Large-Scale Economic Projects Won’t Save Gaza

For some time, Israeli and foreign analysts have suggested various schemes to ameliorate the Gaza Strip’s deteriorating economic situation, including, for instance, the construction of an offshore port that could be used for exports and imports without compromising Israel’s ability to keep the Hamas government from importing arms. Mohammed Samhouri, drawing on his own experience as a leading Palestinian economic adviser in the wake of the 2005 Israeli withdrawal, doubts such plans can work:

[The evacuation of] Gaza—which took all [parties] by surprise when first announced in December 2003 by then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon—was largely motivated by Israel’s own strategic interests [and] was all but inevitable: a point often neglected in writings on the subject. Unlike the occupation of the West Bank, the prospect of a long-term Israeli occupation of Gaza had never existed or made strategic sense. Neither the geography nor the demography of the place would have allowed for a prolonged Israeli presence. . . . It was only a matter of time.

By contrast, Hamas presented the disengagement as a victory that proved the effectiveness of its armed resistance. . . . In the rush to capitalize on its self-proclaimed victory, . . . Hamas competed against the secular Fatah party in the Palestinian legislative elections of January 2006, which—contrary to predictions—it ultimately won. And so, as the last Israeli soldier left Gaza in the early morning hours of September 12, 2005, Gaza was in effect sealed and delivered to Hamas. . . .

The disengagement plan has failed to alter Gaza’s prolonged misfortune. One can list many reasons for this outcome. But one lesson is clear: technical solutions to Gaza’s complex problems, absent a supportive political and security setting, are not likely to work. . . . Yet this lesson and its policy implications don’t seem to be well understood today. For instance, despite the growing realization that deterioration in Gaza’s living conditions is fast approaching a breaking point, and may have even passed it, the proposed solutions to the crisis, whether from the Israeli military establishment or from the current U.S. administration, are all in the form of a list of [large-scale economic and infrastructure] projects to save Gaza’s collapsing economy.

Vital as such undertaking may be for addressing Gaza’s mounting socioeconomic difficulties and the chronic shortages in its basic public services, these projects . . . can only be implemented if Gaza’s political and security situation is stabilized first.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Ariel Sharon, Gaza Strip, Gaza withdrawal, Hamas, Palestinian economy, Politics & Current Affairs

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy