A new pro­posal for the Gaza Strip

The Jerusalem Post - - COMMENT&FEATURES -

Over the past 30 days, I have pre­sented a new plan to Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, Egyp­tian Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah el Sisi, Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials and Euro­pean Union lead­ers, all of whom have re­ceived it with great en­thu­si­asm.

The plan is based around a sim­ple idea: Es­tab­lish an Is­raeli de­sali­na­tion plant, built on Is­raeli land, funded by Saudi Ara­bia, the Euro­peans and oth­ers, that pro­vides clean wa­ter to Gaza.

An eco­nomic team, in­clud­ing some of the top ex­perts in re­gional co­op­er­a­tion, are still com­plet­ing por­tions of the plan that has been 10 months in the mak­ing. Af­ter decades of dis­cus­sions and plans, es­pe­cially on solv­ing the wa­ter prob­lem for the Gaza Strip, I be­lieve this plan is the most fea­si­ble and real­is­tic.

The plan is based on the new at­mos­phere in the Mid­dle East. I re­cently held sev­eral meet­ings with US ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, lead­ers of nu­mer­ous lead­ing Mid­dle East na­tions as well as global fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions and found that new re­gional de­vel­op­ments un­der the lead­er­ship of Pres­i­dent Trump has pro­vided us with a unique op­por­tu­nity.

Is­rael now is in a po­si­tion to have work­able re­la­tions with Gulf states. Their lead­er­ship and fi­nan­cial strength is a true and prac­ti­cal op­tion for sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment by both for­eign gov­ern­ments and in­ter­na­tional fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions. Thus, what is be­ing pro­posed is an Amer­i­can-Is­raeli-Egyp­tian spon­sored ef­fort to cre­ate wa­ter and en­ergy in­fra­struc­ture on the Is­raeli or Egyp­tian bor­der with Gaza, in ad­di­tion to send­ing (all or most of the out­put) of such fa­cil­i­ties to Gaza. (In the past week a sim­i­lar model with Qatar oil to Gaza worked).

Gaza has many chal­lenges. Gaza’s con­tin­u­ing and grow­ing wa­ter and en­ergy crises are well known. The pop­u­la­tion of the Gaza Strip is nearly two mil­lion, with a growth rate of nearly 3% per year and an un­em­ploy­ment rate of 40+% (youth un­em­ploy­ment is nearly 60%). At the most ba­sic level, there are sim­ply not enough sustainable wa­ter sources in Gaza. Less than 4% of fresh­wa­ter sources are drink­able. Fi­nally, Pales­tinian lead­er­ship in Gaza does not en­gen­der con­fi­dence from in­ter­na­tional gov­ern­ments, and the over­all econ­omy makes in­vest­ments by fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions nearly im­pos­si­ble.

My de­sire is that the ad­min­is­tra­tion would make this a part of the peace plan. The plan is for the funds to be pro­vided for the de­sali­na­tion plant, prop­erty, the on­go­ing sup­ply of wa­ter, and cre­ation of a ter­ror­ism-free zone ei­ther on Egyp­tian or Is­raeli land to pro­tect the plant.

The cost of the project should not ex­ceed $500 mil­lion, and that should not to be part of a peace plan. The com­pa­nies are ready and all that is needed is a com­pas­sion­ate “Yes” from Trump. The US has gained over $200 mil­lion just from the fund­ing cut to UNRWA, and there is no doubt the Euro­peans and Gulf States will do­nate.

When I pre­sented the project to the crown prince, I told him that Jared Kush­ner was study­ing it. He said if Kush­ner was in­ter­ested he should con­tact him.

We Evan­gel­i­cals who know Donald Trump, know him to have a heart of com­pas­sion. Pro­vid­ing fresh wa­ter to chil­dren in Gaza is a ba­sic hu­man right that must tran­scend pol­i­tics.

THE AN­CHOR IN­VEST­MENT for the project would be a de­sali­na­tion plant for pro­duc­ing 50-80 mil­lion cu­bic me­ters of wa­ter per year. This plant would be large enough to ad­dress more than 50% of Gaza’s cur­rent drink­ing wa­ter needs. Egypt or Is­rael would pro­vide the land and the pipe­line to Gaza, and the US and other donor coun­tries would pro­vide the con­struc­tion cap­i­tal and an an­nual sub­sidy for proper and ac­tual de­liv­ery of wa­ter to Gaza.

The tech­nol­ogy for the plant can come from an Is­raeli com­pany tech­nolo­gies based on sim­i­lar pro­jects built in the re­gion. One can as­sume that the cost of such a fa­cil­ity would be in the range of $200m.-$300m. Im­por­tantly, such a model could po­ten­tially serve as a con­duit for other sim­i­lar in­fra­struc­ture pro­jects such as so­lar en­ergy, tra­di­tional elec­tric power plants and even waste treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties.

Al­ter­na­tives

The first al­ter­na­tive is a do­nated fa­cil­ity. As de­scribed above, Egypt or Is­rael pro­vides the nec­es­sary land and pipe­line, and the US (to­gether with other donor coun­tries) will cover the cost of con­struc­tion. The project would be con­ducted via an Is­raeli or Egyp­tian govern­ment ten­der with co­or­di­na­tion from the US to iden­tify a gen­eral con­trac­tor for the project. Fol­low­ing the con­struc­tion, wa­ter and en­ergy will be supplied to Gaza at a sub­si­dized price or even at no cost for Gaza wa­ter author­ity.

The sec­ond al­ter­na­tive is BOT, build op­er­ate and trans­fer. Ac­cord­ing to this model, a pri­vate com­pany (fol­low­ing a ten­der man­aged by the Is­raeli Govern­ment or the Egyp­tian in­fra­struc­ture author­ity) will build, op­er­ate and de­liver wa­ter to the Gaza Wa­ter Author­ity for a pe­riod of 25-30 years. That pri­vate en­tity will charge money for the wa­ter shipped.

On the ba­sis of this longterm con­tract, which Egypt and the US would guar­an­tee, the pri­vate com­pany would in­vest its own cap­i­tal and at­tract in­ter­na­tional fi­nanc­ing part­ners for the cost of con­struc­tion. The cost of wa­ter would be sub­ject to a max­i­mum (i.e., sub­si­dized) price so that Gaza gains a true ben­e­fit (i.e., cheap wa­ter).

Mean­while pri­vate com­pa­nies that have been pre-qual­i­fied for quality and fi­nan­cial strength would com­pete against one an­other on the ba­sis of three main fac­tors: The min­i­mum up­front pay­ment pro­vided by the US as a con­struc­tion sub­sidy; the price they are will­ing to charge the Gaza Wa­ter Author­ity (the lower the bet­ter); and the level of an­nual guar­an­tee re­quested (again the lower the bet­ter). Af­ter 30 years, Is­rael or Egypt would own the fa­cil­ity and could use it for any pur­pose it so de­sires.

How can the Gaza wa­ter sit­u­a­tion be saved? I told a Euro­pean pres­i­dent last week that the an­swer is sim­ple. If it is so im­por­tant for the Euro­pean gov­ern­ments to as­sist the Pales­tini­ans in Gaza, the prob­lem it­self must be ad­dressed. The in­abil­ity of the Ha­mas to man­age the Gazan wa­ter prob­lem can be solved by hand­ing the Is­raelis or the Egyp­tians the funds to de­sali­nate wa­ter on the Gazan bor­der and pump it to Gaza.

In other words, Europe should be part of a con­sor­tium of na­tions that will fund the con­struc­tion and op­er­a­tion of a de­sali­na­tion plant based in Is­rael or the Si­nai.

The Euro­pean pres­i­dent was very en­thused by the idea and I am sure his na­tion and oth­ers will be part of the plan.

(Cour­tesy FOZ)

A DI­A­GRAM of the plan for Gaza.

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