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    What Gazans need

    Güven Sak, PhD30 April 2016 - Okunma Sayısı: 1529

    Gaza has many problems. Yet when the UN asked nearly 16,000 displaced Gazan households what type of information they wanted more of, they responded with some predictable things, like updates on checkpoint crossings, the security situation, issues relating to food or water. But one problem that overshadowed all others was that Gazans seemed to be chafing under the never-ending reconstruction of their small territory. They felt like they didn’t know what was going on. 92 percent of Gazans would like to be more informed about what is happening in the reconstruction process. The status of crossings, commonly thought of as the most important aspect of Gazan daily life, by comparison, only 64 percent want more information about. This was in the April report of the United Nations on Gaza.

    So Gazans are frustrated about living in a perpetual construction site. Let’s take a closer look at why this is. First, progress is really unbelievably slow. Right after the Israeli operations in the summer of 2014 devastated Gaza, the Cairo Conference pledged around $5 billion to the Palestinians, $3.5 billion of which was allocated to reconstruction. Since October 2014, only $1.4 billion of that $3.5 billion has been spent. So there is a problem with financial follow-through. Second, the reconstruction is moving forward without a notable difference on the ground. 40 percent of the pledged amount already been spent, yet about 16,000 families are still displaced in Gaza. A quarter of these families are reported to be living in damaged households. So the bit of reconstruction that has been done has not touched the lives of Gazans as much as would be expected. Third, some of the destroyed houses were rebuilt as they were before. Gaza was mess before 2014, and it continues to be a mess because there is no plan for improving upon the order that existed before 2014.

    There is also a strange divide among the countries in terms of keeping their promises. Looking at the tables of the April World Bank report on Gaza, countries like the US, UK and the EU as a block, nearly spent all they said they would, while the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey have on average spent less than 30 percent of their pledges. Why this divide? Countries that were looking to provide general humanitarian relief in the form of cash transfers and food aid were able to spend the pledged amount. But countries that would like to do something more sustainable and transformative for the devastated Strip? They have enormous difficulties in finding projects and then securing a conducive environment to fulfill the chosen projects. Surely an arduous task, with Israeli security concerns.

    It’s not only Gazans, but also Palestinians in general who are increasingly frustrated with the situation. They have no vision for their future, no viable goals to aspire to. In a sense, they lack software, but the hardware is in place for when they need it: Relative to its population, Palestine has the kind of natural resources Turkey can only dream about. It has the Gaza marine.

    Think about it. It’s curious that when we talk about natural gas reserves in the Eastern Mediterranean, we talk about Israeli gas, Cypriot gas, but not Palestinian gas. Yet the late Arafat signed a concession agreement with British Gas regarding Gaza Marine back in 1999. Tamar gas field was also explored then and made operational in 2013. Leviathan is new, and we are only now discussing it.

    Gaza Marine is only 36 kilometers off Gaza. Bringing Israeli gas to Turkey is now being discussed seriously in Ankara. But we are not talking about Palestinian gas. We should. Gaza Marine has the capacity to change the fate of Gaza, if you ask me. If Turkey would like to contribute the future of Palestine, it needs to have a closer look at Gaza Marine.

    This commentary was published in Hürriyet Daily News on 30.04.2016

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