Today 75 countries including the United States will meet in Cairo for what is billed as a Gaza pledging conference. The issue at hand will be finding the funds to reconstruct what was destroyed by Israel during the recent Gaza war—without bolstering Hamas in the process.
It won't be easy. For starters, while the pledges will no doubt mount up, any fund-raiser knows that a pledge is one thing, while cash on hand is another. The American delegation, led by Secretary of State Clinton and special envoy George Mitchell, will pledge funds that have not yet been approved by Congress. With Gaza under Hamas control, Congress may not appropriate funds very speedily and may impose conditions that make actual disbursement difficult or impossible. And as the Palestinians have learned through bitter experience, pledges from Arab countries are sometimes fulfilled, sometimes forgotten.
Not strengthening Hamas is tough enough; figuring out some way this spending can bolster the Palestinian Authority will be even harder. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has some good ideas, such as bypassing Hamas and giving housing assistance money directly to Gaza families whose houses were destroyed or damaged.
This could work if Hamas lets it—a big if. Fayyad is right to try—to force Hamas either to allow it or block it and face public criticism from a Gaza population already suffering from rule by a terrorist group that regularly attacks Israel and provokes Israeli attacks in response.