Gaza rebuilding needs Israel’s consent, Liberman says

Gaza rebuilding needs Israel’s consent, Liberman says

Israel excluded from Cairo donor conference, but foreign minister says Jerusalem must okay rehabilitation of coastal territory

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in Jerusalem, January 5, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman in Jerusalem, January 5, 2014 (photo credit: Flash90)

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Gaza reconstruction efforts would need the consent of Israel, which was not invited to an international conference Sunday in Cairo on rebuilding the coastal enclave.

“Gaza cannot be rebuilt without the cooperation and participation of Israel,” Liberman 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, Liberman said Israel would be “receptive” to plans for “the reconstruction of civilian infrastructure in Gaza.”

Earlier in the day, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pledged transparency in the way the funds will be used, “in full coordination with UN agencies, donor countries and international financial institutions.”

The Palestinian Authority has asked for $4 billion to reconstruct the Gaza Strip, mostly to rebuild homes in the wake of the conflict which killed 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 72 Israelis, most of them soldiers. Israel says up to 1,000 of the Gazans killed were combatants.

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.

Liberman 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.

Opening the conference, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi joined the US in urging Israel to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians and PA President Mahmoud Abbas said government institutions in Gaza were destroyed.

“I call on the Israeli people and the government: now is the time to end the conflict,” Sissi said in his opening remarks.

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