THE BLOG
03/07/2018 11:58 SAST | Updated 03/07/2018 11:58 SAST

'Israel Powering Up Gaza Is A Positive Initiative'

'We cannot allow Gaza to burn while Hamas plays the fiddle.'

A man hangs a Palestinian flag from an electricity pole near the border with Israel in southern Gaza.
Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/ Reuters
A man hangs a Palestinian flag from an electricity pole near the border with Israel in southern Gaza.

OPINION

Israel has approved a plan to build a solar field to ease the power crisis in Gaza

The tiny Gaza Strip is suffering from a grave electricity crisis. Many would venture a guess that Israel, viewed by Palestinians in Gaza as mortal enemies, is responsible for this. But in keeping with the highly complicated and nuanced political nature of the region, the folks largely responsible are Hamas.

Hamas is notorious for keeping its civilians in a perpetual state of suffering, preferring to pocket vital funding and turn away life-saving humanitarian aid. In the past couple of months, when many believed Hamas staged "peaceful protests", fuel lines were burnt three times in 10 days and trucks laden with medicine and food were turned away.

Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters
Palestinian demonstrators run for cover from Israeli gunfire during a protest marking al-Quds Day, (Jerusalem Day), at the Israel-Gaza border in the southern Gaza Strip June 8, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

There are other factors at play as well, political factors.

Internecine fighting between Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and Fatah, which is the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and responsible for the West Bank, has resulted in PA president Mahmoud Abbas threatening to cut off all financial support to the strip, including vital electricity supplies, unless there is some kind of change in regime and Hamas cedes governance to the PA.

In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 News, Abbas was reported to have said: "We transfer $1.5-billion (~R20.6-billion) a year. But after Hamas declared its own government, we discontinued 25 percent of our support to Gaza. We fear that if there is no change soon, that will gradually reach 100 percent."

Add to this that Hamas has been withholding humanitarian aid and funding from its citizens.

Egypt also stopped providing electricity to the Gaza Strip, claiming that the Islamic State (IS) terror group was damaging power lines. The result is a humanitarian crisis that is escalating rapidly.

Israel is growing more and more concerned about the growing humanitarian crisis on its doorstep, and one of the solutions that has been approved recently is a plan to build a solar field that will help provide the beleaguered strip with electricity.

One of the best regional secrets is that there is a lot of cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. It is my belief that peace will be built from the ground up, through the people and their interaction, and this happens a lot more than many would have you believe. The solar field is yet another example.

Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photographer: Daniel Rodrigues/Bloomberg via Getty Images

While the region waits with bated breath for an announcement from the Trump administration regarding its proposed peace plan, U.S. envoys to the Middle East Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt were included in discussions about the proposed solar field at an international conference on the strip's reconstruction held in Washington at the beginning of the year.

The solution is quite simple. Solar fields, which would be funded by private donors in Israel and abroad, will be built near the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel, with the aim of easing the electrical strain on the strip. This will be a unilateral move on Israel's part without the involvement of Hamas.

It is Israel's hope that this will help significantly to ease the humanitarian burden that affects the citizens of Gaza. We cannot allow Gaza to burn while Hamas plays the fiddle.

Rolene Marks is a freelance journalist and broadcaster based in Israel who appears on radio and television, and has been published in numerous global publications. Marks can be heard every day on Chai FM, a Johannesburg-based Jewish radio station giving political commentary and analysis on the Middle East.