Palestinian official praises Lapid’s ‘new vision’ for Gaza

FM’s plan unveiled this week, which would give the Palestinian Authority some powers in Strip, is ‘the new Oslo [Accords],’ says PA source

File: A view of Gaza City's Al-Hassayna Mosque at night, June 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
File: A view of Gaza City's Al-Hassayna Mosque at night, June 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

A Palestinian official told Zman Yisrael, The Times of Israel’s Hebrew sister site, that Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s “new vision” for the Gaza Strip is “the new Oslo [Accords].”

The proposal raised earlier this week by the foreign minister was swiftly rejected by PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, as well as Gaza rulers Hamas, but some within the Palestinian Authority are quietly in favor.

“This is the new Oslo,” said the unnamed official, referring to the 1993 peace agreements. “The program Lapid announced could save Gaza. This is the first time in 11 years that someone in Israel is suggesting a solution to the problem of Gaza in the framework of a two-state solution.”

On Sunday, during a speech at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism Policy of Reichman University (until recently known as IDC Herzliya), Lapid laid out what he called a “new vision” for Israel’s relations with the Gaza Strip, saying that Israel “must move toward a multi-year process in Gaza of economy in return for security.”

In his speech, Lapid outlined a two-stage plan for changing the economic reality on the ground in Gaza. A combination of international investment, Israel-Palestinian cooperation, and a quiescent Hamas could change life on the ground for ordinary Gazans, Lapid said.

Lapid proposed a multi-stage plan for developing Gaza’s economy. The first stage would entail rehabilitating Gaza’s infrastructure in exchange for tight international oversight — as well as quiet from Hamas. In the second stage of Lapid’s plan, the two sides would see more ambitious projects. An artificial island would be built off the coast of the enclave — a long-proposed plan to see a port built in Gaza — and the West Bank and Gaza would be linked by infrastructure projects, Lapid said.

The Palestinian Authority would take over civil and economic affairs in the Gaza Strip as part of this step, Lapid said. He did not explain how or why Hamas would consent to allow its PA rivals to take charge of aspects of life inside Gaza. Israel and the international community’s insistence on this step — along with Hamas’s refusal to do so — has torpedoed similar efforts before.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid speaking at the annual Herzliya Conference, September 12, 2021. (Ronen Toppleberg)

But the Palestinian official told Zman Yisrael that Lapid’s plan is a breath of fresh air.

“There is something new here,” said the official. “Finally Israel is starting to think in a different manner. Over the past decade — since Hamas took control of the Strip — the administration of [former prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu supported the split between Gaza and the West Bank.”

But, the official, said, that approach “doesn’t help either side, because ultimately it brought more rockets and rounds of violence, and pushed Hamas and the other factions in the Strip to become closer to Iran.”

Now, the official said, the new Israeli government — which took office in June, ousting Netanyahu — is taking a different approach.

“Now Israel is bringing a plan with a different message entirely: Let’s put divisions aside and connect Gaza and Ramallah,” said the official. “It was comfortable for Israel that the Palestinian people were divided so that they could claim there is no partner for peace and nobody to talk to. Which is why what they’re suggesting now gives hope to a lot of people — because there is a feeling that it doesn’t come at the expense of the Palestinian project which speaks about a Palestinian state.”

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has repeatedly ruled out the possibility of supporting a Palestinian state, and said earlier this week that he has no intention of meeting Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas while in office.

Lapid’s Gaza proposal was panned by PA premier Shtayyeh earlier this week.

“Gaza’s problem is political. It is the same problem that all of Palestine faces, including Jerusalem. There must be a serious political process based in international law, to end the occupation and lift the blockade… this would make the reconstruction of Gaza possible and sustainable,” he said.

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