Senior adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is heading to the Middle East this week together with U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt for meetings with the leaders of Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
According to a report published Sunday by Haaretz, the two men are hoping to convince Arab monarchies in the Gulf to support economic projects in northern Gaza, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while securing the cooperation of Israel and Egypt, who both control the land crossings into the enclave.
The White House declined, however, to share details with Haaretz, with an official unwilling to “discuss specifics before the conversations have taken place.”
The effort is allegedly intended to slow down the violence being perpetrated by Hamas against Israel while generating positive energy among residents of the enclave before the Trump administration rolls out its peace plan for the region.
Sources reportedly said the issues to be addressed include the energy supply for Gaza, which was labeled as “urgent.” Israeli sources said one option on the table is a solar energy project to be built near the northern Sinai town of El-Arish.
But one has to consider whether any energy project for Gaza makes sense, given the proclivity of the enclave’s ruling Hamas terrorist organization has shown for destroying whatever infrastructure is available for improving the lives of its citizens.
During Hamas riots at the border last month, dozens of Gazans directed by Hamas terrorists managed to break through the barbed wire barrier and reached the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom land crossing, where they proceeded to attack and burn down the infrastructure and gas pipeline that was used to supply the residents with fuel.
Among the energy supplies that had been delivered the enclave via Kerem Shalom in the week prior to the destruction were 1,597 fuel tanks and 1,486 tons of gas.
Another idea being floated is the construction of a port in northern Sinai, and the building of a power plant and a water desalination plant, along with a new industrial zone and factories to produce construction materials.
Construction of a port is a wonderful idea, except that Hamas is likely to use the facility as a launching pad for further development of its terrorist navy.
IDF forces have already discovered the creation of one such effort during this past year. Israeli military personnel carried out a strike on June 3 against a Hamas underwater tunnel which opened out into the Mediterranean Sea from northern Gaza. The tunnel would have enabled Hamas naval commandos to carry out amphibious terror attacks against Israel.
As for the building of a power plant and a desalination plant, neither of these ideas is new: both were discussed back in January along with a $1 billion plan to rebuild Gaza from the ground up. Israel attended that meeting, as did Greenblatt, and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and officials from Jordan, Morocco and Egypt, along with others.
Back in January 2018, Israel was already teaming up with international donors to supply power to Gaza’s sewage and water desalination plants, including a new one that was expected to come online by March along with nine new high-capacity power generators that were purchased with funds from the World Bank and donor nations. A desalination plant in the southern Gaza Strip is to be powered by Israel, funded by the European Union.
But international aid workers had already opened a “new” desalination plant in Gaza a year earlier, in January 2017.
The “desperately needed” European Union-funded plant, built together with UNICEF, was the second and largest one in Gaza, and at the time, 97 percent of the water there was said to be undrinkable. Monzer Shublaq, director of Coastal Municipalities Water Utility in Gaza, hailed the $10.6 million facility, which was to initially produce 6,000 cubic meters of water each day in a region which admittedly needed much, much more.
In March 2018, worldwide donors at a conference in Brussels pledged another 456 million euros — 80 percent of the 562.3 million euros required for the three-year project — to build an additional desalination plant in Gaza as well. The European Union itself has pledged to provide the remaining 77 million euros.
The Union for Mediterranean is an intergovernmental organization of the 28 member states of the European Union plus 15 Mediterranean partner nations from North Africa, Western Asia and Southern Europe, in addition to the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, Office of the Quartet and Islamic Development Bank.
All of them attended the conference, which followed a landmark conference held at the White House two days earlier on the same subject – and which the Palestinian Authority, although invited, refused to attend out of hate for Greenblatt, who led the gathering, and President Trump.
The additional projected desalination facility is expected to provide clean drinking water for at least two million Gazans. But that will only happen if there is enough electricity to consistently power the plant. And there will only be enough power supplied to the plant if Hamas does not sabotage the infrastructure, and if the Palestinian Authority does not institute — or re-institute sanctions against Gaza — in order to punish its rival, Hamas while targeting the residents of the enclave as pawns in the crossfire.
Sounds like a pretty tall order, given the Hamas track record, and Gazan voting preferences.