PA Seeks $2.7 Billion From Donor Nations for Gaza Recovery

The PA in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza fight over who gets the credit of rebuilding Gaza after Cast Lead.

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The Palestinian Authority will ask for another $2.7 billion from donor nations Monday: $1.326 billion to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip in 2009-2010 and $1.415 billion to support the PA's annual budget.

The real challenge behind "The Palestinian National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza, 2009-2010" is the competition between the two rival Palestinian governments, the PA in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza, over who gets the credit of rebuilding Gaza after Operation Cast Lead.

Hamas has announced in the media that it has already evaluated the damage in the Strip and formulated a recovery plan using its own sources of funding. Meanwhile, the PA is attempting to implement its plan although its institutions have not operated in Gaza for nearly two years. The PA intends to implement its program through various subcontractors - United Nations agencies.

The Authority's recovery plan is based on the assessments of various UN organizations, the World Bank, academics and international and Palestinian non-governmental groups. The 53-page document is written in English and will be presented today to international donors at the "Conference in Support of the Palestinian Economy for the Reconstruction of Gaza" in Egypt.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and the other authors used harsh language in describing the Israeli attacks and policies in Gaza, calling them "horrendous, merciless, the worst assaults since they were forced from their homes over 60 years ago."

In addition, the document states that without opening all of the border crossing points, the plan had no chance of success.

The authors of the document also expressed the hope that the political division between Hamas and the PA would end and promised to work toward reconciliation and a unity government. However, the document does not discuss the roots of the division.

The Gaza recovery and reconstruction plan opens by alluding to the damage Operation Cast Lead wrought on society: The high number of casualties, 1,314 killed and about 5,000 injured, along with 1,900 disabled needing rehabilitation and 100,000 homeless.

The document describes at length the psychological suffering of all Gaza residents. Almost a quarter of the entire sum requested for rehabilitation, $315 million, is slated for social causes: education, health and nutrition, and reconstruction of religious and cultural institutions. The Social Protection, Safety Nets and Psychosocial Wellbeing budget accounts for $202 million of the requested sum, which will go toward projects promoting social welfare and mental health for orphans, traumatized children, the disabled and others.

Other sums requested include about half a billion dollars for infrastructure rehabilitation, $412 million to rebuild agricultural and industrial sectors and $26 million for environmental resources.

The report's harsh findings include: "Feelings of insecurity and hopelessness are common ... (women) describe increased fear, sadness and crying, and over-reaction to ordinary daily stress in the household ... in children, anxiety is exhibited through symptoms such as nightmares, lack of concentration, withdrawal and the need to cling to caregivers. In adults, surveys reveal that distress is displayed in symptoms such as depression, withdrawal and loss of confidence in a previously secure role as head of household..."

The document discusses at length women's vulnerability in society and the possible danger of violence against women as a way of relieving social pressures. This section contains underlying criticism of Hamas - which is not explicitly mentioned in the document. The harsh description of the psychological situation of most Gaza residents is based on the reports of UN agencies and non-governmental groups, and contradicts the image Hamas wants to present of a strong, undefeated public that is proud of its steadfastness.

The section dealing with rehabilitating government institutions claims that during the three weeks of the attack there was "a marked deterioration in security and social cohesion, as well as a breakdown in channels for public decision making, protection and human rights."

Here, too, it is possible to read more than a hint of criticism of the Hamas government, as well as an indirect reference to the attacks on Fatah members and those suspected of collaborating with Israel. Hamas has claimed the civil and security organizations continued functioning during Cast Lead despite the fact that the leadership went underground, and it is these institutions which protected the public from looting, collaboration with Israel and demoralization.