Representatives of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States participated in an emergency conference in Brussels on Wednesday of countries and organizations that provide financial support for Palestinians.
Israel presented humanitarian assistance plans at the gathering for the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip with a focus on desalination, electricity and natural gas infrastructure projects in addition to upgrading of the industrial zone at the Erez border crossing with Israel. The total cost of the projects is estimated at a billion dollars, which Israel asked the international community to fund.The plan was first reported by Haaretz.
Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who represented Israel at the conference, presented the plans but noted that carrying them out would require that the PA take responsibility for civilian life in Gaza, which has been under the control of Hamas since the Islamist movement forcefully ousted the PA there in 2007.
The American representative at the gathering, U.S. President Donald Trump's special Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, directed remarks at Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah which made reference to Trump’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Greenblatt said the historical link between the Jewish people and its capital was not disputable and that Trump was simply recognizing a historical reality. Trump had not expressed a position on Jerusalem’s borders, its final status or the status quo in the city’s holy places, Greenblatt added, and the U.S. president remains committed to advance the peace process. Abandoning peace negotiations will not benefit the parties to the conflict, but the step will mainly harm the Palestinians, Greenblatt added.
The Brussels meeting was also attended by the foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco as well as senior representatives from Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. The meeting of the group, formally known as the ad hoc liaison committee of the International Donor Group for Palestine, was convened by its current chairwoman, Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, and the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini.
The meeting was convened against the backdrop of a threat by the U.S. to cut financial assistance to the Palestinians, the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza and the stalled process of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the dominant party in the PA.
The EU’s Mogherini called the conference an opportunity for all of the parties involved to sit down together for the first time since the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “The basis and objective of our engagement is and remains the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as future capital of both states, the State of Israel and the State of Palestine. This is a position based on the Oslo Accords and on international law, in particular the relevant UN Security Council resolutions,” Mogherini said. “The raison d’etre of the ad hoc liaison committee is and remains the shared objective of a two-state solution.”
“Any framework for negotiations must be multilateral and must involve all players, all partners that are essential to this process. A process without one or the other would simply not work, would simply not be realistic,” she said, before going on to add: “We need to maintain the political horizon for the two-state solution, as we believe that there is no alternative.”
“In the meantime, there are many practical steps that can advance on the ground and we will look at these steps also today: Continue our support for the Palestinian Authority; continue our support for UNRWA [the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees]; work for the security of all, because we know that the more progress we can achieve on the ground, the more this can help prevent violence and the more this can also help resume a political process,” Mogherini added.
“We believe it is important that the Palestinian Authority is committed to unite the West Bank and Gaza under one single and legitimate authority. And in this regard we strongly support the indispensable Egyptian role and engagement that we value as extremely positive. The political situation in Gaza is directly linked to the security situation in the entire region and to our common fight against terrorism. And we believe Israel’s legitimate security concerns must be met, also in that context,” the EU's foreign policy chief continued.
“We are thinking first and foremost, obviously, of the population in Gaza. The daily life of citizens has been very difficult for a too long time and this despite large international humanitarian help. We are ready to increase our support if the political conditions are met,” she noted.
Mogherini announced a 42.5 million euro ($52.7 million) assistance package for the Palestinians which includes 14.9 million euros for activities in East Jerusalem that an EU statement said would be used “to preserve the Palestinian character of the city.” The balance is earmarked for “a democratic and accountable Palestinian State through targeted policy reform.” This is in addition to the EU’s current 107 million euros in support for UNRWA.
With regard to an American peace plan, Mogherini said: “We will wait and see. For the moment, we do not have details or even a time framework.” However, she stated that “For us what counts is that everybody recognizes that the United States [is] essential for any process to realistically have a chance to succeed, but also for our friends in the United States to understand that alone it would be more difficult to achieve anything.”
Mogherini said she would shortly invite representatives of the Arab League to meet with her on the Israeli-Palestinian issue under the leadership of Jordan and Egypt.
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