Editor’s note: This paper has been updated since its release on Oct 12, 2014. The most recent version can be found here.
As the fragile August 26th ceasefire between Israel and Hamas struggles to hold, attention has shifted to the reconstruction of Gaza. The PA appealed for urgent international assistance to the Gaza Strip, a territory that has been facing extremely difficult humanitarian, economic and social conditions even prior to Israel’s most recent “Operation Protective Edge”.
As in the aftermath of previous wars in Gaza, a special donors’ conference is taking place today in Cairo (12 October 2014), under the join auspices of Norway and Egypt, where the PA will seek to raise $4 billion in reconstruction aid. However, this time, the purpose of the conference is not only to raise the specified amount of aid required to rebuild what has been destroyed in the Strip, but also to agree on the mechanisms through which this aid will be distributed and used.
In the past seven years Gaza has been going through a protracted process of destruction, which has had a high human cost and wasted huge amounts of national and international resources allocated by donors. This cyclical process is in part due to the lack of international political will to change the over-arching strategy towards Gaza to something more in line with the reality of the political situation on the ground. Such a strategy would require efforts that seek to create a local capacity in Gaza capable of leading and sustaining its own reconstruction and development in a transparent way while elevating the public good above narrow political and economic interests.
As Donors meet in Cairo, there is a critical need to objectively analyze the previous attempts to reconstruct in Gaza and to reflect on mistakes made so that the reconstruction this time may proceed in a much more effective way easing civilian suffering, compacting extremism and hopefully contributing to a lasting truce between Hamas and Israel.
Based on the authors’ extensive experience in post-war reconstruction both in Gaza and elsewhere, this paper aims to provide policy advice to the Palestinian and the international community on how to approach the daunting task of rebuilding the Gaza Strip while avoiding the mistakes of past experiences. It starts by highlighting some of the most relevant contextual facts before exploring the current challenges facing the reconstruction of Gaza, and suggesting an alternative, collaborative approach.