Qatar, the European Union and the United Nations have reportedly brokered a pipeline deal involving supply of Israeli gas to the Gaza Strip.
The gas installment agreement is expected to dramatically improve Gaza’s electricity shortage. Residents in Gaza currently live on approximately 11 hours of electricity per day, an improvement compared to four to six hours daily a few years ago.
Once Gaza starts receiving Israeli gas, electricity supply will double in the Hamas-ruled enclave according to Qatar’s envoy to Gaza Mohammed al-Emadi.
“The project will help increase electric power to 400 megawatts, which is twice the current amount,” Emadi told the Palestinian Authority news outlet Sama News on Sunday. The new pipeline is also expected to dramatically cut the cost of electricity in the Gaza Strip. Emadi estimates that it will take approximately two years to implement the electricity project. However, he remains upbeat about the future.
“This will help solve the electricity problem in the Gaza Strip,” said Emadi.
The new gas project involves several international organizations and individuals, including the International Quartet, the energy company Chevron Delek, the European Union, the UN’s coordinator for the peace process in the Middle East and the Palestinian Authority Energy head Zafer Melhem. Dutch and French consulates are also involved in the project. The EU has pledged approximately $5 million to finance the cost of installing gas pipelines from the border to the power plant in Gaza. In parallel, Qatar will take care of the pipeline installation on the Israeli side.
The Office of the EU Representative in Jerusalem confirmed its involvement in the pipeline project.
“The EU has been discussing a project that will provide the required infrastructure on the Palestinian side to deliver gas to the Gaza power plant with the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, and Israel. The technical teams are still working on the details of this project to which the EU will provide an initial contribution of five million euros if certain conditions are met,” the EU office stated.
Unlike the warm and growing relations between Israel and Arab Gulf states, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Qatari-Israeli ties have been uneven and have shifted between pragmatism and tension. In 1996, Qatar established trade relations with Israel. Following Israel’s Operation Cast Lead military operation against the Hamas regime in Gaza, Qatar broke official relations with Jerusalem in 2009.
While Qatar supports Hamas, which is committed to Israel’s destruction, Qatar and Israel have found common ground in civilian and humanitarian projects in the Gaza Strip. From Jerusalem’s perspective, easing the living conditions in Gaza will reduce the risks of future large-scale military conflicts between Israel and the Hamas regime.
In January, Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani announced that Qatar was prepared to normalize relations with Israel once the Jewish state accepts the Arab peace initiative and agrees to the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state with east Jerusalem as its capital.