Don’t Forget About Gaza

Benjy Cannon Image
Benjy Cannon
on February 29, 2016

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Amidst the American presidential election, a horrible spike in violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and the anti-democratic movement in the Israeli government, Gaza hasn’t exactly been in the spotlight. Two articles from the last week should remind us not to forget about it.

The first features comments from the IDF’s military intelligence chief Herzl Halevi about the deteriorating situation in Gaza:

IDF Military Intelligence chief Herzl Halevi told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: “The humanitarian condition in Gaza is progressively deteriorating, and if it blows up, it’ll be in Israel’s direction.”

Halevi said the reconstruction of Gaza following 2014’s war between Hamas and Israel was moving very slowly. The Strip’s rehabilitation, he said, was a key factor in preventing further conflict.

He agreed with a 2015 UN report that said Gaza could be uninhabitable by 2020 if its economy is not quickly strengthened. That report placed much of the blame for the situation on Israel’s blockade on the enclave.

While the situation seems bleak, Halevi believes that Israel can take steps to limit the possibilities of war, ease tensions in the West Bank and improve the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. This should be a wake up call to Israel and its friends: a bad situation is getting worse, but there’s concrete steps Israel can take to start making improvements.

Second is a report from the New Yorker about Hamas’s tunnels into Israel:

In recent weeks, there have been reports that Israel has spent more than seven hundred million dollars over the past year—and received an additional hundred and twenty million dollars from the United States—to field some four hundred different ideas for the detection and destruction of tunnels. There are signs that it may have adopted some of the suggested technologies: Hamas has complained of finding sensors and cameras at the sites of the collapsed tunnels, and a report published last year in the Israeli newspaper Globes stated that the military has started to implement a sensor-based system developed by an Israeli defense electronics company. That system reportedly cost upwards of a million dollars for each kilometer covered, while the building cost of an entire tunnel by Hamas is estimated to be no more than a hundred and twenty thousand dollars.

The piece does a good job of highlighting the ongoing threats posed by the tunnels, and offers a glimpse into the steps Israel, with the help of the United States, is taking to address it.

Both of these items point to immense challenges and suffering in Gaza, but spell out some ways Israel can tackle them instead of getting dragged into another disastrous war. Let’s hope this time, Israeli and Palestinian leaders make the right choices.

Benjy Cannon is the 2015-2016 Mikva Fellow at J Street. He’s on Twitter at @benjycannon