International focus on the well-being of the residents of Gaza is cyclical. That concern reached a high point during the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, when over the course of 50 days, Gazans were held hostage by their rulers. Those rulers sent rockets into Israel knowing that any Israeli response would lead to a high death count, yet confident that it would also lead to world outrage at Israel.
The fighting left quite a mark on Gaza, damaging or destroying some 171,000 homes. After it ended, an international conference pledged some $3.5 billion in reconstruction aid over three years. But the World Bank reported last week that those pledges are being fulfilled more slowly than promised.
Of donor countries, the United States was the most prompt. It has delivered the entire $277 million it promised. By contrast, Qatar, which pledged $1 billion, has only delivered $152 million, or 15 percent of its promise. Saudi Arabia has delivered about 10 percent of the $500 million it promised. Turkey, a close ally of Hamas, has sent one third of its $200 million pledge.
We’re obviously in the waning phase of the cycle of interest in the plight of those living in Gaza, and the cynicism of the wealthy Arab states who made bloated promises of assistance is chilling. After years of turning a blind eye to the actions of Hamas, which diverted international aid to build cross-border tunnels and stockpile weapons — actions that directly led to the 2014 war — Arab states declared that they would contribute to a rebuilding of the Gaza abandoned by Hamas. But it appears that those promises were as hollow as the oft-repeated canard that Israel bears responsibility for the Palestinians living under Hamas rule.
Indeed, as Hamas rearms, retools and rebuilds under the watchful eye of its Arab sponsors — just last week came the news of a discovery by Israeli forces of perhaps the longest tunnel to date — there appears to be very little focus on the humanitarian needs that allegedly prompted the international commitments two years ago. Someone besides the World Bank needs to press the Gulf States and other boastful international pledgers to fulfill their humanitarian commitments and to stop treating the Palestinians in Gaza like pawns in a never-ending war of attrition against Israel.