Israel is actively working to support reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip. Israel has undertaken these measures in the face of its valid concerns about the diversion of materials by Hamas for terrorist purposes.
Israel is actively working to support reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip. Following are a few examples of the extensive reconstruction measures facilitated by Israel. [Further details of Israeli measures can be found in the appendix.]
- The passage of massive amounts of construction materials into Gaza. Over 3.4 million tons have entered Gaza since last summer’s conflict with Hamas, in part due to Israel’s expansion of its border crossings with Gaza to handle over 800 truckloads of goods per day. Israel has allocated approximately USD 10 million to further expand their capacity to 1,000 trucks a day.
- The movement of persons connected to the reconstruction effort, including businessmen from Gaza, reconstruction personnel, engineers and other relevant professionals. Israel has allowed their movement between Gaza and Israel and/or the West Bank.
- Building projects in Gaza for housing, as well as schools, clinics and infrastructure projects. These projects are initiated and/or funded by international organizations, foreign states, the PA and private elements.
Israel has undertaken these measures, and many more, in the face of its valid concerns about the diversion of materials by Hamas (an internationally-recognized terror organization) for terrorist purposes.
Israel has taken measures to support reconstruction despite the major security risks many pose. In the past, Hamas has diverted massive amounts of aid and imported goods for use in its terrorist infrastructure. For instance, building materials worth tens of millions of dollars were diverted for the construction of Hamas’ cross-border tunnels, which were used to attack Israel during the summer 2014 conflict. Hamas continues to pursue its efforts to rearm, expand its rocket arsenal and construct the infrastructure it plans to use in its next attack on Israel.
Hindrances to reconstruction
Despite Israel’s best efforts, some reconstruction is being hindered by forces beyond its control.
According to the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) – which was established in September 2014 by agreement between the UN, Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) – reconstruction is supposed to be carried out by the PA, international bodies and the private sector.
Delays in reconstruction predominantly stem from the actions of Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the conflict between this terrorist organization and the Palestinian Authority.
The PA bears primary responsibility for Palestinian implementation of reconstruction, coordinating the process and leading both private and public sector works. However, Hamas – which is more concerned with enhancing its terrorist infrastructure than in rebuilding homes – continues to take action designed to prevent the PA from gaining a foothold in Gaza. For example, Hamas refuses to allow the PA to take security and civilian responsibility for the Palestinian side of Gaza’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt. Furthermore, Hamas continues to misappropriate construction materials for use in terrorist infrastructures. For its part, the Palestinian Authority wants to weaken the Hamas regime and this goal appears to be influencing the pace and extent of its reconstruction activities.
A related – yet no less important – impediment is the non-delivery of the enormous amounts of funds pledged by international donors. Reportedly, only slightly more than one-third of the promised funds have arrived.
Appendix: Israeli Measures in Support of Reconstruction
Examples of measures undertaken by Israel in support of reconstruction in the Gaza Strip include:
- Upgrading the border crossings between Israel and Gaza to allow over 800 truckloads of building materials and other goods to enter the Gaza Strip in a daily basis.
- Allocating approximately USD 10 million to further expand the capacity of the crossings to over 1,000 trucks a day.
- Facilitating the passage of over 3.4 million tons of materials into Gaza since the end of last summer’s conflict with Hamas. About 100,000 tons a week.
- Of the more than 127,000 households authorized under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism to buy materials, over 106,000 households have already bought construction materials.
Building projects in Gaza facilitated by Israel include housing (sometimes whole neighborhoods) as well as schools, clinics and infrastructure projects. They can be initiated and/or funded by international organizations, foreign states, the PA and private elements.
- Recent advancements in projects include laying the cornerstone for the third stage of a neighborhood in Rafah with 220 housing units and a cornerstone for the al-Zafer Tower project in Gaza City. Over 3,500 new housing units were already authorized by the GRM.
- Over 540 projects have been already authorized by the GRM since the 2014 conflict, 334 are under construction.
- Hammad City, a neighborhood near Rafah financed by Qatar and built within the GRM mechanism with over 1,000 housing units was just inaugurated, and will be populated by the end of February 2016. Of almost 7,000 housing units that were seriously damaged last summer over 4,2000 are under construction.
Movement of People
- Doubling the number of entry permits into Israel from Gaza for members of the business sector. The quota for businessmen entry permits has been raised from 3,000 to 5,000.
- Coordinating engineers and other relevant professionals for international community projects.
- Facilitating the movement of Gaza reconstruction personnel, with more than 1,000 permits issued since summer 2014 for travel from the West Bank to Gaza.
- About 100,000 entered Israel through the Erez crossing in 2015, more than 300% increase compared to 2014.
As Israel is aware of the water problems and the lack of sufficient electricity supply, which is essential for Gaza’s reconstruction, the Israeli government has authorized in principle the connection of Gaza to a natural gas pipeline, as declared by Iseael in the last AHLC meeting in NY (September 2015).
As for the water issue, for the short term, Israel will support small scale desalination systems (in addition to the 10 cubic meters of water that Israel is already supplying), and for the long term, with enough energy supply, Israel supports the International efforts to construct a large scale desalination plant in Gaza.
Israel has undertaken additional measures that while not directly connected to the reconstruction efforts, are aimed at contributing to the economy of Gaza and the lives of its residents.
- Among the measures aimed at boosting the economy of Gaza are:
- Israel expresses its support of the development of the Gaza-Marine gas field.
- The export of agricultural goods to Israel throughout this calendrical year.
- The export of industrial goods (mainly textile and furniture and metal scarps) and agricultural produce (including fish).
- Over 15,000 tons of merchandise were marketed to the West Bank, abroad and Israel since October 2014.
- Setting the fishing zone off Gaza’s coastline for Palestinian boats at 10 kilometers (6 miles).
- The establishment of a Coca-Cola factory, with the requested equipment, in the Karni Industrial Estate.
- The import of engines and second-hand vehicles into the Gaza Strip.
- The export of metal scrap from Gaza was authorized.
- Israel has doubled the amount of water it supplies to Gaza from 5 million to 10 million cubic meters of water annually (2.6 billion US gallons). This in addition to the 125 megawatts of electricity that Israel supplies to the Gaza Strip.
- Israel has continued and even improved movement for medical purposes.
- In addition to granting entry permits into Israel for urgent medical care for patients and their escorts, Israel has raised the number of permits for travel to the West Bank for non-urgent medical care.
- Israel has coordinated the movement of almost 650 doctors and medical teams from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank for continuing education projects and conferences.
- Facilitating the exit of Gaza Strip residents abroad via the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan. This route has been used for medical treatment, participation in conferences and university studies.
It is important to note that for the past five years, all types of foodstuff, as well as all consumer and other goods, are allowed to enter Gaza from Israel. The only prohibitions are on weapons and a short list of dual-use items that can be exploited for use in terrorism.