Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Israel sees its role as gatekeeper, deciding what aid should go in

Posted by claudiacampli su 20 gennaio, 2009

Times

Now the proxy war for Gaza starts, through the battle to rebuild the miles of shattered concrete. The row over who pays, in what kind of aid and on what terms, has started. Israel is treating its control of the gates as a tool to weaken Hamas as the government of Gaza. But it should be thinking about its own role in trying to bring Gaza back from devastation — although it will brush this away in the heat of this conflict.

There is a black farce about these day-after rallies to summon international aid to rebuild an area, built painfully and expensively with international aid, that has just been flattened by Israel. Looking at the smashed water tanks, ministries and schools, you can’t help thinking of the bureaucracy in Brussels and New York and the sweat on the ground that went into each one, the permission to build, to bring in the cement, the phone lines and so on. Then, bang, gone. It is an echo of Lebanon in 2006. And when the dead have not even been fully counted, round comes the call for more EU and UN and Arab money to build the same building in the same spot.

Hamas announced yesterday that it would sue Israel for rebuilding costs. Even by the wayward standards of its missiles this is not a particularly worrying threat for Israel. Nor am I about to defend Hamas even in that tiny strand of policy; it is rightly labelled a terrorist group by the EU and US, and Israel is justified in reminding the world how it has used Gaza to hurl its rockets since Israel’s exit in 2005.

Nor, come to that, is Israel about to accept that it should pay anything for Gaza. Rather the opposite; it sees its role at the moment as gatekeeper, deciding what, if any, aid should go in. It also does not want to soften the edges of the “deterrent” which its spokesmen argue it has delivered to Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran. But there is still force in the argument that Israel should take a role in rebuilding Gaza and, more generally, acknowledge some responsibility for the future of people living fractions of a mile from its own territory. The criticism that has poured down on Israel’s assault on Gaza has been provoked by its lack of care in distinguishing between fighters and civilians. Israel will never persuade ordinary Palestinians to push Hamas into a background role if it so successfully behaves as an enemy that unites them.

Yesterday Israel opened the tap a little, letting trucks of aid into Gaza. But it insisted that UN agencies prove that material could not be used for arms, according to diplomats, that money would go directly to local contractors, and that Hamas would not be able to take credit for anything. In this, it has EU support. Yesterday Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the External Relations Commissioner, said that no aid would go to Hamas unless it renounced violence.

This is easier said than done. Choking off aid is a weapon that can backfire. Years of economic blockade have failed to persuade Gazans to blame Hamas for their privations, and there is little sign that this conflict will be different. And it is an ugly weapon, leaving Israel open to the charge that it is causing suffering. First estimates put the cost of rebuilding at about $2billion (£1.35billion). Almost every public building has been shattered, as well as thousands of homes and dozens of UN buildings. Saudi Arabia said that it would provide half of the cash. Yet if every piece of aid has to pass through an Israeli checkpoint it will take years, and Israel will be held to blame. Far from having extracted itself from Gaza, it will find that it will keep the heat of world attention.

Yes, Israel has a right to prevent Hamas rearming. But that can only be done with international help, and the sooner, for Israel’s sake, the better. If Israel makes itself the sole gatekeeper for aid to an impoverished chain of towns that it has just flattened it will buy itself years of anger, from outside the Gaza fence as well as within.

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