Says Egypt, Jordan and others should join reconstruction

UAE: ‘Viable two-state solution plan’ needed before we commit to rebuilding Gaza

In apparent response to Netanyahu’s comments that Doha and Riyadh would finance reconstruction, Emirati ambassador to UN conditions rebuilding on ‘serious’ road map

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Israeli troops stand near a crater caused by an airstrike, as smoke rises from Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, December 7, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
Israeli troops stand near a crater caused by an airstrike, as smoke rises from Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip, December 7, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

The United Arab Emirates will condition its financial and political support for the reconstruction of Gaza after the Israel-Hamas war on the advancement of a US-backed initiative toward a two-state solution.

“The message is going to be very clear: We need to see a viable two-state solution plan, a road map that is serious before we talk about the next day and rebuilding the infrastructure of Gaza,” UAE Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh told the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

The remarks seem to be an apparent response to comments made Monday by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told a top Knesset panel that the UAE and Saudi Arabia would finance the Gaza Strip’s reconstruction, even as he continues to reject a return of the PA to the enclave as well as the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Nusseibeh said: “The road map is: the Israelis and the Palestinian Authority and a grouping of countries that have leverage on the both of them sitting around the table and saying, ‘That’s the endgame we’re going to work to. The work starts here. This is the timeline, and it starts now.’”

The Emirati envoy said Egypt, Jordan and several other Muslim-majority countries should also be part of the effort, along with European powers.

Without a road map to a two-state solution, “we’re not going to be as fully invested in the rebuild, and with Israel it will also have an effect. That’s not the trajectory we signed the Abraham Accords on,” Nusseibeh added.

Emirati Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh speaks during a Security Council meeting, at United Nations headquarters on November 22, 2023 in New York. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images/AFP)

At a closed-door meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Netanyahu had asserted that the Emiratis and Saudis would help fund reconstruction efforts in Gaza after the war.

Moreover, Arab and US officials have told The Times of Israel repeatedly over the past two months that Arab support for the reconstruction of Gaza is far from a given and that it will at best amount to a placeholder until the Palestinian Authority is ready to take over and advance a two-state solution.

Netanyahu, however, has all but ruled out both the return of the PA to Gaza, and a two-state solution.

Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee lawmakers on Monday pressed Netanyahu on his plan for the day after in Gaza, as he has largely focused on rejecting others’ proposals, rather than offering any of his own.

The premier reportedly told the MKs that he tasked the National Security Council with coming up with some options, but offered little detail beyond that.

He did say that a “civil authority” would operate the Strip, which analysts understand to mean a technocratic government made up largely of individuals tied to the PA who have been inactive since the governing body’s leaders were ousted from the Strip in 2007. The term “civil authority” is preferred by the right-wing backers of this plan, in order to avoid referring to the PA.

“We need to put Gaza through a process of de-Nazification, like Germany and Japan went through after the world war,” Netanyahu was quoted by Hebrew media as having told the lawmakers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads the weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem on December 10, 2023. (Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP

Despite the steps maintained by the security cabinet to weaken the PA, Netanyahu insisted that he would be able to build on the Abraham Accords normalization agreements with Arab and Muslim nations after the war, according to leaked transcripts of his testimony.

He said he will pursue deals with Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, which he will “harness” to support the reconstruction of Gaza.

US President Joe Biden insists that Saudi Arabia was close to normalizing ties with Israel before the war and that blocking that deal was one of Hamas’s motivations when it launched the October 7 onslaught.

Since the war’s outbreak after the devastating Hamas assault on October 7, the Arab world has been united in its fierce rejection of Israel’s response, leading international calls for a ceasefire.

While some Arab officials privately acknowledge their general support for Israel’s goal of removing the Islamist terror group from Gaza, they speak out fiercely against the number of civilian casualties in the Strip, which they fear are capable of destabilizing their own countries, where public outrage has been massive.

The war was triggered by the murderous assault by Hamas, in which roughly 3,000 terrorists burst into Israel from the land, air and sea under the cover of thousands of rockets. They infiltrated more than 20 communities across the south of the country, killing more than 1,200 people and seizing some 240 hostages. Families were slaughtered in their homes in front of their loved ones, and some 360 people were mowed down at an outdoor music festival.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza has claimed that since the start of the war, more than 18,400 people have been killed in the Strip, mostly civilians. These figures cannot be independently verified and are believed to include some 7,000 Hamas terrorists, according to Israel, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets. Another estimated 1,000 terrorists were killed in Israel during the October 7 onslaught. Israel has said that approximately two civilians have been killed for every dead Hamas fighter in the Gaza Strip, but that the military is working to reduce noncombatant deaths.

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