For as long as the State of Israel has existed, all any Jerusalem government has ever said to those of her neighboring Arab entities has been to “give peace a chance.”
With just a few exceptions (read: Egypt, Jordan) the words have fallen upon deaf ears, but particularly so, and in some real respects even stupidly so, in the case of Gaza under the ruling Hamas terrorist organization, which remains committed to Israel’s annihilation. It’s a region that has never been really wanted by any Arab nation. Jordan never laid claim to it, and Egypt seemed happy to let it go when Israel conquered the territory in order to put a stop to the incessant attacks by fedayeen. Certainly Egypt never put up a fuss to win it back in negotiations during talks over the Sinai Peninsula.
Sadly, Hamas also somehow seems not to value its enclave, and even may be dedicated to the destruction of its own people, those it claims to “govern” since seizing control of Gaza in 2007.
Arabs who have lived in the enclave for decades under the rule of their Palestinian Authority brethren — first Fatah prior to Hamas — have made no secret of the dismal conditions under which they have been forced to struggle for survival. The few decades spent together with the Jews of Gush Katif in Gaza — a memory gone since 2005 — were treasured as a time when Arabs were able to earn a decent living, and had neighbors they could count on.
Now the brightest, best trained, wealthiest and most qualified among them are quietly, desperately biding their time and working every possible channel to find a way to escape the hell that is Gaza. And not just doctors, even young members of Hamas are trying to find ways to escape the enclave. And those are the people who have the financial means to escape, the rest of the population is trapped, and they also desperately want to leave, too.
There’s a price to be paid for those who want to leave, whether it be on an ambulance stretcher through the Erez Crossing into Israel for a trip to the doctor, or on one’s two legs through the Rafah Crossing into Egypt, and perhaps gone for good.
The art and ability of leaving Gaza has become ‘big business’ that has replaced the tolls and taxes Hamas once collected from the underground cross-border smuggling tunnels. Those have largely been destroyed by Egypt in the wake of the arms and terror trade with Sinai.
The only way out, according to Arab affairs journalist Muhammad Shehada, is by “paying the unaffordable bribe for the “coordinated passage,” as it is called — and the Palestinian Authority grants departure priority to people whose names top Hamas-made waiting lists.
Egyptian authorities give absolute priority to those who pay their way out, processing the “coordinated passages” list first, always, AFTER Egyptian citizens.
Egypt also restricts the numbers they allow to enter Egypt from Gaza to 500 people a day.
According to Shehada, some 16,000 Gazans are estimated to be living illegally in Cairo, trying to avoid being caught and sent back.
Gaza brokers who have spoken with numerous international reporters over the years — most recently with Israel’s Haaretz daily newspaper, and two years ago with Qatar’s Aljazeera — confirm that the first bribe costs $3,000 for one adult to cross the border. Of that, $600 goes to the Gaza brokers and the rest is handed over to whichever Egyptian soldier or officer arranges the entry into Egypt.
If the Gazan is not lucky, he might have to pay up to $10,000 to get his name taken off a blacklist of those who have been declared a “security threat.” There’s no entry into Egypt unless one’s name is removed from the blacklist at a price of $10,000 or the occasional electronic item, or gold.
“An entire population of two million people are locked up behind eight-meter-high concrete walls, regularly intimidated, bombed, humiliated and blackmailed,” wrote Shehada.
Gaza is clearly a nightmare, and yet some of the population still cheers for Hamas by the thousands at rallies. They just as willingly step out on rooftops rather than follow the directions in Israeli military flyers dropped prior to any combat, urging them to move at least temporarily to a safer location, so the IDF can destroy the deadly rocket launchers in their midst.
“The Palestinians’ humanity should be respected,” Shehada wrote.
Absolutely. And its government should not steal the resources donated for the rehabilitation of its people by world leaders. Hamas regularly confiscates construction supplies in order to rebuild its military infrastructure, including terror tunnels. And recently it has even begun to steal helium from the hospitals in order to fuel its new arson terror campaign against southern Israel via firebomb helium balloons.
If Gaza’s own governing Hamas rulers cannot respect the humanity of its people, and instead transforms those it controls into human shields and weapons of war and hate, how else should they be perceived by those whose lives they threaten?
And when the money donated by world leaders for humanitarian purposes is misused and is therefore then reduced or withdrawn altogether by those who are threatened or insulted, why should anyone be surprised?
Up to last year, the United States annually provided $400 million in bilateral economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority including both USAID-administed projects and payments to PA creditors, (see ‘U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians’ May 18, 2018).
However, in FY 2017 and 2018 that changed under the Obama and Trump Administrations. In FY 2019, the Trump Administration requested just $215 million in economic foreign aid for the Palestinian Authority and $35 million in security aid following clear evidence that the Ramallah government continued to officially glorify terrorism and fund the salaries of convicted terrorists incarcerated in Israeli prisons, using foreign aid.
In March 2017 Qatar also reduced its support for Gaza infrastructure projects, a decision that coincided with the suspension of a $50 million grant from the German Development Bank (KFW) for projects in water and sanitation.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has this year faced a significant deficit due in large part to a reduction in aid from the United States, which called a halt to funding the agency until it makes requested changes in its administrative and funding structure, including the self-perpetuating way in which it defines “Palestinian refugees.”
This week (July 9-11) UNRWA is meeting in New York with representatives of 27 donor nations and those of three observers, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the League of Arab States (Arab League) and the European Union in a conference in which it hopes to raise enough money to meet, or at least reduce its fiscal deficit of nearly $250 million. The United States cut its financial support to the agency by some $300 million; in addition, some of the donor countries also failed to fulfill their pledges from last year, and the current year as well, in the wake of deficiencies in its performance.
For example, last June a terrorist tunnel was discovered under two UNRWA schools in Gaza. According to a statement issued at the time by UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness, the tunnel was discovered beneath two adjacent schools, the Maghazi Elementary Boys School, and the Maghazi Preparatory Boys School, both inside the Maghazi “refugee camp” in central Gaza. Both schools were under construction during the summer. At the time, Gunness was unable to verify whether or not the tunnel used entry or exit points on the school’s premises — and it took until August until UNRWA was able to conclusively state that the tunnel had been sealed. Nor was it the first time that Hamas had used UNRWA premises for terrorist activity: several UNRWA schools were found to have been used by Hamas as weapons storage facilities during the 2014 summer war with Israel, Operation Protective Edge.
All of which only underscores further the lack of concern that Hamas has for its own people.
Part of the Trump Peace Plan is an economic reboot for Gaza — and there have been rumors in the Middle East that President Donald Trump’s peace plan team is determined to begin with that reboot before moving ahead to roll out the rest of the plan for peace in the region — with or without the participation of the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah.
Given the current tendency for Hamas to destroy any new infrastructure created to help bring improved quality of life to the enclave, however, it’s questionable whether there’s any point to the effort.
And it’s also unclear whether Gazans who are bright, educated, qualified and still have money, will also have enough faith left in the process to wait it out, or will take their chances and try to make it out anyway while they still can.