Aug. 26 marked a year since a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza went into effect, ending 50 days of rocket fire into Israel and Israeli air-and-ground military retaliation. While the possibility of another war breaking out soon appears to be low, little is being done to rebuild Gaza, home to 1.8 million Palestinians and long one of the world’s poorest spots. “Not a single one of the nearly 18,000 homes destroyed or severely damaged in Gaza is habitable,” The New York Times reported last week.
The reasons for inaction in Gaza appear to be several. One is the political rivalry between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Another culprit is the international community, which pledged $2.5 billion but has only delivered $340 million. Still another is the black market in Gaza, which has diverted the concrete meant for building, some of it winding up in the tunnels that Hamas and other groups have used to launch attacks into Israel.
Indirect talks between Israel and Hamas toward a long-term cease-fire are reported to be underway, mediated by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, something Israel has denied. Hamas still calls for the destruction of Israel, and Israel still considers Hamas a terrorist organization. But beyond Hamas, there are even more extreme groups in Gaza that resemble the so-called Islamic State. For that reason, Israel doesn’t want Hamas to collapse. And observers hope that an agreement could lead to a period of stability that would see Israel and Egypt at least partially lifting their economic blockades of Gaza.
Gaza needs relief. Israel needs security and an end to threats by rockets and through tunnels. If all parties can work with the needs of the people — not political goals — in mind, there might be hope for Gaza, and the area might avoid another devastating war. Of course, if history is any guide, the chances of stability cementing its presence in that corner of the world are slim. We won’t hold our breath.