Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Let Mama Kiss It Make It Better

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, hosted a conference this week where various world dignitaries patted themselves on the back for their generosity. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the rebuilding of Gaza (Israel's Operation Cast Lead caused about $5 billion of damage) and to decide who would be paying for what. While the U.S., France, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Japan were among those present, Hamas was not. Hamas, the democratically elected government of Gaza, was not invited.

But no matter. I'm sure the reconstruction of Gaza will be successful without the cooperation of the quasi-state's government.

The pledges are in, and the most noticeable results are as follows:

  • Saudi Arabia: $1 billion
  • The U.S.: $900 million
  • Lebanon: $1 million (a token gesture of solidarity)

The caveat is that the majority of the donations will go to the PA, an administrative body that has almost no power in Gaza. Some countries have opted to oversee their own pet reconstruction projects in Gaza, thereby circumventing Hamas' infrastructure alltogether. As usual with the region, their world seems bent on ignoring the facts on the ground.

Let's assume that the reconstruction of Gaza can actually be completed without Hamas' coordination- what then? Israel's attack, which caused all the damage, was in response to the continuous barrage of rocket fire from Gaza. These rockets are still flying, almost every day. Almost like the operation never happened. Almost like Hamas was not deterred at all. In fact, Ha'aretz reports that Gaza militants have fired 110 rockets at Israel since the ceasefire began on January 18th.

Israel bides its time. After one rocket hit the semi-large city of Ashquelon, Israel filed a complaint with the UN. After seven qassam rockets hit Southern Israel in one day, Olmert made vague threats. How long can this go on?

Making no judgments about the moral rightness or wrongness of firing the rockets or of Israel's response to it, the facts on the ground are that Israel will not continue to accept this kind of life for its citizens. They will strike again. And again. Until the rockets stop and/or Hamas has been eradicated and replaced with Fatah loyalists. Why bother rebuilding Gaza without first securing a just and lasting peace for both sides?

The reconstruction is irrelevant and unrealistic. Like putting a band-aid on a broken leg. It makes us all feel like we're doing something, though. And when dealing with two groups as hard-headed as Israelis and Palestinians, sometimes a band-aid is a necessary symbol.

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