Pressing to Control Donor Funds.. Hamas Hinders the Reconstruction of Gaza

The reconstruction of Gaza faces complex obstacles, due to the Israeli occupation linking reconstruction to the issue of captive held by Hamas since the 2014 war, Israel’s continued closure of the Gaza Strip’s commercial crossings, and preventing the entry of construction materials. In addition to a big problem: Hamas’s refusal to supervise the reconstruction of Gaza by the Palestinian Authority or any external parties and Israel’s refusal to do so.

Israel launched an aggression against the Gaza Strip on May 10, which was described as the most violent, following the Al-Qassam Brigades’ bombing of Jerusalem in response to attempts to displace residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. During this aggression, Israel destroyed hundreds of houses and industrial and commercial facilities, as well as infrastructure in the Strip, causing heavy human and material losses.

In the aftermath of the war in Gaza, Israel imposed a suffocating blockade, as it kept the crossings closed while opening them occasionally to introduce some goods from food and medical aid.  However, Israel prevents the entry of any money into Gaza, including the Qatari financial grant to Hamas.

“The political and military circles in Tel Aviv insist on changing the equation in front of Hamas in Gaza in practice and in indirect negotiations, it intends to continue responding to any breach of the cease-fire,” Amir Bakhbut, an Israeli military expert, says.

“On the issue of Gaza reconstruction there is an Israeli consensus to prevent the transfer of any funds to Hamas and to bypass it with regard to the reconstruction of Gaza,” he adds.

The issue of prisoners

The military expert assures that no goods will enter the Gaza Strip except for humanitarian equipment, until progress is made in the issue of the Israeli prisoners in Gaza, and any violation of the ceasefire will be met with responses from the army. So far, Israel does not allow the entry of any funds for the reconstruction of the Strip except through the Palestinian Authority, because security assessments have revealed that transferring funds from Qatar and other countries directly to Gaza has severely damaged the authority’s standing.

Over the past weeks, the Palestinian Authority, with all its political weight, represented by the Government, the PLO and Fatah, has sought to put pressure on regional and international parties, to be the only gateway that directly supervises the Gaza reconstruction file, through the passage of donor countries’ funds through its budget.

The Palestinian Authority realizes that the battle of resistance in Gaza against Israel, and Hamas’ pressure on Israel by striking Tel Aviv and obstructing the work of Israel’s airports, is redrawing new alliances in the region with Hamas. These alliances will strengthen the position of Hamas in the Palestinian arena, which refuses to be the Palestinian Authority representing the Gaza reconstruction administration..

During meetings weeks ago in Cairo with the Egyptian intelligence service, the Palestinian Authority presented a proposal to form a multilateral Palestinian committee responsible for managing the Gaza reconstruction file. In addition to the Authority, the committee includes representatives of the Ministry of Economy and Works of the Hamas government in Gaza, representatives of the private sector and human rights and oversight organizations, and direct Egyptian supervision of the committee. But the proposal was rejected by Hamas, so Egypt canceled the dialogues.

The Palestinian Authority and the donor countries

The Palestinian Authority has tried to convince the donor countries of passing development funds through the Authority treasury. What is new in this war, however, is Gaza’s accusation to the authority that it does not enjoy complete transparency and impartiality. This accusation اhas reached the Gulf States and Europe, who will reconsider the issue of transferring reconstruction funds to the Authority treasury. As a result, Muhammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian Prime Minister, expressed his strong dissatisfaction, after the decision of some countries that refuse to send reconstruction funds to the Authority treasury, adopting the Qatari model by concluding direct contracts with contractors without referring to the authority. This new vision of reconstruction demanded by Hamas after the end of the Gaza war.

“Hamas’ refusal to involve the authority in the reconstruction process is a result of the crisis of mistrust between the two sides reflected in the Palestinian division and the increase in political tension between the two sides. In addition to the Palestinian Authority’s continuing to establish direct relations with Israel, especially security coordination, which has harmed Hamas and its elements in the West Bank,” writer and political analyst Saaed Zidani, says.

“Countries such as Turkey and Qatar stand with Hamas, and establish political relations with it, have helped Hamas to adopt a strong policy before the authority, and express its absolute rejection of any role  for the authority in Gaza,”Zidani states to MENA Monitor.

“Hamas does not want to repeat the 2014 war scenario، which it considered a negative experience, as the Authority oversaw the reconstruction of Gaza by full Palestinian consensus. But dozens of houses and structures have not yet been built, and Hamas has accused the authority of embezzling reconstruction funds. Thus, Hamas and other factions are afraid to give the authority the right to oversee reconstruction and repeat the experience,” he adds.

Zidani explained that Israel continues to devote Hamas’s efforts to control the reconstruction funds. There is an Israeli plan that is based on reactivating the role of the Authority and marginalizing Hamas, by blackmailing Hamas with Qatari grant funds. Israel wants to transfer the funds through the Authority or the UN, but Hamas rejects this proposal. This threatens a return to military escalation, in light of Israel’s insistence that the funds not pass through Hamas

Washington on the Line

Individually, the US State Department has stressed the need to expedite the reconstruction of Gaza, as the Department considers the issue of reconstructing Gaza to be a priority. In the same context, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said during his visit to the district headquarters in Ramallah at the end of last May that his country will ensure that Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, does not benefit at the expense of international aid that will be devoted to the reconstruction of Gaza. Cairo also supports the option of ​​the National Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas being responsible, as a legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, for supervising the reconstruction process in order to set a goal to return to the centralization of authority, push the peace process forward and limit the consequences of the separation between West Bank and Gaza.

Khalil Shaheen, Writer and political analyst, believes that Hamas wants to keep the advantages and gains it enjoyably possesses as a result of its representative position, and the organization does not want to involve anyone in the reconstruction file in order to impose a new regional reality that would enhance Hamas’s position among Arab countries.

“Hamas’s insistence on obtaining aid funds and spending them through its channels puts it in a confrontation with the residents of Gaza, especially in light of the mounting anger, as a result of this massive disaster that has made hundreds of families homeless,” Shaheen says to MENA Monitor.

“America and Israel refusing Hamas to be involved in the reconstruction process will hinder the possibility of starting the reconstruction in the near future because Hamas, completely rejects any external interference in the reconstruction process, and this would threaten to re-escalate with Israel again,” Shaheen adds.

The political analyst anticipates that Hamas will lose the foreign aid card in light of its rejection of all the proposals that have been presented so far. He opines that it is likely that the Red Crescent, the United Nations and UNRWA will take over this task in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority away from the Hamas’s channels.

According to well-informed Palestinian sources, the competent government authorities in the Gaza Strip have estimated the cost of reconstructing what was destroyed in the Gaza Strip at 16 billion US dollars. This huge amount of finance has to be spent on the reconstruction file away from any embezzlement attempts as happened in previous times.

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