Friday, November 24, 2017

Donors Pledge $5.4 billion in Gaza Aid


October 13, 2014
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Section: [Main News]
Tags: [Gaza] [Gaza Blockade] [UN] [border crossings]

Khuza'a is one of the villages that was hit the hardest during Israel’s 50-day military campaign this summer. Photo by Lazar Simeonov.

Meeting at a conference in Cairo on Sunday, global donors pledged a sum of $5.4 billion in aid to rebuild the Gaza Strip after Israel’s 50-day military campaign this summer.

The final sum surpassed the $4 billion in aid the Palestinian Authority initially set as a target figure for reconstruction purposes. Only $2.7 billion of the total sum, however, will be “dedicated” to reconstruction purposes, according to Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, who co-chaired the one-day conference with Egypt. It is thus far unclear where the other half of the funds will be spent. 

The gulf state of Qatar pledged $1 billion in aid, while European Union member states contributed a total of $570 million and the US pledged $212 million. 

In his address to the conference, US Secretary of State John Kerry outlined the “enormous” challenges Gaza currently faces in rebuilding, adding that both Palestinians and Israelis need to make “tough choices” for lasting stability. 

“The people of Gaza do need our help, desperately, not tomorrow, not next week, they need it now,” said Kerry. 

Many in the international community fear that, after three destructive wars throughout the past six years, any aid given to Gaza will eventually be lost in the seemingly never-ending cycle of violence. 

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, also in attendance at Sunday’s conference, addressed Gaza’s current instability and potential volatility.

“Gaza remains a tinderbox,” he said. “The people desperately need to see results in their daily lives.”

Efforts toward peace

Egyptian leader Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi opened the one-day conference by urging the foreign envoys gathered in Cairo that successful reconstruction of Gaza is contingent on a “permanent calm” between Hamas and Israel. 

El-Sissi went on to urge Israel to end its occupation and consider launching new peace efforts based on the Arab initiative of 2002. “I call on the Israeli people and the government: now is the time to end the conflict…so that prosperity prevails, so that we all can have peace and security.”

“We should turn this moment into a real starting point to achieve a peace that secures stability and flourishing and renders the dream of coexistence a reality, and this is the vision of the Arab peace initiative,” Sissi said. 

Everything else will be a band aid fix, not a long-term solution…Everything else will be the prisoner of impatience and that has brought us to this unacceptable and unstable status quo.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas similarly urged Israel to accept the Arab peace initiative. “The international community should undertake its responsibilities by preventing the aggression, destruction, displacement and suffering of our Palestinian people and supporting our demand in ending Israel’s occupation of our land and in realizing the vision of the two-state solution and the Arab peace initiative,” he said. 

US Secretary of State John Kerry, for his part, called for a renewed commitment to peace on both sides, arguing the conference was not just about money, “but a renewed commitment from everybody to work for peace that meets the aspirations of all, for Israelis, for Palestinians, for all people of this region.”

“Everything else will be a band aid fix, not a long-term solution…Everything else will be the prisoner of impatience and that has brought us to this unacceptable and unstable status quo.”

PA control of borders

The PA announced on Friday that it planned to take control of the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel on Sunday. As of Monday, however, no noticeable changes have taken place on the ground. 

Deputy Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa—who is also set to head the reconstruction committee for Gaza—said on Friday the PA would take responsibility for building materials entering Gaza as well as the movement of Palestinians between the coastal strip and the West Bank. 

Israeli authorities have said they will only allow the transport of construction materials into Gaza if the PA takes control of the crossings. 

Mustafa’s words were reinforced Saturday, when PA Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Shiekh promised that the border crossings would see “drastic changes” on Sunday. 

These promises come amidst the PA’s attempt to negotiate with Israel to permit Palestinians from Gaza to enter the West Bank through a “safe passage” under PA oversight. 

In response to the PA’s calls for impending change, head of Gaza’s border crossings Mahar Abu Sabha said that no such arrangement had been agreed upon. 

“All that is being published through mass media about new arrangements and new staff members for Gaza crossings is inaccurate,” he told reporters late on Saturday, explaining that thus far now deal has been reached to bring back the PA staff members who used to control Gaza’s crossings up until 2007. 

Control of the Gaza’s Rafah crossing to Egypt—its proverbial window to the world—remains deeply contentious and could prove to be a point of contention within the newly formed Palestinian unity government as well as between the Palestinians and the Israeli authorities.  

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