Gaza’s economic situation is ultimately irrelevant to peace negotiations and the current security situation, a senior Defense Ministry official declared Wednesday at a conference on the beleaguered coastal strip’s financial woes.
Amos Gilad, director of the ministry’s Political-Military Affairs Bureau, scoffed at the assertion made by some at the conference that economic development in the coastal enclave could be the solution to Gaza’s problems and mitigate the security threats to Israel that emanate from the territory.
“The good news is that our deterrence is still working. They say that there will be a ‘hot’ summer. That’ll only be because of the high temperatures,” he said, alluding to the tendency for regional conflicts to take place in warmer summer months.
“Economics alone can’t solve [Gaza’s problems]. Economics are not the fundamental solution,” Gilad said in his address.
So long as Hamas rules the Gaza Strip, he added, there will not be peace there.
“No recognition of Israel. No recognition of a Palestinian state [in the West Bank and Gaza, so long as it excludes Israel]. At least they’re dedicated to their cause,” he said.
The conference, “Gaza, what next?” was the the second in a three-part series on the economics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hosted by Hebrew University and the AiX group, an Israeli-Palestinian economics research team.
Gilad, a former general in the Israel Defense Forces, brushed off assertions that a port or lightened security measures would have an impact on the economic situation in Gaza.
Gilad also rejected allowing Hamas to open a seaport in the coastal enclave, even one that only exported goods.
“No port in the world can be guarded completely,” he said.
If such a port were created, he noted, Hamas would be in charge of it, boosting the group’s influence as an opponent of the Palestinian Authority, the supposed representative of the Palestinian people.
Gilad’s blunt talk on the subject did not go over well with the crowd, and several audience members called out at various times during his address.
“I’m sorry to give you a harsh picture, but that’s what it is,” he said. “I don’t see a magic solution.”
Gilad left immediately following his speech, but his comments reverberated long after among attendees.
Hisham Abed el-Rezek, who came to the conference from the University of Gaza, described the economic situation in the Strip as “catastrophic.”
The people of Gaza, he said, are at a breaking point. High unemployment, slow reconstruction following the 2014 war with Israel and an uncertain future created an environment of “desperation.”
“If Gaza remains as it is, the people will come [into Israel] over the fence and under the fence, over the ground and under the ground, over the sea and under the sea — they want to live,” he said.
“I wish Amos would have stayed to hear that.”