After 11 days of fighting, a cease-fire between Israel and Gaza went into effect on the night between Thursday and Friday. In response, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would resupply the Iron Dome missile defense system. Biden stressed that the United States was committed to continue the humanitarian work in cooperation with the United Nations.
The renewal of Israel’s means of defense is of course an existential necessity, but so is the need to rebuild the Gaza Strip. Naturally, most if not all of the Israeli public was preoccupied during the last round of escalation with events in Israel – missiles fired at it, the routine of sirens and protected spaces. The media were flooded throughout the fighting with reports of happenings in Israel – strikes, interceptions, casualties and the enormous damage.
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The scenes of destruction that the Israeli army brought down on Gaza were far from the public eye. During the fighting there is less emotional space for the enemy. But now that quiet has returned to Israel’s cities and the Gaza Strip, it’s important to turn our attention to what is happening in Gaza, all the more so in light of the fact that Israel is careful to state that it is fighting Hamas, not Gaza’s civilian population, which Israel perceives as “hostages” of Hamas.
The recent round of fighting took a heavy toll on human life. More than 200 Palestinians were killed as a result of aerial strikes, about half of whom were women and minors under the age of 18. Many others were wounded, and according to the human rights group B’Tselem, tens of thousands of Gazans had to leave their homes. The army also severely damaged hundreds of homes, the electrical grid, water pipelines, roads and more.
The rehabilitation of Gaza must be part of the new equation of “quiet for quiet” between Israel and Gaza. This is not only about a humanitarian obligation. If Gaza is not rebuilt, the next clash is waiting around the corner.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to arrive in the Middle East in the next few days. He will meet with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and with senior officials in Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other countries. It seems that the Biden administration intends to leverage aid to Gaza as a means of dealing with the Palestinian problem. Egypt has also announced that it will give half a billion dollars toward rebuilding Gaza.
The Israeli government must not disrupt attempts to rebuild Gaza, for example, by raising a demand to condition humanitarian aid on an exchange of prisoners and remains. Not only because in so doing Israel would be on the way to a clash with the United States and Egypt, but because the rebuilding of Gaza is a humanitarian necessity for its millions of residents and essential for Israel’s security.