Rebuild Gaza — why?

Nearly anyone who follows events in the Middle East believes that the ceasefire imposed on Israel by the Biden administration won't last more than three or four years, if that long, before Hamas's Iranian rockets are once again launched from Gaza.

So why should America be on the hook for rebuilding Gaza when Hamas's next round of indiscriminate rocket attacks and Israel's response with tactical air strikes is inevitable?

Since Israel left Gaza in 2005, there have been either major engagements or minor skirmishes almost every year.  The pattern is familiar.  Hamas indiscriminately fires Qassam rockets into Israel, kidnaps Israeli soldiers, or organizes a military assault on the border, and Israel responds with artillery, air strikes, or ground assaults, and sometimes all three.

To call the ensuing ceasefires after those engagements "fragile" is an understatement.  The most recent one will be not at all different.

Israel agreed to the current ceasefire because of the Biden administration's pressure.  It is no secret that Israel sought to further degrade Hamas's fighting capabilities but was restrained from doing so. 

Iran will resupply rockets and missiles to Hamas, reflecting a confluence of interest between Hamas's desire to make life miserable for Israelis and Iran's interest in gaining a foothold in the neighborhood.

Those who naïvely see Iran as being Shiite and Hamas as Sunni do not understand the antipathy the Iranians have for the Israelis.  The enemy of my enemy, as the Middle East proverb goes, is my friend.

But the classic case of naïveté goes to the Biden administration, for what is built will not only be destroyed; there also is absolutely no way the Americans can guarantee that building materials for humanitarian purposes will not be diverted to Hamas's warfare machine.  After all, the Israelis long permitted convoys laden with wire and concrete to enter Gaza, only to see the result in a nest of tunnels designed to infiltrate Israel and kidnap or murder its citizens.

The Biden administration's "bonehead idea" to rebuild Gaza also raises some profound domestic issues.  Are there not areas of our major cities riddled with poverty and homelessness in desperate need of rebuilding?

Estimates of the homeless are difficult to obtain, but the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 2019 estimated some 630,000 homeless people, of which some ten percent were veterans, men and women who had sacrificed for this country.

California, because of its halcyon climate, draws the most homeless and the most veteran homeless.  The distribution of homeless along Interstate 80 as it runs from Oakland to Berkeley is so prominent that at the intersection of University Avenue, it even has a name — the Seabreeze encampment.

The community comprises makeshift shelters and flimsy tents.  It generates tons of waste and is an incubator for disease.  

The creative people of Berkeley have discussed constructing a permanent shelter there with quality tents, running water, toilet facilities, and dumpster pickups.  It's not a solution, but it would be a dramatic improvement.

All of it costs money, and while there is no doubt about the good intentions of Berkeley's citizens, nothing has happened except for some periodic cleanups of the site.

To the south of the Seabreeze encampment in neighboring Oakland, not far from where Kamala Harris lived as a child, is a large population of homeless, mostly black, with a substantial portion having been displaced by high rents resulting from gentrification.  Oakland deals with this by periodically rousting the homeless and destroying what meager possessions and shelter they have.  As the number of homeless in Oakland has risen, the city has become less tolerant.

As California has found it too expensive to keep incarcerating people, those people, when released, often have no place to go but to places like the streets of Oakland and Seabreeze.

If the Biden administration wants to rebuild something, there is plenty of need in American cities that won't be destroyed in the next three to four years.

Rebuild Gaza?  Why?  There is an abundance of rebuilding that is needed in America.  Perhaps President Biden could send Kamala Harris to visit her old neighborhood and its environs to get a firsthand view of the rebuilding America needs and actually deserves.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the Haym Salomon Center.

Image: Norsk Folkehjelp Norwegian People's Aid.

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