Cabinet Holds Three-hour Meeting on Gaza Economy, but Makes No New Decisions

Despite defense officials' warnings of an economic collapse in Gaza, ministers make no moves on humanitarian aid

A Palestinian man carries plastic gallons he filled with drinking water from a vendor in Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, April 16, 2016
KHALIL HAMRA / AP

The security cabinet held a three-hour discussion on Sunday about the economic situation in the Gaza Strip. No new decisions were taken regarding humanitarian relief, with participants discussing previously approved infrastructure programs.

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These programs were those that Israel presented in Brussels to countries and groups that donate to the Palestinians. At the donor meeting in January, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi unveiled a number of projects Israel is interested in advancing in Gaza, especially involving infrastructure, and asked the international community to help funding them. Among the plans were the construction of a desalinization plant, a new high-voltage power line to double the amount of power going into Gaza, establishing a natural gas pipeline from Israel to Gaza, a new sewage facility, a new waste collection site, upgrading the Erez industrial area and more.

Senior members of the defense establishment have recently warned of a total economic collapse in Gaza, particularly regarding the enclave's civil infrastructure. Yet on Sunday, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman spoke out against humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip.

In an interview on Army Radio, Lieberman called the belief that measures of humanitarian relief would lead to cessation of terrorist activity “hallucinations and delusions,” but did not specify what he intended to propose in the cabinet meeting.

Last week, Netanyahu said Israel is examining ways to prevent a humanitarian collapse in Gaza. “Israel is the one doing the most, and is perhaps the only one taking action on this issue,” he said after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany. He also said he had discussed with Merkel “a plan to improve the [border] crossings.”

The prime minister said he had explained to Merkel that the economic crisis in Gaza was the result of Hamas's investment in building tunnels.

“What they built underground in Gaza is like six office towers ... a huge investment ... They’re suffocating economically, and therefore, they decided to crash into the fence. The result right now is because of the economic suffocation, plain and simple – caused by Hamas.”