Thursday, June 15, 2017

 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

Gaza’s electricity shortage has recently become critical. Gaza gets its power from Israel and Egypt, and has a small power station of its own. But due to a decision of the Palestinian Authority to further reduce the amount it pays Israel  for electricity, the 3-4 hours a day during which Gaza is illuminated will be reduced by another 45 minutes or so – unless money is found somewhere.

Hamas is threatening that there will be an “explosion” unless something is done. It is a big problem for the population, because food is not being refrigerated, sewage is not being processed, water is not being pumped, and hospitals are unable to operate. And the weather is getting hotter.

Israel presently supplies Hamas with about 125 megawatt-hours (MWh) per day, and Egypt provides a smaller amount. Gaza’s own power station is presently not operating due to lack of fuel. It’s estimated that a 24-hour supply of electricity would require 400-500 MWh per day.

Negotiations are under way (Wednesday) for Western and Arab countries to pick up some of the slack. After all, think of the children. And nobody wants an “explosion.”

But there is a solution that nobody seems to have proposed yet. Let’s begin by asking a question: why doesn’t Hamas have money for electricity? After all, it levies heavy taxes on goods coming into the strip (both legally via the crossings from Israel and illegally via tunnels from Egypt) and on almost every other form of economic activity. It got money from Qatar until recently, and has now started receiving aid from Iran again. International donors pledged large sums for reconstruction after the 2014 war, although there was very little rebuilding done. Where did the money go?

The answer is simple: some of it enriched Hamas insiders, but most of it was used to dig tunnels, to manufacture rockets and for other weapons and military infrastructure. Hamas officials were ready to see their children (well, the children of other Gaza residents) hungry and wading in sewage if it advanced their project to destroy Israel.

In effect money was converted into weapons. And that provides a way to solve the problem: we can convert it back.

For example, what if Israel agreed to provide Hamas with 2 MWh for every stockpiled Qassam rocket turned over to us? They have thousands of these, which could keep the lights on for weeks. Not to mention longer-range rockets, which would be worth more. And tunnels – I’m sure we would be happy to give them a whole day’s worth of electricity for the precise location of a terror tunnel. Just give us the coordinates and we’ll do the rest! Anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons are valuable, too. A nice shoulder-fired SAM is probably worth 10 MWh. Even rifles and mortar shells could help keep the juice flowing.

You get the idea. From Israel’s point of view, it would be far cheaper than the tamir rockets used by Iron Dome to shoot down the Qassams ($50k -$100k each!), and the amount of effort needed to find the tunnels. Hamas would get its electricity – and we would get some peace and quiet for a change.

I’m calling it the Watts for Weapons program. I'm sure they'll go along with it. Only someone who prefers killing Jews to keeping his own people alive could possibly turn it down.




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