Emirati envoy conditions Gaza rehab funds on progress toward Palestinian state

Ambassador Nusseibeh tells World Government Summit in Dubai there is ‘very strong’ consensus in Arab world on not funding reconstruction in Strip just to see it destroyed again

Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations Lana Nusseibeh speaks during the Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, December 22, 2023. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)
Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the United Nations Lana Nusseibeh speaks during the Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, December 22, 2023. (Yuki Iwamura/AP)

The United Arab Emirates ambassador to the United Nations said on Monday that there must be an “irreversible progression” toward a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict before there is a regional commitment to the reconstruction of Gaza.

Lana Nusseibeh said there was “a very strong” Arab consensus that such progress was needed for any contributions towards reconstruction in Gaza once the war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas is over.

“We cannot keep refunding and then see everything that we have built destroyed,” she said at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

War erupted on October 7 when Hamas carried out a shock cross-border attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians. Some 3,000 attackers burst through the border with the Gaza Strip and rampaged murderously through southern Israel, slaughtering those they found amid acts of torture, mutilation, and gang-rape. Terrorists also abducted 253 people of all ages who were taken as hostages to Gaza. Over half remain captive.

Israel responded with a devastating military campaign aimed at topping the Hamas regime in Gaza and freeing the hostages.

“There must be an irreversible progression to the two-state solution for regional partners to be on board with the reconstruction part… and that has to be something that has international guardrails and benchmarks and it has to have the support of the United States amongst other key actors,” she said.

People stand around craters caused by Israeli bombardment in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip on February 12, 2024 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

Gulf states have historically helped with reconstruction after previous conflicts. Those bouts of fighting each began with Gaza rocket fire at Israel and the October 7 attack was also carried out under a barrage of thousands of rockets that terrorists rained on Israel.

However, the extent of destruction after four months of war in Gaza is unprecedented over decades of conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians, with more than 85 percent of the enclave’s population driven from their homes.

The UAE is one of several Arab states that have established diplomatic ties with Israel over recent years in the Abraham Accords.

Nusseibeh’s remarks match the stance of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries on the need for clear progress towards a Palestinian state.

Last week, two senior Arab nation diplomats told The Times of Israel that top ministers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority agreed at a meeting in Riyadh Thursday to move forward with plans to present a joint political vision for rehabilitating the Gaza Strip and establishing a Palestinian state after the Israel-Hamas war.

Several drafts of the plan have already begun circulating between the countries, though it is unclear when it will be unveiled.

The Thursday meeting — first reported by The Times of Israel — was held as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded his fifth crisis tour of the Middle East since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

While Qatar is often left out of such discussions given its support for Islamist governments, the decision to include Doha is a recognition of its influence over Hamas, which participating countries believe is essential for postwar planning.

IDF troops operate inside the Gaza Strip in this undated handout photo release on February 11, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces)

Most Arab countries that participated in the meeting don’t want Hamas to part of the political leadership of Gaza after the war, but they do believe that the terror group will manage to survive in some form and that a level of its acquiescence will be needed to successfully advance the rehabilitation of Gaza, a diplomat explained to The Times of Israel.

The united front that Israel’s Arab partners and potential allies are building is increasingly at odds with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, which expects the war to continue for many more months until “total victory” is secured. On the other hand, the grouping of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia is offering Israel a partnership that could be used to more effectively combat Iran, which Netanyahu has long sought.

The vision that the Arab countries sought to promote during their Thursday meeting has been championed by the Biden administration for months, and Blinken again laid it out for Israelis during his visit to Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

“It will be up to Israelis to decide what they want to do… All that we can do is to show what the possibilities are… The alternative right now looks like an endless cycle of violence and destruction and despair. We know where the better path lies, but I don’t minimize in any way the very difficult decisions that would need to be made by all concerned to travel down that path,” he said.

Following the October 7 attack, Israel vowed to eliminate Hamas, launching airstrikes and a ground offensive that has killed at least 27,840 people, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza. The figure has not been verified and is believed to include both civilians and Hamas members killed in Gaza, some as a consequence of the terror groups’ own rocket misfires. The IDF has said that it has killed at least 10,000 Hamas terrorists in battle in addition to 1,000 who were killed inside Israel on October 7.

Jacob Magid contributed to this report.

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