Thursday, February 21, 2019 | ePaper

An end to Gaza's misery is as elusive as peace

New York Times Editorial

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Gaza has dissolved into such misery that Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, chief of staff of the Israeli Army, has warned the cabinet that it is on the verge of collapse and there is a real threat of another uprising.
In an agonizing picture of life in one of the world's most crowded enclaves, David M. Halbfinger reported in The Times that daily life there was "unraveling before people's eyes." The flow of basic food and supplies entering Gaza from Israel has shrunk, jails are filling with debtors, burglaries are rampant, medical supplies dwindle, water is almost undrinkable and electricity sporadic.
Israel has enforced a devastating blockade for more than a decade, since Hamas, the militant Islamist group, came to power there and expelled the Palestinian Authority. Israel, the United States and Europe ordered sanctions against the enclave. The border with Egypt provided a lifeline until it was choked off by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who saw Hamas as an ally of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Little has been done to repair the damage of three hugely destructive wars in the last decade.
Last year, the Palestinian Authority, seeking to win back control over Gaza, slashed the salaries of thousands of workers still on its payroll and halted payments to Israel for Gaza's fuel and electricity. That pushed Hamas into a much-heralded agreement with the Palestinian Authority in October, but nothing has come of it.
Most recently the Trump administration waded in with a vindictive decision to cut funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees, including 1.2 million in Gaza.
While the blockade and Israeli military attacks have ruined Gaza, there is no defending Hamas, which regularly fires rockets across the border into Israel. Money that should have gone to hospitals and medicine has been spent on futile confrontation with Israel and digging tunnels that the  
Israelis are now spending a small fortune to block.
But holding two million people hostage is not the way to fight Hamas, and the suffering only nurtures more rage and militancy. A majority of Gaza's two million people are simply trying to survive against lengthening odds and can do little to alleviate their plight.
If, as General Eisenkot warned, another uprising lies in the future, that would likely prove futile. It would cause great suffering and destruction again, and might not even rouse the world to Gaza's plight. The Palestinians no longer seem to be a serious concern even for Arab nations.
Israel recently called on donor countries to fund $1 billion in desperately needed water and energy projects in Gaza. Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Israel, the United States and international donors must quickly find ways to meet immediate needs.
But the only real solution is a peace deal with Israel, which seems more unlikely every day.

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