On a December morning in central London, more than two dozen people drawn from influential institutions across the Middle East, Europe and the United States gathered in a conference room to pursue an aspiration that, at that moment, verged on preposterous. They were there to plan for the reconstruction and long-term economic development of Gaza.

Gaza was under relentless bombardment by Israeli military forces in response to terrorist attacks launched by Hamas in October. Communities throughout the territory were being reduced to rubble, and tens of thousands of people had been killed. Families confronted the immediacy of hunger, fear and grief.

Yet at the meeting in London, members of the international establishment discussed how to eventually transform Gaza from a place defined by isolation and poverty into a Mediterranean commercial hub centered on trade, tourism and innovation, yielding a middle class.

The group included senior officials from American and European economic development agencies, executives from Middle Eastern finance and construction companies and two partners from the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Officially, they were attending only as individuals, not as representatives of their institutions.

The plan they produced is far removed from the dire reality confronting Gaza today. Turning it into reality would require the end of a war that has left the territory devastated, to say nothing of tens of billions of dollars in investment. It would also demand resolution to the monumental and entirely uncertain political question of who eventually controls Gaza, and then the cooperation of that authority. All of that makes the plan well short of a blueprint for action.


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