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Situation Assessment 15 December, 2014

The Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip: Background and Challenges

Khaled Walid Mahmoud

Khaled Walid Mahmoud is an assistant researcher at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies. Having worked as an editor and a news desk manager at Yahoo!, his research interests are focused on political activism through social and digital media. He has been a researcher with the Civitas program, monitoring public opinion among diaspora Palestinians and a research associate with Professor Nathan Brown, examining the political participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. His articles have appeared in a number of print and on-line media, as well as in peer-reviewed journals. He is the author of two Arabic books, Social Media and the Dynamics of Change in the Arab World (2011); and The Present and Future Realities of Israeli Security (2007). He holds a BA in Political Science and an MA in International Relations, both from the University of Jordan.

Introduction

The damage caused by the latest round of fighting in the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip was considerably worse than that of 2008 and 2012. “Operation Protective Edge” was the third aggression mounted by Israel against Gaza in just six years. In Cairo, while aggression was still raging, negotiations on a ceasefire were simultaneously held with discussions on the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip – Israel having made reconstruction conditional on calm along the borders of Gaza. This paper casts light on the Cairo Conference on the Reconstruction of the Gaza Strip held in October 2014, the promises made, Israel’s interests in the reconstruction process, and the choices that are now facing Hamas. Delay in reconstruction may detract from the popularity of Hamas, a popularity that considerably grew during the latest Israeli assault.

Resolutions from the Cairo Conference  

A conference to assess how to reconstruct the Gaza Strip was convened in Cairo on October 12, 2014. Under the joint auspices of Norway and Egypt, the UN-and EU-chaired meeting brought together delegations from 50 states, international and regional organizations, representatives of international aid agencies, the IMF, the World Bank, Arab and Islamic development funds and banks, the Arab League, and the UN and its main programs and agencies, including UNWRA, the UNDP and the World Food Program.

At the end of the conference, the donor states pledged 5.4 billion dollars in aid, half of which was allocated for reconstruction projects, and the other half for supporting the budget of the Palestinian government and development in the West Bank, according to the concluding statement of the conference.[1]

The extent of destruction caused by the latest assault means that the reconstruction in Gaza now includes: securing temporary shelter for the newly homeless; repairing the electricity network, water wells, and the water and sewage system; rebuilding mosques, churches, cultural centers, and historical sites; constructing homes completely destroyed and repairing those partially destroyed; repairing of roads and bridges, and compensation for the losses of farmers; reconstructing damaged industrial, commercial, and service facilities and re-opening of border crossings to allow entry of construction materials, while ensuring that unauthorized weapons do not enter the Gaza Strip. The chair of the conference made international financial support conditional on three matters: that the national unity government take authority in Gaza, particularly over the border crossings and customs; that aid not be used for non-designated purposes; and that action be taken to open the border crossings between Israel and Gaza.

Qatar made the largest contribution of all with a donation of one billion dollars. The EU pledged 450 million dollars, and the United States committed to 212 million dollars in aid. Kuwait pledged 200 million dollars over three years, and the UAE also offered 200 million dollars.[2] The absence of any Saudi contribution was noticeable, although the Kingdom explained it had previously given 500 million dollars in aid. (See: Figure 1)

 

Figure 1: Pledges made by states at the Cairo International Conference on Palestine “Reconstructing Gaza”. Source: the author.

 

The final statement of the conference commended the Egyptian ceasefire initiative and stressed it was ready to back the ceasefire “by mobilizing international support for the recovery and reconstruction of Gaza within a framework of longer-term sustainable development of Palestine as a whole.” This framing of the conference indicates the politicization of reconstruction, despite the fact that ultimately it is being primarily dealt with as a humanitarian project.

 

To continue reading this Analysis as a PDF, please click here.  This document was translated into English by the ACRPS Translation and English editing team. To read the original Arabic version, which appeared online on November 12, 2014, please click here.

[1] “Donors Pledge $5.4bn for Gaza Reconstruction,” Al-Jazeera, October 12, 2014, http://goo.gl/UHPnBP.

[2] Ibid.