Senior Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (R) waves as he hosts PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah at his house in Gaza City October 9, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Representatives from the US, the UN, the Arab League and the EU convened in Cairo on Sunday to discuss the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.
A scenario in which this concerted international effort leads to peace and prosperity for Palestinians is not completely unimaginable. But success depends on a radical change in their mindset. Only when Palestinians take responsibility for their actions and stop playing the victim will there be hope for a brighter future.
Initial signs are not reassuring. Ahead of the conference, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah called on “the international community” to help the Palestinian people “realize our dream of prosperity and justice in an independent state, free of military occupation. An immediate measure is to end the blockade on Gaza and ensure our people never again experience the horrors of this summer.”
We empathize with Palestinians’ dream of prosperity.
Unfortunately, Hamdallah is mixing up cause and effect when he blames his people’s poor condition on occupation or on the blockade of Gaza.
The “occupation,” the blockade and other measures Israel and Egypt are forced to use in self-defense are all reactions to Palestinian violence. As long as the Gaza Strip is ruled by a terrorist organization that insists on building its military capabilities to continue its attacks on the “Zionist entity” and as long as Hamas collaborates with Islamist terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula, Israel and Egypt will maintain a blockade that it designed to prevent or slow Hamas’s militarization.
By focusing on the “occupation” or the blockade as the causes of Palestinians’ suffering, instead of acknowledging Hamas’s acts of aggression, Hamdallah is engaging is playing the victim. He does this to justify his people’s aggression against Israel.
Neither Israel nor Egypt has a sadistic desire to collectively punish Gazans. Palestinians would have had a state decades ago if they had renounced violence and focused on improving their lives.
Random suicide bombings, rocket fire directed at civilians and other forms of violence adopted by Palestinians over the decades are not a protest against poverty and unemployment. They are a cause of poverty and unemployment and of wider economic dislocation.
Unfortunately, many influential members of the international community continue to believe that poverty breeds terrorism. The World Bank’s West Bank and Gaza director Steen Lau Jorgensen argued as much just last month. Violence “will remain a clear and present danger” unless immediate action is taken to revive the economy, he claimed.
Jorgensen, like Hamdallah, has cause and effect reversed. As long as Palestinians continue to justify violence as a legitimate means of political action they will live in poverty.
The PA has called on donor nations to raise $4 billion for reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip. But many donor countries are rightly skeptical because there is a real danger that resources will be diverted away from reconstruction and used to replenish Hamas’s arms caches. They understand that rebuilding Hamas’s terrorist apparatus will inevitably set the stage for the next round of destruction. What is the point of spending billions of dollars to rebuild the Gaza Strip just so it can be destroyed in the next war? The Cairo donor conference can be a unique opportunity for Palestinians to set themselves on the road to reconstruction and eventually to growth and prosperity.
But for this to happen, Palestinians must acknowledge their own agency in determining their future. They must come to the realization that the path of violence has led to tragedy for the Palestinian people. The destruction of Gaza during Operation Protective Edge is just the latest example.
Palestinians must embark on a path of peace and prosperity that includes demilitarizing the Gaza Strip, renouncing terrorism and using donor funds to improve living conditions, not to build rocket launchers and attack tunnels. Palestinians must take responsibility for their actions and embrace self-empowerment. Only then can there be hope for a different future.