Israeli foreign minister offers development in exchange for ‘long-term calm’ in Gaza |
JERUSALEM – Israel’s foreign minister has offered to improve conditions in Gaza in return for calm from the enclave’s Hamas Islamist rulers, in a bid to resolve “endless cycles of violence” as the two parties were exchanging further fire over the weekend.
The plan, which includes infrastructure and social benefits, aims to show Palestinians in the enclave under Israeli blockade that Hamas’ campaign of violence against Israel is “the reason why they live in conditions of poverty, scarcity, of violence and high unemployment, hopeless,” Yair Lapid said on Sunday.
He stressed that he was not calling for negotiations with Hamas, because “Israel does not talk to terrorist organizations that want to destroy us.”
Lapid, who is due to take over as prime minister in two years under a rotation deal, acknowledged that his plan did not yet fit the official policy of Israel’s eight-party coalition government, but said that he had the support of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
In the first stage of the plan, infrastructure in Gaza, an impoverished territory of two million people, would receive a badly needed upgrade, Lapid said in a speech at Reichman University in Herzliya.
“The electrical system will be repaired, gas will be connected, a water desalination plant will be built, significant improvements to the health system and reconstruction of housing and transport infrastructure will take place,” he said. .
“In return, Hamas will commit to long-term calm,” he added, noting that the international community would play a role in the process, especially Egypt, south of Gaza.
“This won’t happen without the support and involvement of our Egyptian partners and their ability to speak to everyone involved,” Lapid said.
“Any violation by Hamas will stop the process or delay it,” he warned.
If the first stage goes well, Gaza would then see the construction of an artificial island off its coast which would allow the construction of a port and a “transportation link” between Gaza and the West Bank would be created.
Lapid said he presented the plan to “partners in the Arab world”, as well as the United States, Russia and the European Union.
“There is still work to do, we are still on the drawing board, but if this plan has a chance of succeeding and gaining broad support, I will propose it to the government as an official position,” he said. declared.
Just hours after Lapid’s remarks, the specter of renewed violence erupted. The Israeli army said it intercepted a rocket launched from Gaza into southern Israel, the third such incident in as many days.
On Monday night, Israel returned the attack, its warplanes hitting four Hamas military compounds and a tunnel in the Palestinian enclave, the Israeli military said in a statement.
Israel and Hamas fought their last full-scale war in May, the fourth since 2008. The conflict ended with an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.
The UN high commissioner for human rights said in late May that Israeli airstrikes in the territory had resulted in “widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure”.