Doha, Qatar – There is no hope of achieving peace between the Palestinian factions and Palestinians with Israel in the near future, chairman of Qatar’s Gaza Reconstruction Committee, formed to rebuild Gaza’s war-destroyed homes and public infrastructure, has told Al Jazeera.
The committee completed a six-year project with a $407m grant by the father of Qatar’s emir.
Mohammed al-Emadi said the reason behind his pessimism was that so many people and parties, locally and in the region, were financially and politically benefitting from keeping Gaza in a state of limbo.
In order to complete his projects for the people of Gaza, he said he battled Israeli political and bureaucratic obstacles and Palestinian infighting.
Al-Emadi spoke to Al Jazeera on the current situation in Gaza, including the threat of war and the electricity shortage.
Al Jazeera: There have been missiles fired from Gaza into Israel and Israel has killed more Palestinians at the border. Why is the situation in Gaza teetering on collapse and the prospect of war constantly looming on the horizon?
Mohammed al-Emadi: The situation in Gaza is like a man walking a tightrope, trying to keep his balance and not to fall while everyone is poking at him, trying to cause him to lose his balance and fall. Gaza is a place where the Israelis, Egyptians, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other Palestinian factions are trying to undermine each other and jockey for power.
The situation is so convoluted that in the near future, I don’t think there will be peace between either Hamas or Fatah or between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Egyptians, while publicly saying they are trying to facilitate Palestinian reconciliation, are benefitting financially from the divisions and the blockade.
Al Jazeera: What makes you say Egypt is benefitting financially from this?
Al-Emadi: Gaza imports over $45m worth of products from Egypt a month. Out of that, the Egyptian intelligence [the Mukhabarat] and the Egyptian army make about $15m because of commissions they make on key products imported such as fuel, cigarettes and cooking gas. The Hamas government, in turn, makes about $12m in taxes levied on the imports. The rest is the actual value of the products.
The Palestinian people of Gaza are the true victims of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade and the intra-Palestinian political fragmentation.
Al Jazeera: You say you have an excellent relationship with the Israelis and the Palestinian-Hamas leadership in Gaza, becoming a backdoor channel between Hamas and Israel. Is that still the case?
Al-Emadi: Qatar enjoys excellent relations with both Israelis and the Palestinians. Though it wasn’t easy, our presence has facilitated calm on the borders with Gaza despite the occasional flare of violence. We are highly respected by both.
Al-Jazeera: The people of Gaza have always complained about the chronic electricity outages and living with only eight hours or less of electricity per day. What are you doing to help with this?
Al-Emadi: On paper, Gaza has a total 200 megawatts supplied through Israeli lines and a commercial power station operated and financed through a Qatari fuel grant worth $10m.
The plan we are currently negotiating with the Israel electric company is to build a 161-kilovolt power line system that can eliminate the current medium-voltage lines coming from Israel. This high-voltage line system would increase the capacity of electricity purchase that Gaza can make from Israel. Though a 161-kv system will enable Gaza to increase its capacity of electrical power supplies but only as much as its limited electrical infrastructure can endure.
Al Jazeera: What is your main work in Gaza now that the six-year reconstruction projects have come an end?
Al-Emadi: We currently spend about $30m a month in Gaza. Out of that, we pay $10m to purchase fuel to generate electricity, $100 each to the 100,000 poor families in Gaza. The rest goes to finance small economic projects.
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