Israel just can’t do enough for UNRWA — and Hamas

Here’s another illustration that Israeli concessions are never, ever enough.

As a result of the Mavi Marmara incident, in which Israelis were forced to fight for their lives, Israel has agreed to loosen restrictions on materials being transferred to Gaza (I discussed the illogical aspect of this earlier). Now only weapons and “war-supporting material” are prohibited from passing through the crossings; dual-use items such as cement will be allowed in if they are used for Palestinian Authority approved projects under international supervision.

As Barry Rubin has pointed out, although this does not represent a big modification in behavior for Israel, the significance of the internationally mandated change is that Israel gives up

[t]he entire strategy of trying to reduce Gaza’s economy and the rewards that Hamas can give its supporters. In other words, while Hamas’ military capacity is kept as low as possible it can politically consolidate and stay in power for decades.

What this tells us is that the international establishment (the agreement was negotiated by Tony Blair) admits that Hamas is here to stay, not quite legitimate but still immune from Israeli pressure — even peaceful pressure.

But that’s not enough. Along comes Chris Gunness of UNRWA, the ‘temporary’ agency set up in 1949 to help refugees from the 1948 war (theoretically, Jews who were ethnically cleansed from East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria should be included) and which has worked tirelessly to encourage the growth of the ‘refugee’ population — along comes Gunness and tells us that he’s not satisfied:

Only a complete lift of the Gaza blockade will satisfy UNRWA, the UN agency responsible for Palestinian refugees said to Reuters on Monday.

“We need to have the blockade fully lifted,” said spokesman Christopher Gunness of UNRWA, “the Israeli strategy is to make the international community talk about a bag of cement here, a project there. We need full unfettered access through all the crossings.”

There is absolutely no question that if there were no restriction on materials transferred to Gaza that Hamas would bring in weapons and explosives, as well as materials to build bunkers and tunnels.

In particular, as a result of a great number of smuggling tunnel operators bringing in huge quantities of cement, the price of cement in Gaza recently dropped precipitously, and the tunnel operators are now concentrating on iron. Unsurprisingly, aerial photographs do not show any significant civilian construction activity, but rather show that Hamas is rebuilding military infrastructure.

But helping Hamas is consistent with the previous actions of UNRWA and Gunness. You can read more about UNRWA here, and a little about how Chris Gunness sticks up for Hamas here.

So when he says “We need…,” what he really means is “Hamas needs…”

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One Response to “Israel just can’t do enough for UNRWA — and Hamas”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    The Israeli strategy of isolating Hamas and inducing regime change could not work so long as Hamas had support from Iran and others. I think what the present Israeli government has done is understood that holding out for the kind of boycott it had before would cost it too much diplomatically. They made a tactical decision. It is not ideal, but apparently it’s what they thought the circumstances required.