Over a month since hostilities halted, much of the Gaza Strip remains in ruins, untouched since it was obliterated by the Israeli invasion. The issue isn’t money: Saudi Arabia’s pledge of $1 billion soon after the war ended has been followed up by major pledges from across the world. But even flush with promises of donations, the reconstruction cannot begin in earnest, because the Israeli government is continuing to block raw materials.
Before the war begin, the Israeli government had already enforced a massive blockade on the strip, barring the importation of everything from clothing and shoes to key construction materials like steel, cement and glass, citing their fears that any of those things might have a military use for the Hamas government. But the blockades have remained in place even after the war ended, and with no reliable source of cement or steel, all the money in the world cannot rebuild the strip.
And even though the Gaza issue has moved off the front page in the wake of Israel’s contentious election results, the US State Department is concerned by what Israel is doing, not just with reconstruction supplies but with humanitarian aid. The outgoing Olmert Administration has stalled the shipment of aid as a bargaining tool to try to force Hamas to return a captured soldier, and Secretary Clinton has had officials warn Israel that “the US expects Israel to meet its commitments on this matter.”
Israel has a strict list of approved “humanitarian aid items” and refuses to broaden it. One source condemned it as outrageous, adding “why should a senior American official issue a protest on pasta in order for us to recognize that we need to allow it into the Gaza Strip.”