Tom Kutsch is a research associate at the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force.
In a year end report by the Israeli NGO Gisha assessing the Gazan infrastructure after last year’s war in Gaza, a particularly eye-opening stat jumped out on the still bleak situation in Gaza:
– Reconstruction funds pledged at the Sharm el-Sheikh Summit: Some $4.5 billion.
– Number of months the international community negotiated with Israeli government over a mechanism for transferring reconstruction funds and materials: 9 months.
– Implementation of mechanism for transferring reconstruction funds and materials: None.
Given all the attention that was lavished upon Gaza by the international donor community (including Secretary of State Clinton’s high profile effort to secure over $900 million from the U.S. Congress for Gaza reconstruction) in the aftermath of the Operation Cast Lead last January, it seems curious that action has been so out of sync with the widespread rhetorical assurances.
One year on, reconstruction of homes and buildings has barely begun, economic development has stagnated, and the humanitarian situation facing the Gazan population remains dire. The status quo remains rooted in insecurity and uncertainty, and not just for the 1.5 million Gazans directly affected by this state of affairs.
Indeed, recent moves by the Egyptian government to build a wall in hopes of battling the Gazan smuggling economy, and Israeli attacks in Gaza in response to mortar fire from groups opposed to Hamas’ de facto cease-fire, demonstrate the extent to which stability remains illusory.
The implications for US policy and Israeli and Palestinian security, if the status quo is allowed to continue are particularly worrisome for an Obama administration that has talked in the new year of its desire to reinvigorate the peace process after its inability to get the parties into resumed negotiations in 2009 (yesterday, Marc Lynch had an interesting post on his Foreign Policy blog on how the administration can link ending the humanitarian disaster in Gaza to its renewed peace push).
To flesh out these and other issues related to the bleak picture in Gaza, and the wider consequences that it has for Palestinians, Israelis, and for U.S. interests in the region at large, the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force will be co-hosting an event with the Brookings Institution/Wolfensohn Center for Development today from 1:00pm – 3:00pm.
Middle East Task Force co-Directors Daniel Levy and Amjad Atallah will be joined by speakers including Rep. Keith Ellison (MN-5), former president of the World Bank James Wolfensohn, and Brookings’ President Strobe Talbott to discuss, among other things, the economic prospects for Gazans and the implications for U.S. policy going forward.
The event will be covered by CSPAN and can be viewed live on its website.
— Tom Kutsch