Analysis Where did the billions in aid to the Palestinians go? While the West Bank is growing economically, the situation in the Gaza Strip is worse than 30 years ago. Failure of eternal reconstruction among terrorist groups and constant bombings

Over 40 billion euros of international aid has reached the Palestinian territories in the last 30 years. It is estimated that at least 8 billion of these have been allocated for the reconstruction of Gaza since 2005. Projects financed by Western countries led by the USA and the EU and Arab countries, especially Qatar: residential buildings, hospitals, roads, water infrastructure. All works are created between one conflict and another, appropriate and prelude. As Hamas gradually took power, not only Western countries but also donor countries gradually reduced their commitments for fear of financing terrorist groups. The result is that Gaza remains stuck in perpetual war and poverty. Since Hamas came to power, its GDP has fallen by 2% per year, and today the economy of the Palestinian territory is the same as it was three decades ago. During the same period, the wealth of the other part of Palestine, the West Bank, quadrupled under Palestinian Authority rule.

Aid to Palestine

The new war that broke out in Gaza brought the issue of international aid to Palestinian lands back to the agenda. According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), more than 42 billion dollars (about 40 billion euros) of official donations came to Palestine between 1993 and 2021. One-third of these resources went to support the Palestinian Authority budget, and the rest went to economic sectors, infrastructure projects and humanitarian NGOs. A quarter of this aid was administered by the UN, particularly through UNRWA, which deals with aid and employment for Palestinian refugees in the Near East. The rest of the donations came from ten donors: the European Union leads with $7.6 billion (to 2020), followed by the United States (5.7), Saudi Arabia (4), Germany (2.3) and the United Arab Emirates. Emirates (2.1). Italy is around 450 million.

As we said before, funds for Palestine were mainly concentrated in the West Bank, which is administered by the Palestinian Authority. It is difficult to have precise data on the financing coming into Gaza, especially after 2006, when the Gaza Strip had just been liberated from Israeli settlements and came under the control of Hamas. Since then, the history of this piece of land located between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean has been marked by wars and promises of billions of dollars in reconstruction aid. At the 2007 Paris conference, international donors donated $7.7 billion for Gaza. Two years later, the billions promised at the Sharm El Sheikh conference amounted to 4.5. Five years have passed, and a new conference, this time in Cairo, collected $5.4 billion in commitments. At the last conference held in 2021, approximately $3 billion was promised for the reconstruction of the Strip. Between saying and doing, Hamas was involved and, as the Palestinian Authority admitted, less than half of the promised billions reached Gaza.

There is 4.5 billion dollars declared by the UN through its own institutions in the last 10 years. And then the $1.3 billion that Qatar has provided from 2012 to date. Egypt has pledged $500 million for the reconstruction of the Strip in 2021. In 2021, Germany and other European countries announced that they would invest around 100 million in water projects. A list of works created in the last decade can be found on the website. Gaza’s reconstruction mechanismIt is managed by the United Nations in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and Israel: infrastructure, schools, hospitals. Successful examples include wastewater treatment plants and desalination plants, in which Italy plays a central role.

What is Italy doing for Palestine?

Italy has been in Palestine since 1985; government funding and non-governmental organizations operate in this area. Over the last 38 years, we have invested approximately €450 million in development cooperation and humanitarian aid programs for the Palestinian people in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. To give an idea, according to data from the Italian Development Cooperation Agency, over 22 million Euros have been committed in 2022. According to the most recent data, 19.5 million euros were committed for 2023 and 14 million euros were used.

Italy's funding for Palestine: How much is the funding?

Italy acts together with other European countries and is the leading donor country for two sectors: health, gender equality and women’s empowerment. Overall, assistance from the international community is vital for the Palestinian territories: NGOs claim that 8 out of 10 people are in need of development programs and donations. In addition to government institutions, non-governmental organizations also work in this field.

These include Oxfam: “In Palestine we have always worked on 3 main sectors: economic justice, gender justice and humanitarian interventions – Riccardo Sansone, head of Oxfam Italia’s programs abroad, tells – Palestine’s “We support humanitarian interventions to protect the population, especially in the areas of health, water and food security, through access to finance and cooperation with financial institutions, to mobilize the productive tissue, and we work with organizations that protect the rights and emancipation of women in Palestine.” . So, specifically, which projects are we talking about?

What is Italy financing in Gaza?

In a region that has experienced decades of emergency, humanitarian aid is adapting to conflict trends. For example, tens of thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged during Israel’s 51-day military assault on the Gaza Strip in 2014; this resulted in the displacement of 100,000 people between July and August. At that time, the Italian Cooperation Agency participated in the renovation of 280 houses and the reconstruction of the entire Al Nada public housing area.

Reconstruction of Al Nada neighborhood in the Gaza Strip: financed by Italy

Other projects have also been activated recently, most of them related to emergencies, education and health-related issues. The most important interventions in 2023 relate to the “integrated strengthening of the Palestinian health system” (4 million euros), human rights and gender equality, and strengthening the Palestine Post-Emergency program (Pop).

But now everything has come to a halt: “Existing projects are now at a standstill,” says Riccardo Sansone, head of Oxfam Italia’s foreign programs. We have an ongoing development project to provide access to financial systems for small production companies such as social entrepreneurs. However, it is now impossible for many staff to work: nearly 30 of our colleagues are stranded in Gaza. Many have lost their homes or relatives and it is psychologically difficult to maintain work. They make an incredible effort to communicate. Let us know when the electricity comes back.”

Hamas money

In fact, the impasse over aid to Gaza began before the ongoing conflict. After Israel’s last attack in 2021, Arab countries also began to reduce their funds. It’s a slowdown that follows former US president Donald Trump’s years-long halt on US funds to Palestine. Reluctance from donors, including Europeans, has characterized interventions in Gaza over the past two decades. And they are linked to the fear that money will end up in Hamas’s pockets.

Israel has repeatedly argued that the connection between aid and the terrorist group is concrete and has repeatedly vetoed the sending of funds, especially to NGOs. “We work directly or through partners selected with strict criteria that also take into account blacklists, including suppliers. We have a technical-financial monitoring system that allows us to verify the effective use of funds: money does not pass through, citizens benefit from it elsewhere,” Oxfam’s Sansone assures .

Whether Hamas succeeded in taking away aid resources remains a mystery. According to the US State Department, the organization receives $100 million in direct aid annually from Iran. It is estimated that Hamas manages to raise approximately $140 million annually through donations (collected from Palestinian diaspora communities, supporters in the Arab and Iranian world, activities through cryptocurrencies).

Difference between Gaza and West Bank

While all this was happening, as Hamas financed itself through these channels and cash flows to the people of Gaza weakened, the Strip was subjected to various bombings: four wars between Israel and Hamas between 2008 and 2021, according to the UN. Approximately $5.7 billion worth of damage was caused to homes and civilian infrastructure in Gaza. That’s roughly the same amount estimated to be distributed in aid by international donors.

As a result, while the West Bank could grow economically over time, time stood still in Gaza. Since the arrival of Hamas, the Strip’s GDP has decreased by 2% per year, according to the International Monetary Fund, and today the rate is equal to that of 30 years ago. In the West Bank, this rate is four times higher than in 1994. Approximately 45% of the workforce is unemployed and 53% of the population lives below the poverty line: unemployment in the West Bank is 13%, while the poor represent 14%. % of the population. In short, the aid hasn’t helped, but Oxfam says stopping it now, as some say, “would be a very serious mistake.” Our hope is that reconstruction will indeed begin again after this conflict. And no terrorist group or bomb can undermine efforts to guarantee a better future for the 2 million men, women and children living in the Strip.

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Source: Today IT