Israel: Gaza reconstruction needs our consent

2014-10-12 14:08
A destroyed house on the southern Gaza Strip. (Said Khatib, AFP)

A destroyed house on the southern Gaza Strip. (Said Khatib, AFP)

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Jerusalem - The foreign minister of Israel, which was not invited to an international conference on Sunday in Cairo on rebuilding Gaza, said any such effort would need his country's consent.

"Gaza cannot be rebuilt without the cooperation and participation of Israel," Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with news website Ynet.

Israel, which has enforced a strict blockade on the Gaza Strip since 2006, can block the entry of construction materials or funds into the Palestinian territory.

The Jewish state insists on guarantees that international aid will not be diverted to military ends by the Islamist movement Hamas, against which it fought a devastating 50-day war in July and August.

However, Lieberman said Israel would be "receptive" to plans for "the reconstruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza".

Peace talks

The Palestinian Authority has asked for $4bn to reconstruct the Gaza Strip, mostly to rebuild homes in the wake of the conflict which killed 2 200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, most of them soldiers.

Hamas, which effectively rules Gaza, and Israel were not invited to the Cairo conference.

"Since this conference will discuss issues which affect Israel... [it] should have been there," an unnamed Israeli diplomat said in Haaretz newspaper.

Lieberman was cool to US calls for a renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. "If it's only going to deal with the demands of the Palestinians, then it's a waste of time," he said.

Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi kicked off the one-day gathering involving envoys such as US Secretary of State John Kerry. Egypt's government negotiated a cease-fire that ended the fighting on 27 August.

In his address, Sissi said the reconstruction of Gaza hinged on a "permanent calm" between Hamas and Israel. He said it also required the exercise of "full authority" by the Palestinian Authority, led by Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas.

The US promised $212m in immediate assistance to the devastated Gaza Strip on Sunday yet urged Palestinians and Israelis to return to peace negotiations to break a cycle of violence that has yielded three wars in six years.

Lasting solution

People in Gaza "need our help desperately - not tomorrow, not next week, but they need it now," Kerry said at the international donor conference. He said more than 20 000 homes need to be rebuilt and 100 000 people remain displaced with winter fast approaching.

Kerry said the new US money, which takes American aid to the Palestinians to more than $400m this year, would go to security, economic development, food and medicine, shelter and water and sanitation projects.

He added that a lasting solution needs to be found and that the world doesn't want to see a return every two years or so to a war in Gaza, a cease-fire and another expensive reconstruction effort.

"A cease-fire is not peace," he said. "And we've got to find a way to get back to the table and help people make tough choices."

Read more on:    us  |  egypt  |  israel  |  middle east peace

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