Gaza’s Future Hangs in the Balance
The lives of 2.3 million Gazans have been turned upside down as Israel and Hamas remain at war, with some hostages being set free in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. Meanwhile, Palestinian civilians are bearing the brunt of the conflict, forced to move out of their homes and live in makeshift tents in the south of Gaza on the Egyptian border. Like everyone else around the globe, they too must be wondering what their future holds.
Tracing back to 2005, governance over the Palestinians was the charge of the Palestinian Authority, with its administrative center in Ramallah, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas. Following the 2006 elections, Hamas, victorious in Gaza, conceded to form a unity government with the Palestinian Authority. However, 2007 saw a grim reversal when Hamas forcibly ousted the Palestinian Authority in a coup, marked by brutal tactics to cement its dominion. In some cases, they literally threw some of its members off rooftops to assert control.
Since this upheaval, Palestinians have languished, caught between the oppressive governance of Hamas and the stringent control of Israel’s military might and border fortifications, culminating in a life ensnared by hopelessness.
Yet, the ongoing war has the potential to radically alter this longstanding paradigm established since 2007. Should Israel accomplish its intention to dismantle Hamas, the Palestinians might glimpse an opportunity for emancipation from authoritarian rule and the dawn of self-determination.
However, this potential rebirth is contingent upon substantial international support. Israel’s focused assault on Hamas fighters and the group’s leadership and their subterranean hideouts have left Gaza’s terrain scarred, a trend likely to extend, with areas like Khan Yunis poised to mirror the devastation witnessed in northern Gaza.
Herein lies the indispensable role of the global community. Historical financial aid from the United States and European Union, previously diverted by Hamas for militaristic ends, must now pivot to the monumental task of rebuilding.
Immediate concerns necessitate housing solutions. International teams must be mobilized to remove debris and help rebuild Gaza. The overhaul of Gaza’s foundational infrastructure—electrical grids, water systems, sewage treatment—will necessitate the engagement of myriad corporations to undertake these extensive reconstruction efforts.
Beyond the basics, there lies an opportunity to reimagine Gaza’s urban landscape, infusing it with verdant parks, playgrounds, and schools—offering an alternative to the erstere concrete backdrop that formerly prevailed. This transformation will demand the concerted efforts and expertise of a coalition of corporate entities.
Revitalizing Gaza’s economy is paramount. Entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, and wholesalers must be allowed to rebuild. A crucial step in economic resurgence will be the creation of maritime and aerial ports, essential conduits for the flow of goods.
Once these basic needs are taken care of, and of course it will take time, the next important area to tackle is the issue of governance. Palestinians living in Gaza deserve the right to elect a ruling body that will oversee the administration of Gaza and the well-being of its citizens. The European Union has often sent observers to oversee Palestinian elections and this tradition can and should be continued. This time, the Palestinians should have a proper list of candidates with proper elections and hopefully, a democratically-elected leader who will lead Gaza in the right direction.
While Abbas is the current leader in Ramallah, a recent poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR) noted that the current PA leadership “lacks legitimacy in the West Bank let alone in the Gaza Strip.” PSR found that a full two-thirds of West Bank Palestinians believes the PA is “a burden on the Palestinian people.”
This sentiment signals a profound yearning among Palestinians for new leadership. Yet, the emergence of such leadership remains uncertain, with Israel’s prerequisite that any aspirants to govern renounce terrorism and violence.
Internationally, there’s an eagerness to revive dialogue toward a two-state solution. Nonetheless, a survey by the Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) indicates a stark decline in Palestinian support for this solution. Absent the buy-in from both Palestinians and Israelis, the concept struggles to gain traction. Currently, the two-state solution appears to be in abeyance.
Given these realities, the foremost priority must be the reconstruction of Gaza and the cultivation of self-governance, establishing the essential framework of a polity with functional institutions and capable leadership. The citizens of Gaza stand in dire need of such a transformation. Indeed, the future of Gaza teeters on a precipice.