The questions that remain unanswered

Construction in Gaza. Photo: Eman Mohammed

Construction in Gaza. Photo: Eman Mohammed

February 6, 2014. Over the past few days, we shared examples of the impact that the serious shortage of construction materials has on life in the Gaza Strip. We shared stories about people who have lost their sources of livelihood, about abandoned construction sites, about lives that have been suspended. The severe shortage of construction materials, we noted, isn’t incidental. Given the destruction of the tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border, the lack of cement, gravel and steel are the result of a decision by the ministry of defense to ban the sale of construction materials to the private sector in Gaza.

On Tuesday this week, three and a half months after the ban went into effect, the ministry of defense announced (Hebrew) that it does not intend to change this policy, “as it was discovered that construction materials were transferred for use in building tunnels for terror organizations”. The announcement did not include an explanation of how the restriction is meant to be effective considering the fact that, as experts in the ministry are surely aware, approximately 23,000 tons of construction materials entered monthly through the Rafah crossing between August and December of last year. The ministry of defense also hasn’t explained how this policy adds up when taken along with Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon’s recent comments about the importance of economic growth contributing to stability in Gaza. After all, the construction sector has been the most productive and stable in Gaza’s economy throughout the years of the closure.

In Gaza, 70,000 thousand people depend on the construction sector for their livelihoods, tens of thousands of new housing units are needed, and the construction of essential public infrastructure has been put on hold, all for a policy whose effectiveness is in doubt, at best, and which appears to contradict Israel’s security interests as defined by the heads of its own security establishment.