Steps to a two state solution: For Israel, for Palestine, for peace
Step One: Tackle the humanitarian crisis in Gaza with emergency infrastructure plan for improving energy supplies, sanitation and clean water
After more than a decade of war, Israeli and Egyptian restrictions, and Hamas misrule, the humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave is dire: the electricity supply is often severely reduced, 96 percent of the water in the taps is estimated to be undrinkable, and over half of Gazans live in poverty. Crumbling infrastructure causes sewage to flow untreated into the sea off of Gaza, acting as a breeding ground for life-threatening diseases with serious public health implications. Hamas meanwhile spends precious resources importing and manufacturing rockets and constructing tunnels to carry out terror attacks.
The problem has been exacerbated by Palestinian Authority sanctions aimed at ousting their rivals, Hamas, from power and the failure of international donors, principally in the Arab world, to make good on pledges made to aid reconstruction efforts after the 2014 conflict.
In the wake of May 2021’s outbreak of violence between Hamas and Israel, Joe Biden was right to pledge to “marshal international support for the people in Gaza and … the Gaza reconstruction efforts”. The president was also right to insist that reconstruction efforts must be conducted in “a manner that does not permit Hamas to simply restock its military arsenal”. This requires a robust, round-the-clock and credible monitoring system to ensure that reconstruction materials are not diverted by Hamas into illicit military purposes. As David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has suggested, if such checks can be put in place, the Abraham Accords provides an opportunity for the US to work with Israel to assemble a consortium of Arab states willing to provide funding for infrastructure and development projects in Gaza.
At the heart of initial reconstruction efforts should be an emergency infrastructure plan – such as that presented by Israel in 2018 – that would see major investment by international donors in desalination plants, electricity lines and a gas pipeline. This would enable the construction and operation of local power plants that would, in turn, be able to supply nearly all of Gaza’s electricity needs.