As the largest liquefied natural gas exporter in the world and one of the few countries able to work and negotiate with various parties in Israel and Gaza, Qatar is uniquely positioned to work within Gaza’s energy sector.
Palestinian residents walk in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, Aug. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
The Gaza Strip has endured extreme shortages in electricity for more than a decade. This is due to strict Israeli restrictions
on sea, land, and air movement into and out of Gaza and clashes between Hamas
and the Israeli armed forces. Gaza needs 600 megawatts of electricity for a constant supply of power. However, it only gets 180 megawatts
, of which 120 megawatts come from Israel. The dire situation has escalated in the past month with fighting between Israel and Hamas. Israel closed the border with Gaza and suspended the fuel supply
. Power lines and infrastructure were also damaged limiting Gazans’ access to electricity to around four hours a day
. This shortage of energy has only exacerbated Gaza’s already difficult living conditions
Qatar has played a significant role in supporting Gazans’ access to electricity through financial
support, specifically the purchase of fuel shipments into Hamas-ruled Gaza facilitated by Israel. In February, Doha committed $60 million to the construction of a natural gas pipeline
from Israel to Gaza. Qatar’s ability to play a role in the provision of Palestinian energy is facilitated by its expertise in energy production, humanitarian initiatives in Gaza, and political ties with both Israel and Hamas.
In February, Qatar agreed to fund and build part of a gas pipeline
to Gaza that is planned to be completed in 2023. The Gas for Gaza project was first proposed
by the Office of the Quartet
in 2014 in agreement with the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government. The project aims to transport natural gas from the Leviathan field off the coast of Haifa into Israel through Israel’s natural gas lines and finally into Gaza via a new extension. While the Qataris will be responsible for constructing pipelines inside Israel, the European Union pledged 20 million euros
(approximately $24 million) to install pipelines from the Israeli-Gazan border to Gaza’s power plant.
Under the supervision of Israel
, the project aims to provide sustainable electricity
in Gaza by increasing electrical capacity and therefore supporting the livelihoods of its population. The shift to natural gas will also decrease carbon emissions
. At the same time, the project will make Gaza more reliant on Israel as the source of energy.
Qatar is well equipped to play a growing role in Palestinian energy. Qatar is the largest liquefied natural gas exporter in the world, with its LNG coming from seven mainly state-owned projects
. Qatar Petroleum
controls all processes of the country’s oil and natural gas sectors, including exploration, production, and sales. This makes Qatar capable of providing technical and financial assistance to build the proposed pipeline and be involved in Gaza’s gas production.
Qatar’s humanitarian endeavors with Palestinians have established the foundations, relationships, and access for it to help build the Palestinian energy sector. Qatari humanitarian assistance through Qatar Charity and the Qatari government has mainly been centered around the Gaza Strip
. In 2014 during the Cairo Summit
, Qatar pledged $1 billion to support the reconstruction of Gaza over a 3-year period
and has recently pledged $360 million
to support Gaza during 2021. Between 2012 and 2018, Qatar allocated over $1.1 billion
to projects in the Gaza Strip. Part of this aid was dedicated to projects to rebuild infrastructure and energy production, including funding the power plant.
Qatar’s humanitarian involvement has strengthened its ties with all parties involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and it has strategically painted itself as a diplomatic mediator hosting reconciliation meetings between Hamas and Fatah
. Qatar’s position as one of the few countries able to work and negotiate with the various parties involved enables it to work within Gaza’s energy sector.
Qatar was one of the first Arab countries to establish an open relationship
with Israel. Qatar initiated the first meeting in 2003, when the two countries’ foreign ministers met in Paris to discuss a peace settlement
in the region. Israel sees Qatar as a key mediator
with Hamas. Although Israel is weary of Qatar’s relationship with Hamas and Iran
, it knows Qatar’s ability to work with Hamas
helps the distribution of aid. And, in February 2020, Israel sent its top military officer in charge of Gaza to Doha to convince Qatari officials to continue payments
to Hamas for Gaza.
At the same time, Qatar has continued to support Palestinian statehood
and said that it was not yet ready to normalize relations
with Israel without progress between Israel and Palestinians. Although there has been tension between the Palestinian Authority and Qatar, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas visited Doha
in December 2020 to ensure Qatar’s continued support. On the other hand, Qatar has a strong relationship with Hamas, visible in its rhetorical and financial backing of the organization. In 2012, Qatar’s emir
visited Gaza – the first head of state to do so since 2007.
In Gaza, Qatar’s humanitarian and political efforts, willingness to recognize Israeli interests, and readiness to build the proposed pipeline increase the Gulf Arab country’s role in regional gas dynamics. Hamas, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority all welcome Qatar’s role in Palestinian and Israeli energy. If the Gas for Gaza project succeeds in providing sustainable electricity in Gaza, it may reduce the need for high levels of humanitarian assistance from Qatar opening the way for new types of Qatari economic influence in Gaza.
November 5, 2020
Politics and Governance
Sima Aldardari is a former research associate at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
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