Israeli limits stymie Gaza rebuilding
Without a shift in the Israeli policy that doesn’t allow building materials into Gaza, much of the $2.8 billion that Palestinians hope to raise at a donors’ conference Monday will be limited to humanitarians needs.
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A delegation of 17 Gazan businessmen, who are slated to attend Monday's conference, plans to announce that the Israeli army destroyed "600-700 factories, small industries, workshops, and business enterprises throughout the Gaza Strip," Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported. Of 255 Gazan plants connected to the construction industry, 63 were hit directly, totaling an estimated $36 million in damages, the paper reported.Skip to next paragraph
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Eager to rebuild
When Mohammed Abed Rabbo decided to move his family from Beit Hanoun – the northeastern corner of Gaza – further south to East Jabaliya, he thought it would be safe. Beit Hanoun, an agricultural area, was used by Palestinian militants to launch rockets at Israel.
But during the war, Mr. Abed Rabbo's house was largely – but not totally – destroyed. After sheltering temporarily in a United Nations school during the worst of the fighting, Abed Rabbo and his family came back to the tattered remains of this neighborhood, and saw no choice but to move into the one mostly enclosed room that remained standing amid the wreckage.
Now he wonders how they're going to rebuild. "I was ready to move elsewhere in Gaza to live in better conditions, and now I'd do anything to have my family in a better situation than this," says Abed Rabbo, as his wife cooks an egg and tomato stew in a pan on an open fire on the floor.
Cooking gas is expensive but also pointless – their stove as well as their kitchen were destroyed – electricity for this war-torn neighborhood is long gone. They cook and warm themselves by fires built from scavenged firewood, and have light at night from a small lantern. "I would accept even a caravan," he says, the local term for temporary, prefab unit that is about the size of a trailer home.
"I even tried to rent an apartment somewhere, but the problem is that there isn't one available in the whole of Gaza," he explains, leaning on his cane. He was wounded in a previous Israeli operation in northern Gaza in 2006, when Israel was also after Hamas rocket launchers. That was part of what drove him to move south, away from what he thought was the front line.
"Israel did this, but the Arab countries bear responsibility, too. I blame Hamas also, because they're not meeting the demands of the international community," he says, reflecting on his situation and that of all Palestinians here. "Without a national unity government, nothing will be rebuilt, even if it rains money on Gaza."
'Humanitarian goods only'
Israel says that it will provide unfettered access to Gaza for basic assistance such as food and medical supplies. But goods for heavy industry remain off limits for now.
"The policy is we're facilitating humanitarian goods only, and anything beyond that will have to be discussed between Israel and the international community," says Maj. Peter Lerner, the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense's committee on Gaza.
He says that during the last cease-fire with Hamas, which ended Dec. 19th, cement, piping, and gravel went into Gaza, and were used to build and reinforce tunnels and bunkers. "This is something we're not happy with obviously, and this is something we're looking to avert in the future, and we've said this to all the international organizations," Major Lerner says.
"The plan, as we will present it, is not only to restore Gaza to its pre-Israeli offensive state, but to rebuild the Palestinian economy as well," said PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
Hamas, meanwhile, is submitting a separate reconstruction plan to the conference. The rival Palestinian factions relaunched talks last week in Cairo, but seemed to make little headway. On Saturday, Mr. Abbas said that for Hamas to join a unity government, it must embrace a two-state solution and recognize Israel. Hamas reiterated its refusal to do.