The best way to rebuild Gaza while answering Israel’s security concerns is by establishing a joint Egyptian-UN international zone in the northern Sinai ten miles or so south of the Egyptian border with Gaza. The zone, administered and monitored physically and electronically by Egypt and the UN, would include a seaport, a small airport with connecting flights to Cairo’s international airport, solar farms for producing electricity, desalination plants for producing water, a hospital/clinic, and factories for producing pre-fabricated housing that could be transferred to Gaza (see my Sept. 2 blog on pre-fabricated housing). Any goods imported through the Sinai international zone would pass security inspections — once at the port and then again at the border with Gaza.
The international community would build this zone, which would provide thousands of jobs for Egyptians as well as Gazans who would commute from the near-by border, in a spirit of coopertition — a combination of cooperation and competition. Each project would be independently financed and constructed by a country or conglomerate of countries under UN and Egyptian auspices. Massive solar farms producing electric power, for instance, would be built by the US and China, each show-casing its technologies and competing to complete the project quickly and efficiently. The energy produced would be cheap considering the cost of building the solar farm was a donation by the donor country. The energy would be allocated 65% to Gaza, 25% to Sinai development and 10% to Israeli communities bordering Gaza.
Similarly, the desert nations experienced in building desalination plants (Saudi Arabia, the Arab Emirates, Israel) would each build desalination plants to supply water distributed according to the above formula. The airport, completely administered by Egypt, would be limited for the first ten years to direct flights to Cairo international airport. The seaport, built by EU communities, together with the regional hospital/clinic, would be under joint UN/Egypt supervision and monitoring. Pre-fabricated housing plants in the international zone would minimize the need for allowing concrete and steel into Gaza where they might be used for non-civilian purposes.
Obviously, a great deal of infrastructure work would also need to be done in Gaza under a UN development commission. Concrete and waste materials could be used to extend the Gaza shoreline in certain places, creating man-made landfills suitable for building some of the needed pre-fabricated housing. International help and advice would still be needed for coordinating sewage, water and power supplies based on supplies from the international zone in Sinai.
Since the hatred, animosity and distrust between Israeli and Hamas leadership is so great, there is no likelihood that negotiations will solve the problems of rebuilding Gaza while improving security arrangements for Israel. By transferring part of the “answers” to the northern Sinai, the two sides, hampered by their own political restrictions, would not have to agree in advance — but they would be very happy to enjoy the fruits of the international zone in Sinai.