World Bank Urges Donors to Fulfill Gaza Pledges
A new report on Monday by the World Bank shows that Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and other Arab donors have delivered only a small fraction of what was promised in aid to reconstruct Gaza after Israel’s 2014 war in the devastated seaside enclave.
The World Bank released its report a day before a gathering of international donor countries in Brussels, sending the meeting a stark message that donations are well behind the schedule set when pledges were made at an international conference in October 2014.
“Actual disbursements fall short of planned disbursements by around $1.3 billion, and hence, donors are urged to accelerate the disbursement of funds,” the report said. If donor funding continues at the current pace, it added, pledges are expected to be complete by mid-2019, some two years behind schedule.
Israel launched the war in July 2014 in what it said was a campaign to halt heavy rocket fire from the territory, which is ruled by the Hamas. During 50 days of fighting, more than 2,200 Palestinians were killed, over half of them civilians, according to UN and Palestinian estimates. Seventy-three people, including six civilians, were killed on the Israeli side.
The fighting also inflicted heavy damage on Gaza, damaging or destroying some 171,000 homes, according to UN figures. The Palestinians say 75,000 people remain homeless.
At the 2014 conference in Cairo, the international community pledged some $3.51 billion in aid over three years to rebuild Gaza. According to Monday’s report, $1.41 billion has been delivered, compared to $2.71 billion that should have arrived based on the original schedule.
Qatar led the list of donors in 2014, pledging $1 billion. The energy-rich country’s foreign minister at the time, Khalid bin Mohammed al-Attiyah, denounced the “international silence” that surrounded Gaza’s destruction, according to the Associated Press.
“While the Palestinian people need financial support, they need more political support from the international community,” he said at the time.
Yet a year and half later, Qatar has delivered only $152 million, or 15 percent of what was promised, according to the World Bank.
Saudi Arabia, the No. 2 donor, has delivered just over 10 percent of the $500 million it pledged, while the United Arab Emirates has sent just 15 percent of the $200 million it promised and Kuwait has delivered none of the $200 million it pledged. Turkey, one of Hamas’ closest allies, has delivered about one-third of the $200 million it pledged.
Officials from Turkey and the Persian Gulf Arab countries were not immediately available for comment.
Donor aid is just one component of rescuing the embattled Palestinian economy, and in its report, the World Bank took aim at Israel.
Monday’s report said the Palestinian Authority is losing about $285 million each year under existing economic agreements with Israel. In interim peace deals in the 1990s, Israel agreed to collect taxes on behalf of the Palestinians and transfer the money each month.
The World Bank said some of the arrangements have become outdated, while others have not been fully implemented due to “tax leakages” on trade with Israel and undervaluing Palestinian imports from other countries. It said the losses amount to 2.2 percent of Palestinian economic activity.
The report also said that Israel is holding some $669 million in revenues owed to the Palestinians, mostly pension contributions collected from Palestinians working in Israel and their employers. It said the Palestinian Authority has not yet created a dedicated pension fund for these workers, holding up the money.
It said that an Israeli blockade imposed on Gaza after Hamas seized power in 2007, “continues to weigh on the economy.” It also said that Egypt’s closure of its border crossing with Gaza, the main gateway for people moving in and out of the territory, has “further exacerbated the situation.”