israel, of all the parties involved, has shown the greatest degree of flexibility towards a Gaza Strip still ruled by Hamas. In addition to acquiescing to the salary payments, Israel has begun easing restrictions on construction materials and other goods entering the territory, and on certain products (fish, cucumbers) and people exiting. Israel has given its consent to an elaborate UN-led inspection mechanism for reconstruction, which as mentioned has not yet begun in earnest due to the lack of a PA presence on the ground. “I can’t say that it’s because of Israel that there has been no movement [on reconstruction] at present,” the senior UN official said, a sentiment shared by several other foreign diplomats I spoke to in Jerusalem.

Writing at his blog at the Council of Foreign Relations website, former State Department official Elliott Abrams cites Zilber’s article and sums up the current situation in Gaza:

Israel is playing a positive and humane role in Gaza reconstruction, while the top Palestinian “leaders” in both the PA and Hamas jockey for money, power, and advantage and don’t seem to care much about the people they claim to represent.

The unwillingness of Palestinian leadership to play a constructive role to help their people has been evident in their recent behavior. In a recent interview, former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni described how Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas undermined the American-sponsored peace process earlier this year. Last week, Hamas used its resources to stage a massive anniversary parade showing off its extensive military arsenal.

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