Israel's FM Lapid Offers to Rebuild Gaza But Egyptian Source Says His Plan Might Be 'Too Ambitious'
The latest hostilities that ended in May have dealt a severe blow to the Gaza Strip, where dozens of government buildings, hospitals, police stations, roads, mosques and residential units have been fully or partially destroyed.
The Jewish state has offered to help the enclave with reconstruction but made its assistance conditional upon a long-term quiet.
In October, the Gaza Strip will start going through a process of reconstruction, just months after the recent round of tensions with Israel -- Operation Guardian of the Walls -- ended in late May
Severe Blow to Gaza
The eleven days of fighting erupted following what was perceived by Gazans as Israel's violations in Jerusalem, which incited Gaza militants to launch a barrage of rockets towards Israeli towns and cities.
Israel promptly retaliated, leading to the destruction of more than 1,500 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets, but the conflict has also dealt a severe blow to the enclave's infrastructure, causing millions of dollars in damage
Dozens of hospitals, police stations, residential buildings and roads have been fully or partially destroyed
Israel to the Rescue?
In September, several months after Israel reached a truce with Hamas, the Jewish state promised that it would help to rebuild the enclave in exchange for a lasting quiet.
Speaking at a conference at Reichman University in Herzeliya, Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said his country's policy that has been in place since 2005 and has involved strict measures towards Gazans, has not been working
He promised to change that approach in order to create "stability on both sides of the border".
To reach that stability, Lapid has suggested a two-stage approach. According to his plan, Israel would first help to reconstruct the infrastructure of Gaza. It would set up a system of gas and electricity. It would establish desalination plants, boost the enclave's medical institutions and work on improving Gazans' living conditions.
On the second stage, Israel would help to construct an industrial zone in the Strip, where thousands of Palestinians could be employed. It would work on connecting the enclave with the West Bank and even take part in the building of a port off Gaza shores
Foreign Help Needed
But the catch is that to fulfil these ambitions, Israel needs funds, and Lapid is counting on donations from Egypt, a number of Gulf states, Russia and the EU.
In the UAE, authorities that have been approached by Sputnik refused to comment on the ambitious Israeli plans and on whether they will be willing to fork out a pretty penny to fund this initiative.
In Egypt, however, an official source, who spoke to the agency on condition of anonymity, said Cairo will continue to invest money into the reconstruction of Gaza, just "as it has been doing from the very beginning, when the two sides reached a ceasefire".
Egypt was one of the first states to offer significant sums for investment in the reconstruction efforts. Apart from pledging half a billion dollars, Egypt turned to its own companies to enter the Strip shortly after the brokered deal and started rebuilding what had been destroyed
However, the same official said that Lapid's plan might be "too ambitious".
We approached several players and asked them if they were willing to help. But we didn't get any response. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a top priority for the US and many other players. And if this is the case, finding the money to fund this initiative will be an extremely tough task."
For now, Lapid keeps on trying. In recent months, he has been touring countries and speaking to regional and international players to convince them to allocate the necessary funds.
In July, he spoke to Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Days later, he met with a number of European parliamentarians and in September he arrived in Moscow, where he also raised the Gaza issue
It is not yet clear whether those and other players will eventually agree to allocate the necessary funds. So far, donors like Egypt and Qatar have only managed to collect $1 billion. While it will certainly be enough to repair what had been damaged, the construction of an industrial zone and a port will require much more than that.
And the Egyptian source says that even if Cairo does find the money for such a project, it will make sure that those funds do not reach the hands of Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood movement, banned in Egypt and many other states.
"We dispatched our own construction companies to the Gaza Strip. We are also hoping to engage the Palestinian Authority into the process and this way we can make sure that the funds that we are allocating to the reconstruction will not end up in the hands of the wrong people," the official summed up.