Restructuring after the Gaza Withdrawal

Mohammad Samhouri, a Palestinian economist, talks about reconstruction and planning following Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.

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SUSAN STAMBERG, host:

To hear how Palestinian planners want to move forward in Gaza, we called Saeb Erekat, chief Palestinian negotiator. He's leading a team of experts that will manage the redevelopment of Gaza for Palestinians.

Can you tell us, please, what will happen immediately after all the Israelis have been evacuated from the settlements?

Mr. SAEB EREKAT (Chief Palestinian Negotiator): Well, much depends on the--whether we can provide a soft landing approach for Gaza the day after. There'll be a day after, of course, and this day after will not stay there for long. I'm engaged with the Israelis now in order to have a smooth and peaceful transition, smooth and peaceful disengagement. We're urging our Israeli colleagues to allow us to operate the airport and to have free access for goods, vehicles and persons between the West Bank and Gaza and between Gaza and Egypt.

We have to begin by saying we need to transfer Gaza's economy from labor-oriented to goods-oriented. This requires free access. This requires a lot of investments. Creating one job in Gaza needs an investment of $25,000. So we really appreciate very much that President Bush and other members of the G8 had allocated $3 billion. We hope to see this immediately channeled to Gaza and the West Bank in order to develop this economy.

The second thing we're concerned about and we're doing now is to maintain the rule of law and public order and maintain the oneness of authority and the one gun. This chaos and lawlessness here and there and multiple authorities and multiple guns must end for the sake of Palestinian social fabric and Palestinian national interest.

STAMBERG: Mr. Erekat, what about just physical plant? I mean, essentially those settlements will have been bull-dozed, houses taken to the ground. You'll be entering essentially a rubble heap. So how does that building process begin?

Mr. EREKAT: First of all, by removing the rubble. I know we already contracted a company to remove the 180,000 tons of rubble outside Gaza. Secondly, we have published already in our gazette, you know, under the rule of law that those Palestinian private owners who can prove and claim the land, they can come to the nearest office of land reclamation and go to court, and if it's their land, we will honor it. And thirdly, concerning the--you know, to make sure that nobody can take over the land or put their hands on it, we're going to take a period of grace for six months. Before we do anything on that area, we need some legal aspects, some laws, and we need a lot of investment laws. So it's going to be a long, difficult but a doable process that we hope to achieve the day after.

STAMBERG: What about in the short term? Do you have plans to let Palestinians go over and take a look at those settlements once they are evacuated?

Mr. EREKAT: Absolutely. We're arranging buses, we're arranging cars, we are trying to organize it. We don't want chaos. We don't want anarchy. We don't want people running around. We're going to make like tours to that city's areas through organized buses and to organized times and so on.

STAMBERG: This day after that you talk about is many days after, and it's an enormous undertaking. It's going to involve tremendous organization, tremendous cooperation, calm, as you have pointed out. Is the Palestinian Authority up to this task?

Mr. EREKAT: We are doing our best to exacting maximum effort in order to do that. As you said, it's a very, very big responsibility. We have many limitations. We need help.

STAMBERG: Thank you very much. Saeb Erekat is the chief Palestinian negotiator.

Thank you, sir.

Mr. EREKAT: Thank you.

STAMBERG: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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