“In short, Gaza cannot adequately provide for the basic life-sustaining utilities of its citizens. Almost all of the drinking water in the Gaza Strip is not potable because of sewage pollution or high salinity levels. In fact, 90 percent of the water in the Strip exceeds the salination limit recommended by the World Health Organization.”
Last Sunday, Israeli media reported that Israel’s Water Authority had signed an agreement with the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company the previous week. As part of the deal, Israel will supply the Strip with electricity to operate a sewage treatment facility.
According to reports, the sewage treatment facility is planned to be fully operational within two months and will treat some 36,000 cubic meters of sewage a day, serving some 300,000 Gazans. The treated water produced by the plant will also provide for agricultural needs in the Strip.
Additionally, Israel will supply 1.5 megawatts of power to the Khan Yunis desalination plant, a facility that is already operational in southern Gaza.
The cost of these projects was not paid for by the broke Gaza authorities, but by international supporters. The $75 million bill for the setup of the new desalination plant was covered by the World Bank and several other donor countries. The electrical power needed for the Khan Yunis facility, which will cost another $40 million, will be paid for by the European Union.
Putting this deal into context underscores the almost mind-boggling disfunction being played out over the Gaza Strip by nearly all the players involved, from Israel, to the Palestinian Authority, to the international community of Palestinian supporters.
First, it is important to lay out some facts to describe just how bad life currently is for Gazans, and has been for some years now.
In short, Gaza cannot adequately provide for the basic life-sustaining utilities of its citizens. Almost all of the drinking water in the Gaza Strip is not potable because of sewage pollution or high salinity levels. In fact, 90 percent of the water in the Strip exceeds the salination limit recommended by the World Health Organization. This means that 97 percent of Gazans are drinking water at sewage level quality either because of high salt saturation or other contamination issue.
As Arab hydrologist Ahmed Yaqubi laid out at a conference of Israel’s Arava Institute last week, the water crisis is simply the result of a lack of reliable water resources being funneled into the Strip, resulting in the overuse of Gaza’s natural water aquifers.
In regard to power, Gaza has long been suffering from shortages, resulting in the need to institute power rationing.
The precarious situation in Gaza is the direct result of Palestinian stubbornness in enacting self-defeating policies. Additionally, persistent infighting between Palestinian factions has not helped.
Gaza is unable to conduct free import of goods into its territory. This is due to a strict military blockade imposed by the IDF on the Strip. Why does the IDF choose to keep up this blockade? Because the Hamas government that runs the Strip is a jihadist terror organization (recognized as much by the EU and the United States) that persistently attempts to import weapons into its territory with which to kill Israelis.
The Gaza authorities are thus choosing to prolong the suffering of their own people by remaining devoted to their destroy-Israel agenda.
The cannibalistic nature of Hamas’ policy in the Strip can be seen by the amount of money, manpower, and other vital resources the organization puts into its military spending. Estimates from last year put the figure at about $100 million dollars, a bit less than 20 percent of its annual budget. Approximately $40 million of that was spent on constructing the group’s infamous attack tunnels into Israel. Considering the nearly unbearable circumstances in which the Gazan people live, one might consider it immoral for a governing body to spend even one dollar on expanding military infrastructure, let alone 100 million.
It is not shocking that after these rather hefty investments in terror weapons, Hamas was forced to rely on the Palestinian Authority to pay for its electrical power needs. In April 2017, after a long period of footing the bill, the Palestinian Authority informed Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) that it intends to stop paying for electricity in Gaza. By making this move, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was essentially seeking to pressure Hamas into giving him control of the Strip. Gazans were left to suffer, being merely a pawn in the power games of Palestinian leaders. The detestable conduct of Hamas is only highlighted by the fact that nearly all of its leaders have grown exceedingly wealthy since taking over Gaza in 2007 by exploiting their positions of power.
Israel sits on the sidelines of this deteriorating mess. Its main priority in relation to Gaza and its jihadist overlords is to protect its people. Israel continues to reinforce the blockade and invest in other methods of countering attacks from the Strip including the well-known Iron Dome anti-missile system, and more recently the construction of a subterranean wall to protect against tunnel attacks.
At the same time however, Israel genuinely wants to prevent the mass suffering being inflicted on the people of Gaza by its leaders. For years, Israel has persistently provided supplies and vital services to Gaza, even during periods of open military hostilities.
Contrasting the humanitarian consideration, is the difficult question of what is the most effective strategy long term, for both Israelis and Gazans. Is it really wise to allow this pattern of Israel essentially propping up a territory run by Hamas to continue?
I remember coming across a volume with the intriguing title Samson Blinded: a Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East some ten years ago while on a trip visiting friends south of Jerusalem. The author’s basic thesis was that the modern Middle East requires decisive, near brutal policies in order to achieve lasting change. After perusing the pages for a few minutes I sighted this shocking quote: “Machiavelli was one of the greatest humanists of the Renaissance period.” While that assertion may be a tad exaggerated to say the least, after some thought, I realized that it does underscore an important and unfortunately unavoidable fact regarding the nature of conflict resolution. It is immoral, on every level, to prolong a conflict by enabling the dysfunctional behavior of your opponent.
This is the conundrum facing Israel, and indeed the world, regarding Gaza. While observers may know in their heart of hearts that covering for the shortcomings of Hamas is only harming Gaza’s future, if the current situation continues, the people of Gaza may have no future at all.