Last year, after a devastating 50-day war with Israel, Gaza turned to the world for help to rebuild what Israel had destroyed. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas wanted 4 billion dollars to rebuild Gaza (“5.4 billion pledged to help rebuild Gaza Strip”, LiveLeak, October 13, 2014). He got pledges for 5.4 billion.
Qatar led the way, pledging a billion USD (“Qatar is top donor as $5bn is pledged to rebuild Gaza”, The Guardian, October 12, 2014). All together, the gulf Arab states pledged two billion (ibid).
The other top pledges came from the US (212 million); the EU (568 million) (“Donors pledge $5.4bn for Palestinians at Cairo summit”, BBC News, October 12, 2014); and Turkey (200 million).
The Egyptian Foreign Minister was pleased. He said, "The message was clear to the international community that the Palestinian brothers are not alone” (“Donor conference pledges $5.4 billion for Gaza reconstruction”, YNET, October 12, 2014). The nations cheered (ibid).
Everyone was happy. Each donor committed “to start dispersing their assistance as soon as possible in order to bring about rapid improvements to the daily lives of Palestinians" (ibid).
Israel, however, wasn’t so happy. It was sceptical about how Hamas would use these billions. Israel was concerned that much of the money and materials delivered to Hamas would be used to rebuild the Hamas terror infrastructure (Tovah Lazaroff, “Disaster capitalism: Appeasers of Israel's obliteration of Gaza pledge $5.4 billion towards its reconstruction Gaza reconstruction”, Jerusalem Post, October, 15, 2015).
No one listened.
But Israeli officials weren’t the only sceptics. Gazans themselves were sceptical (Karin Luab, “There Is Widespread Skepticism That Gaza Will Be Rebuilt After Israel-Hamas War”, Business Insider, October 5, 2015).
An air of distrust has saturated Gaza for some time (ibid). Yes, the U.N. would broker a mechanism to get materials into Gaza—but any such arrangement would require unprecedented cooperation, not just between Israelis and Palestinians, but between Abbas and Hamas (ibid). Nothing was guaranteed.
The Gazans were right to be distrustful. Despite the commitment to disperse funds ASAP, little money showed up. By mid-December, 2014, only a tiny fraction of the monies pledged came to Gaza (“Only 2% of $5.4 billion pledged for Gaza actually delivered”, YNET, December 19, 2014).
The culprit wasn’t Israel (Peter Beaumont, “Corruption hampers effort to rebuild Gaza after summer conflict,” The Guardian, December 25, 2014). The entire UN-brokered mechanism, designed specifically to get materials quickly and efficiently into Gaza--had been widely corrupted (ibid).
By January, the UN suspended all aid to Gaza: there was no money (“Gazans storm U.N. building over aid stoppage”, JTA, January 29, 2015). Gazans were not happy. They stormed a UN building in Gaza in protest (ibid).
By February, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center published a report that began to detail what had happened to that aid (“Hamas and the other terrorist organizations based in Gaza are rehabilitating the military capabilities damaged in Operation Protective Edge through extensive recruitment, the establishment of military units and intensive military training”, February 2, 2015). It seems that Hamas had decided that rebuilding its military infrastructure was more important than rebuilding homes (ibid).
Despite the fact that as many as 100,000 civilian homes had been damaged, civilian needs have taken a back seat to Hamas’ military needs (ibid). Morale in Gaza has plummeted (ibid).
Hamas doesn’t care. Instead of spending money on homes, hospitals and infrastructure, it’s spending on training, recruitment and re-building its military organization (ibid). It claims to be rebuilding morale by highlighting its military rebuilding program (ibid). Clearly, that’s not happening.
Hamas doesn’t care. It wants to show Gazans how strong Hamas is. It wants to frighten Israel, to show Israel that the Hamas military capabilities have not only being rehabilitated but expanded (ibid).
Right now, much of Hamas’ military expenditures focus on teaching and practicing how to storm and take control of IDF posts near the Gaza Strip border, and abducting IDF soldiers (ibid). Hamas has chosen to focus on this particular training because it believes that it was these types of operations during Operation Protective Edge (during July-August, 2014) that caused Israel the greatest number of losses (ibid).
Instead of rebuilding Gaza, Hamas places greater importance on training its population to abduct an Israeli soldier or to steal the body of an Israeli soldier. Instead of helping its people, it wants to capture Israelis—dead or alive--to use them as bargaining chips for the release of terrorists imprisoned in Israel (ibid).
It’s spent a lot of money to do this. Since the July-August 2014, Hamas has graduated two Officer training classes. One class had 1,000 members. The other had 160 (ibid). The graduates simulated taking over an IDF post (ibid).
All of that takes cash.
For Hamas, that’s not a problem. It believes it’s got access to all kinds of cash.