Oct. 2, 2018
Why Mega-Projects for Saving Gaza Won’t Work – Dr. Mohammed Samhouri (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
I was a member of a hopeful group of technocrats who developed a clear roadmap for Gaza after Israel’s unilateral disengagement in 2005, and then watched as that plan collapsed. On Sep. 12, 2005, I was among the first people to enter the evacuated Jewish settlements.
The scene I observed in the ex-settlements that day was one of utter anarchy and total chaos. Tens of thousands of people from Gaza took what they could from the buildings the Israeli settlers had left behind – from pipes and doors to concrete and other basic building materials. The Palestinian police were nowhere in sight. By the end of the day, little was left.
Not even in our worst nightmares could we have envisioned Gaza as it stands today: a place torn by more than a decade of bitter Palestinian political division, three wars between Hamas and Israel, and near total isolation from the rest of the world.
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. The proposed solutions are all in the form of a “list of mega projects” to save Gaza’s collapsing economy.
Based on the experience of post-disengagement Gaza, these projects can be fully implemented only if Gaza’s political and security situation is stabilized first.
The writer, a Palestinian economist, was a member of a Palestinian technical team in charge of preparing Gaza for the day after disengagement in 2005.