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Can Gaza be rehabilitated without aiding Hamas?

The bombs may have stopped falling on Gaza and the rocket fire from there has ceased for now, but Gazans face a huge task of rebuilding. Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for a New American Security, and Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, join Nick Schifrin for more on the rebuilding of Gaza.

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  • Nick Schifrin:

    For more on the rehabilitation of Gaza, I'm joined by Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East Program at the Center For a New American Security, and Zaha Hassan, a human rights lawyer and visiting fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    Welcome back to both of you to the "NewsHour."

    Zaha Hassan, let me start with you.

    Is it possible to rehabilitate Gaza without helping Hamas?

  • Zaha Hassan:

    Well, we have been down this road many times, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, and just this last month, in terms of the bombardment of Gaza.

    So, this is not a new program for the international community in terms of rebuilding Gaza. So, there was a mechanism created for this in 2014 called the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism that allows for the rebuilding of Gaza following bombardments by Israel without directly working with Hamas.

    But, realistically, Hamas is the authority on the ground. But more important than can Gaza be rebuilt is how do we stop this recurring high-intensity violence? How do we stop the reason for the high-intensity violence that we see regularly now every few years?

    And really, we have to address the root cause.And the root cause is the fact that you have Gaza blockaded now for more than a decade, where people cannot freely move in and out of Gaza, you can't have normal economic activity because trade is restricted by Israel. And you can't even have Gazans trading with the West Bank. Even that is restricted by Israel.

    And so this needs to stop.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Ilan Goldenberg, we will get to the root causes in a second.

    But let me ask you the same question. Do you believe that Gaza can be rehabilitated without helping Hamas?

  • Ilan Goldenberg:

    No, I agree with Zaha that that's basically impossible to actually — because Hamas ultimately controls Gaza.

    But the real question is, can you be smart about it, so as to limit the benefits to Hamas? And Zaha talked about the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism, which created all this very intense vetting that was set up to prevent Hamas from funneling all this aid.

    And then it was supplemented with Israel and Qatar basically coming to an agreement where, on a monthly basis, millions of dollars of cash get flown into Israel and sent over the border into Gaza directly to Hamas. And it seems to me like that's not the best way to develop a mechanism, flooding in cash that goes directly to Hamas.

    So, there's things you can do. For example, electricity is one of the biggest problems in Gaza. There's only about eight hours a day of electricity. You get — most of the electricity can actually come from Israel and Egypt. You can do most of the rebuilding outside of Gaza itself with the electricity flowing in.

    Now you're creating huge economic benefits for the people of Gaza without actually giving any of that money to Hamas.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    To a certain extent, you guys agree on that initial question. I predict that you will start to disagree here.

    So, Zaha Hassan, let me start with you on this.

    What do you think the root causes are? What do you think the way is to avoid having yet another war and having to have this conversation again?

  • Zaha Hassan:

    Well, let's think about how we ended up here.

    This latest episode started when we saw actions taken by Israel to restrict Palestinian access and residency in occupied East Jerusalem. And I don't think this issue of Jerusalem is going away anytime soon.

    But the larger issue for Hamas as well is the blockade. And so, if you don't address that recurring issue of Palestinian displacement, particularly in sensitive areas like Jerusalem, if you don't address the issue of the blockade, which a blockade is an act of war, and it's considered collective punishment to keep two million people confined to this very small strip of land, as Ilan said, with limited electricity, with actually no potable water, to — for them, and the inability to conduct any kind of economic activity.

    This is a manmade disaster that we have in Gaza. It's not a natural disaster that we need to remediate.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Ilan Goldenberg, do you think that the root causes are Israeli actions, whether in Jerusalem or the blockade?

  • Ilan Goldenberg:

    Well, I think half the root causes are Israeli actions, in terms of — especially just focusing on Gaza, on the blockade.

    And the other half is Hamas' choice to use violence and arm itself in response. Or you could argue that these really blockade is in response to Hamas' choices to arm itself and use violence. The two things kind of go hand in hand.

    So, I do believe that what you have here is a situation with both of these problems. And so what does a — what we have done in the past is basically have — everybody agrees on a cease-fire, and then everybody goes their separate way, and nobody addresses the root causes.

    And what I would argue instead is, you need a sustainable three-way deal between Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to end this constant crisis. It's a three-way political deal, in my opinion, where Hamas agrees to a long-term, sustainable, detailed cease-fire with Israel and also agrees to start taking steps to, over time, eventually disarm itself, or at least reduce its armaments or freeze them.

    Israel, as part of this, agrees to relax the blockade. And, by the way, the blockade isn't just Israel. It's also Egypt, so, important remember that Israel and Egypt both have to agree to relax the blockade.

    And so you get this three-way political deal, ideally mediated by Egypt, with support from the United States, the U.N. and the rest of the international community. And now you're getting at the root causes of why we're in this constant — this constant conflict.

    I'm worried that's not going to happen. The parties are all going to Egypt next week to begin these talks. I hope that we get it to a different place. I hope that the international community comes around that.

    But there's a real danger that we just all get together, nothing happens, the international community throws a bunch of money at the problem, everybody forgets about it, and then we have the same explosion in a few years.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    And just to make sure everyone understands, Palestinian Authority in charge in West Bank, Hamas in charge of Gaza.

    I just have one minute left, so 30 seconds to both of you.

    There is a new fragile coalition in Israel that spans from an Arab Islamic party all the way to the far right. Does that hurt the prospect of getting this right?

    Zaha Hassan, you first.

  • Zaha Hassan:

    This is not going to change the dynamics for Palestinians in the occupied territories. It's going to be more of the same. We just have a new face at the helm.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Ilan Goldenberg, just 30 seconds. Sorry.

    Do you think that the new Israeli government affects the ability to get this problem in Gaza right?

  • Ilan Goldenberg:

    Yes, actually.

    I think that at least — not on the big things, because I think this government ultimately is not going to be able to do big things because of the very diverse nature of the coalition, with everybody from the far right to the far left.

    But it also means it won't be able to do very destructive big things either, like some of the things that have been done in recent years. So, I think you will have a careful government that you can work with quietly on small, nonpolitical issues.

    And I will say that Gaza is much less of an — ideological issues for large chunks of the Israeli population than the West Bank, because it's not old biblical territory. There's not the same attachment to the land and history and religion associated with it.

    And so I actually think, in Gaza, there will be more space to do things than there will be to do in Jerusalem or in the West Bank.

  • Nick Schifrin:

    Ilan Goldenberg, Zaha Hassan, thank you very much to you both.

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