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(photo credit: AP [file])
Some 70 delegations are to converge on Sharm e-Sheikh on Monday for the purpose of massively transfusing Gaza with funds. Their intentions, they emphasize, are humanitarian. The gathering's cumbersome name is The International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza.
Their problem, however, is a failure to pinpoint why Gaza finds itself in such dire straits.
Sweden's attitude is symptomatic. Its Minister for International Development Cooperation, Gunilla Carlsson, has noted proudly that her country is "one of the largest donors to the Palestinians," and declared, ringingly: "If this aid is to have any effect, Gaza's borders must be opened immediately for goods and people. The suffering of the civilian population must end."
The glaring omission in comments such as this is that the need to reconstruct Gaza is Gaza's own doing - the direct consequence of the penchant for terror displayed by the governing Hamas and other like-minded groups, of their insistent practice of targeting Israeli civilians in the Western Negev for over eight years with assorted rocketry. Just two days ago, an upgraded Kassam missile slammed into an Ashkelon school.
These frequent instances of rocket-fire, even in the wake of the purported cease-fire last month, have failed to garner much international attention or outrage from the governments and institutions that instinctively censure Israel when it responds militarily to the daily harassment of its population. Because the rocket attacks are accepted abroad with unconscionable equanimity, Israel's eventual, reluctant response is egregiously perceived as an unjustified, inexcusable bolt from the blue.
Many of the participants in Monday's conference ignore the unpleasant cause and effect of the Gaza hardships they insist they want to alleviate. That skewed approach serves to facilitate Hamas's strategic deceptions. Misguided efforts at assistance will prop up the very regime that is the root cause of Gaza's woes - a terrorist regime in the free world's definition of Hamas.
GAZA'S RULERS anticipate that the conference will produce almost $3 billion. The US, its own economic travails notwithstanding, has allocated $900m. and dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Camouflaging the likely beneficiary of this global largesse, talks are currently in progress to form a Fatah-Hamas "unity government" that will function as the pro-forma recipient of international aid. Yet the international community's own preconditions should prevent any dealings with such a government. To obtain international legitimacy, Hamas is required to recognize Israel, abide by previous agreements and renounce terrorism. Just days ago, Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha reiterated in Gaza: "Hamas will never accept a unity government that recognizes Israel." Taha himself was recently apprehended by Egyptian police smuggling to Gaza $12m. in cash.
Hamas will benefit from resources bestowed even on ostensibly non-belligerent organizations. Those funds will free Hamas from responsibility for public welfare and free up money for rearmament.
Gaza would have faced far less hardship - it could, indeed, have thrived as a model for Palestinian independence since 2005 - had it not invested its energies in gun-running, rocket-manufacture and bunker and tunnel construction. Israel cannot, and will not, allow materials into Gaza that are likely to be misused.
Israel has an unparalleled interest in an economically viable and tranquil Gaza. It would like nothing better than for Gazans to avail themselves of educational and economic opportunities. But these cannot be sustained unless Gaza behaves like the donor nations expect their own neighbors to behave.
Let those nations seek a non-Hamas-channeled process for reconstructing Gaza. But the transfer of funds must be made contingent on a proven commitment to cease rocket attacks: Hamas's unequivocal obligation to a genuine cease-fire, demonstrated by several months of uninterrupted calm. Without this, reconstruction contributions will wind up not merely being wasted but rather, directly or indirectly, boosting Hamas's war-chest.
As long as Israelis are fired upon, no Gazan reconstruction can last. Sooner or later Israel will again have to protect its citizens - as would every donor nation were its people similarly threatened.
Ignoring that cause and effect is a recipe for the misuse of international funds. We urge the donor nations to look clear-headedly at the reality of Gaza, and recognize that the prerequisite for sustainable reconstruction is an end to the abuse of Gaza as a base for attacking Israel.