Working Around Hamas to Bring Aid to Gaza
The Los Angeles Times reported today that after meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House yesterday, President Obama has promised to send $400 million worth of aid to the Palestinian people. I think it is great that the United States is providing desperately needed humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, and given the amount of money that is going to a fairly repressive regime across the border in Egypt, it makes sense for the US to provide humanitarian aid to people who really need it in Gaza and the West Bank. That being said, it makes me very nervous to think that Hamas will have access to these funds and supplies, given their track record as a kleptocratic regime. Not to mention the danger that the funds and/or supplies will be diverted not merely for personal gain, but to fuel terrorist activities against the citizens of Israel.
I think it makes perfect sense for the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority to work together to build up Palestinian infrastructure in the West Bank, but when it comes to Gaza there are few ways I can see to guarantee that US taxpayer money is not going to end up in the pocket of some corrupt official, or financing a new round of terror attacks against innocent civilians. This is no small problem, given that the majority of Palestinians who are living in poverty conditions are in Gaza, where Hamas is in charge. In a New York Times article that appeared online yesterday, reporter Helene Cooper noted that “The details of how the aid would be used in Gaza remained unclear. Nor was it immediately clear how Mr. Abbas, who has authority in the West Bank but not in Gaza, would be able to administer it.”
I have previously written here on the jewishboston website and on the New Vilna Review site that one of the key aspects of a long-term strategy to dislodge Hamas from power in Gaza is needed to help bolster the credibility of President Abbas and his government in the West Bank. While in terms of real changes this new pledge of $400 million only represents a $70 million increase in US aid to the Palestinians, its announcement comes at a crucial time, with proximity talks between Israel and the PA presently underway. In my opinion this increase in aid represents a chance for the United States to strengthen the hand of President Abbas and to highlight that it is he and the PA who are seen as the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people by the Western world when it comes to both peace negotiations with Israel and maintaining ties to the US and other nations, and not Hamas.
The question remains as to how to get some of this aid to the people in Gaza who desperately need it, and here I have a suggestion that no one will like: A joint effort by the PA, US and Israel to deliver aid directly to the people in Gaza who need it, bypassing Hamas. Aid could be flown into Tel Aviv by the United States, then brought to the border with Gaza by a joint Israeli-PA convoy, and then across the border by the PA security forces who would distribute the aid under threat of air cover provided by aircraft from the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. This last part is of course the most controversial suggestion, but given the propensity Hamas has demonstrated in the past for attacking PA forces, the only way to really guarantee that the PA security forces would be able to get the aid to the people who need it without fear of being attacked by Hamas, is if the Hamas leaders know that they will be bombed into oblivion by the United States if they interfere with PA efforts to deliver aid in Gaza.
And this brings me to the uncomfortable truth about the present state of not only the peace process, but the overall political and security situation in Israel and the territories, which is that Gaza is completely under the control of terrorists, and they are more than happy to kill not only Israelis, but their fellow Palestinians as well if it seems politically expedient.
Do I really think that US would provide air support for a joint PA-Israeli relief operation in Gaza ? No, but I do think it would be thekind of drastic change in approach by the US that could help to push Hamas aside and reestablish PA control over Gaza, which is what truly needs to happen if Israel and the Palestinians are to ever achieve a lasting peace. The only other option is, as I have suggested before, to completely close off the border with Gaza and allow it to become a separate political entity run by terrorists, and while I think this drastic plan might have some merits in terms of security benefits for Israel, it would not address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. If the world really cares about the people of Gaza, they should stop wasting time trying to run blockades or give Israel a black eye in the media, and start putting their support behind the kind of humanitarian relief operation that weakens the political legitimacy of terrorists and makes sure that the people who really need these supplies get them. My suggested approach may not be perfect, but unlike so many other suggestions, it is at least rooted in a sense of real politic and the kind of bold moves that will have to be made one day to bring peace to both Arabs and Jews living in the Near East.
-Daniel E. Levenson
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief