Turkish businesses want to rebuild Gaza for $5 billion
Hacer Boyacıoğlu – JERUSALEM
AFP photoA team from the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) has spoken about a $5-billion Turkish plan prepared by the Center for Multilateral Trade Studies at the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV) to rebuild Gaza City, after a series of meetings with officials from both Israel and Palestine.
“As the Turkish business world, we can fulfill this work,” said TOBB chairman Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu, who headed the group.
TEPAV Executive Director Güven Sak and his team were also part of the group, which had several talks on the reconstruction of Gaza, which is under even worse conditions after an Israeli military operation in 2014.
TEPAV has marked that Gaza would not be “livable” as of 2020 and launched an urban development project with academics from Ankara’s Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ).
Some 50 countries had promised some $5.4 billion in aid for Gaza in 2014 but only a small portion of that financing has been utilized since then.
“There is more than $5 billion promised but only some 20 percent of this has been used,” Sak said. “We made a strategic plan. A Gaza port will be one of the most important projects in this plan.”
The group plans to start international design contests for Gaza and ask Gazans about their ideas for a “new Gaza.”
“Turkish contractors will be an important part of this project,” Sak said.
“Our contractors are materializing world-class works,” added Hisarcıklıoğlu. “They rank second in the world,” he added.
“The Turkish private sector was in Afghanistan, in Libya, everywhere. Why shouldn’t we have confidence and do this work too?” he asked.
The group met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and Economy Minister Abeer Odeh, along with Israeli officials.
The group also met with Palestinian Construction Minister Mufid Al Hasayne, Hamas officials and the Gaza Chamber of Commerce.
Israel had given permission to the Turkish team to visit Gaza, a sign of improving relations between Israel and Turkey.
“It is not possible to go to Gaza without the permission of Israel,” Hisarcıklıoğlu said after the meeting. “But we did this. This is an indicator that the tensions between Turkey and Israel are easing.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed Jan. 22 his hope toward the normalization of relations with Turkey, saying they were in talks with Turkey to restore ties.
Speaking to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency on the side lines of World Economic Forum meetings in the Swiss resort of Davos, Netanyahu had said, “We are talking to them [Turkish officials], and they are talking to us and if we succeed, that will be good for both countries.”
Relations with Israel have been tense since May 31, 2010, when Israeli forces raided a Gaza-bound flotilla of mainly Turkish activists, killing 10 people aboard the Mavi Marmara, the largest of the six vessels in the flotilla.
More than five years later, Turkey and Israel have begun talks to normalize relations, Turkish diplomatic sources confirmed by the end of last year.
“Our entry here also shows that the embargo is also easing. I could only enter Gaza 10 years after my previous visit. Such a project can be operative if all sides agree. However recent indicators are positive,” the TOBB chair said.
Some 1.8 million people live in Gaza, while the study projects that the population will rise to 2.1 million as of 2020. The 2014 military operation left some 190,000 people in Gaza without access to electricity.
Youth unemployment in Gaza stands at 67 percent, the highest in the world according to the World Bank.
Some 48 percent of the population is under 30. Some 50 percent of the industry facilities have been closed.
TEPAV projects that the city will completely lack fresh water by 2020.