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The Gaza Disaster: Can it Get Any Worse?

Al-Araby al-Jadeed, London, August 4

Anyone who is even remotely familiar with the humanitarian condition in the Gaza Strip knows that the situation there is completely unsustainable. The people of Gaza lack electricity, water, septic lines, and even basic food. They have no jobs and no education. Sadly, even their homes no longer offer them a safe refuge, following the renewal of Israeli air raids in recent weeks. To make matters worse, UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine, is quickly crumpling, after the U.S. government announced a plan to slash funding for the relief organization from $365 million to a mere $65m. a year. This will push hundreds of Palestinians into the streets, many of whom have already lost their jobs. Even UNRWA workers with long-term contracts are not guaranteed to receive the wages they were once promised. So what is the way forward? In my mind, there is only one possible solution, and we are now facing a decisive moment in determining whether it will come into fruition. I’m talking, of course, about the Egyptian-brokered rehabilitation plan that has been discussed in recent weeks. According to this initiative, Israel will lift its siege of the Gaza Strip and allow international aid to be funneled into Gaza, where it will restore dilapidated infrastructure and build new structures. As a part of the deal, the Palestinian Authority will be allowed to return to Gaza, turning the enclave to what it was before Hamas’ takeover in 2006. At surface level there is no reason for either side to reject this deal. For Israel, this agreement would mean stability and calm on its southern border, which has been unstable for quite some time now. For Hamas, this would save the Gaza Strip from virtual collapse and anarchy. Yet both sides have ample reason for concern. On the Israeli side, hawkish Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman seems determined to launch a military campaign against Hamas in Gaza. On the Palestinian side, Hamas has been stepping up its attacks against Israeli troops on the border, while refusing to negotiate the formation of national unity government with the PA. Therefore, for this plan to work out, both sides will have to see beyond their domestic political calculus. This is a one-time shot to rescue Gaza from its state of desolation and despair. We must act now before it’s too late. –Amal Hizzani

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