Failed reconstruction in Gaza fuels tensions

Failed reconstruction in Gaza fuels tensions

4 min read
24 Nov, 2016
Comment: Billed as a symbol of hope, the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism has failed to live up to expectations, and instead aggravates economic and social woes, writes Isra Namey
Israel has placed heavy restrictions on the entry of many construction materials [Getty]

The unequivocal failure of the UN-brokered Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) is pushing hundreds of contractors and construction workers to arrange numerous and regular protests against it, and call for its immediate end.

The vast majority of the Palestinian people in the coastal enclave feel they were deceived by this mechanism. First promoted as a symbol of hope for them, the mechanism was intended to be a reliable way of achieving comprehensive and sustainable development in the war-ridden Gaza Strip.

However, more than two years has elapsed since it was launched, and the GRM has done very little to alleviate Gaza's woes. Most of the pledges made by the international community have gone unfulfilled, and the needs of the people in Gaza remain unaddressed.

The agreement was signed in September 2014, between the Israeli government and the Palestinian government based in Ramallah. It was brokered by the United Nations who were to implement and supervise a reconstruction process to rebuild Gaza after the deadliest escalation of hostilities in the assault of summer 2014.

More than $5 billion dollars were donated internationally, and timetables were drawn up to initiate the rebuilding process.

So where did the mechanism go wrong?

The answer lies in the conditions of this mechanism that have actually enforced more effective and intrusive Israeli control over Gaza. Israel maintains the upper hand over the mechanism as it has the right of surveillance over each construction project planned to take place in Gaza. In addition, it has the right to define what is allowed into the territory.

Owing to this condition, Israel has severely restricted the entry of many construction materials that it deems of "dual use" such as cement, other construction aggregates and steel bars, in order to prevent any alleged military use of these items.

The mechanism was intended to be a reliable way of achieving comprehensive and sustainable development in the war-ridden Gaza Strip

The Israeli government has installed cameras on the crossings to monitor the quantities that are allowed to be delivered via the trucks. All these stipulations have taken precedence over the Palestinians' lives, who still have no option but to protest against the slow pace of the reconstruction process in their strip.

Walid el-Hosary, chairman of the Gaza Chamber of Commerce said it was hoped the mechanism would rebuild Gaza in just six months, with large-scale construction projects, and the lifting of the suffocating restrictions, to ensure free movement through the terminals. But the situation has only continued to deteriorate.

"This agreement turned our contractors and workers into beggars; they are the most affected as they are unable to find work opportunities that preserve their dignity. It has control over every construction project to take place in Gaza, whether it was related to the war or not," he added.

He noted that Israel's blockade over the coastal enclave was entrenched and institutionalised by this policy as the mechanism has failed to accomplish any of its commitments towards Gaza, and has fallen short of the expectations of residents.

For the Palestinian Authority, its role has not been played in good faith.

The mechanism stipulates that the PA must agree about, and supervise all the intended rebuilding projects in Gaza, but it has a weak presence there, and refuses to take part in any supervising efforts.

The PA refuses to reestablish its presence in Gaza to undertake its responsibilities toward its people in Gaza, and those people still pay a heavy toll for these disingenuous practices.

Frustration prevails in Gaza, and the situation is compounded by deteriorating living standards

Nicolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process let the Palestinians down when he failed to keep his promises to rebuild Gaza and improve conditions there. His agency has succumbed to Israel's pressure and halted the work at local factories in Gaza which manufacture building materials such as bricks.

There serious failings in the UN's response to the people of Gaza's ordeal, reinforce the belief that the international agency has been totally ineffective and helpless in this respect. Its willful ignorance of the ongoing tragedy in Gaza increases the negative repercussions of the economic troubles in the social fabric of Palestinian society.

The owners of the factories and workshops that were destroyed in the last war have not been compensated for their tremendous losses. Frustration prevails in Gaza, and the situation is compounded by deteriorating living standards and acute indifference from both the international community and the PA.

If the mechanism remains in place, the conditions may be ripe for a fourth war to be waged on Gaza. The failed reconstruction's mechanism perpetuates the current status quo and strengthens the existing threat of a possible confrontation.   

Isra Namey is a freelance writer based in Gaza. Her writings have appeared in the Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, Al Jazeera, and Middle East Eye.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff