Democratic delegation: Israel needs to ‘get creative’ about aiding Gaza

The Democrats called upon the international community to also step up and help rebuild Gaza following the war in May.

By Donna Rachel Edmunds, World Israel News

A U.S. delegation to Israel urged the Bennett government to “get creative” about how to advance  an international effort to rebuild Gaza and how to allow more construction materials into the strip without aiding Hamas, the delegation lead told press on Friday.

Speaking during a briefing on the trip, delegation leader Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism, said that the international community needed to step up as the Palestinian Authority is too weak in Gaza to make any headway with rebuilding efforts, following May’s war between Hamas and Israel.

“My sense is that the PA is not in a strong enough of a position in Gaza right now to be able to administer the reconstruction in the way they had been in the past, so we’re gonna have to put together some international consortium,” Murphy said.

He noted that Egypt had taken some part in reconstruction efforts, but lamented that it had been mostly involved in “clearance of debris and rubble.”

“It’s taken too long for the international community to come to the table with a workable plan on Gaza reconstruction,” Murphy added.

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Murphy warned that the international community was beginning to get “donor fatigue,” growing tired of granting the enclave funds to rebuild following skirmishes with Israel, only to see the buildings levelled again in the next round.

His comments came just hours after Qatar said that efforts to send money to Gaza, including to Hamas operatives, had failed due to the PA backing out of an agreement to convey the payments.

Qatar has pledged $500 million to help with the rebuilding effort, but Qatar’s envoy to Gaza Mohammed al-Emadi announced that an agreement with banks in the PA administered territories had failed due to concerns by the banks that they may face prosecution for administering payments to terrorists.

Murphy was accompanied on his trip by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). The delegation visited Lebanon, Israel, and the West Bank to discuss regional security and democracy in the region. Murphy and Ossoff continued to Tunisia and Greece.

On their meeting with members of the Bennett government, Blumenthal said that the Democrat quartet had been heartened by a lack of partisanship in the US-Israel alliance under new administrations in both countries.

“I was very excited and inspired by the commitments made by the Prime Minister [Naftali Bennett] and the foreign minister [Yair Lapid] to a different approach to the U.S., a genuinely bipartisan approach,” said Blumenthal.

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“One of the greatest threats to the bonds between our two nations has been the attempt to drive a partisan wedge in this country between Israel and the US. The previous Israeli administration and the [previous] US administration in effect promoted that wedge and the prime minister made very clear that he wants the US-Israeli relationship to be completely bipartisan,” he added.

However, the senators reaffirmed President Biden’s intention to open a US Consulate for the Palestinians in Jerusalem, despite the plan needing the express permission of the Bennett government – permission that Israeli leaders have so far indicated is unlikely to be granted.

A de facto mission to the Palestinians was closed by Trump in 2018 after it failed to foster coexistence, with a Palestinian service being rolled into the U.S. Embassy to Israel when it was moved to Jerusalem.

Lapid warned earlier this month that the plan was “a bad idea” which “will send the wrong message, not only to the region, not only to the Palestinians, but also to other countries, and we don’t want this to happen.

“We have an interesting yet delicate structure of our government and we think this might destabilize this government and I don’t think the American administration wants this to happen,” he added.

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Bennett has previously said that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital only and is not to be shared with other nations.

Nonetheless, Blumenthal opined that the problem was one of “timing more than anything else” and that he believed “it will be worked out,” and “going forward that it is resolvable.”

“It’s helpful to look at the overall goals that we share. One is to make sure that this current government is sustained and succeeds. So not only do we tolerate disagreements, but we listen [to one another] as friends,” he argued.