Is Qatari cash keeping the calm in Gaza?

Security source tells 'Post' money is "flowing into Gaza," as Qatari funds are being used to pay for construction, infrastructure.

February 19, 2013 01:27
3 minute read.
Qatari emir greeted in Gaza by Haniyeh

Qatari emir greeted in Gaza by Haniyeh 370. (photo credit: Reuters)


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Israeli deterrence has so far successfully kept Hamas from violating the cease-fire reached after an eight-day round of violence in November, but a second factor might also be playing a role in upholding the unprecedented calm along the Gaza-Israel border: economics.

Weeks before November’s Operation Pillar of Defense, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, paid a landmark visit to the Hamas-run enclave, and nearly doubled his country’s investment to Gaza, raising it to 400 million dollars.

“The money is flowing into Gaza,” a security source told The Jerusalem Post recently.

The Qatari funds are being used to pay for a series of ambitious construction projects and improving the Strip’s infrastructure, including roads and buildings. This month, a request for a tender was issued by the Hamas regime for a project to improve the Salah Al-Din road, linking central Gaza to Rafah in the south. The works will cost 60 million dollars.

“And that’s just one road,” the source noted.

From Israel’s perspective, these developments are positive, as, together with Israeli military deterrence, they might convince Hamas to keep the truce, at least for now.

“This is the test,” the source said. “Will Hamas’s military wing cooperate?” Hamas is still reeling from the damage caused by the Israel Air Force’s attacks on 1,500 terror targets – many of which were hidden in civilian areas.

The terrorist organization is fully aware of the fact that, should it provoke another conflict with Israel, the construction and assistance money will have been a waste.

So far, Israel has been satisfied with the cease-fire and Hamas’s ability to enforce it on the other Palestinian terror factions.

The Qatari cash is not the only money flowing into the Strip. Gaza received a total of a billion dollars in international aid to fund 230 projects this year.

Israel, for its part, has relaxed some of its security restrictions and now allows building materials, buses and trucks to enter the Strip.

Additionally, few are aware of efforts by the IDF’s Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit to improve the lives of Gazan traders and farmers.

COGAT officers who are fluent in Arabic are in daily contact with Palestinian Authority officials in Gaza in order to coordinate the entry of trucks carrying goods. COGAT is also in touch with Gazan farmers, and has issued thousands of them with entry permits into Israel, where they purchase and sell goods.

COGAT facilitates the export of Gazan agricultural goods to overseas markets via Israel, including peppers, flowers, strawberries and sherry tomatoes, as well as furniture and textiles.

By sending them to trade conferences in Israel, where they meet Israeli farmers, COGAT helps the farmers meet international standards, ensuring that the products look appealing and survive long shipping routes in good condition.

“To reach international standards, the Gaza farmers must be very connected to Israel,” the source said.

In the latest agricultural conference, held in Israel recently, Gazan farmers learned about new varieties of peppers and pest control methods.

This cooperation is frowned upon by Hamas, which would prefer to reach the wider world exclusively through its border with Egypt.

At the end of January, COGAT called in the Israel Electric Corporation to carry out an upgrade on the main power line delivering electricity from Israel to northern Gaza, a line that serves 70,000 people.

COGAT’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Office brought in infrastructure teams to split electric power line into two separate lines, thus upgrading it and reducing power failures.

Despite these developments, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are continuing to pursue their goal of turning Gaza into a rocket base, and are attempting to replenish their depleted rocket arsenal, so they can threaten more than a million Israeli civilians.

Time will tell how long the terror factions will be able to put their jihad on hold.

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