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EU gives $571 million to Gaza, but real goal some way off

'Efforts for Gaza will be successful only if placed in larger framework of support to Palestine and commitment to peace process,' says policy chief

EU gives $571 million to Gaza, but real goal some way off


 The European Union has promised $571 million for Gaza following Israel's 50-day offensive, but even though reconstruction targets have been reached its foreign policy chief says the real goal is still some way off.

"The only durable solution to the situation in Gaza, which is in everyone's interest, is a political one," Catherine Ashton said at Sunday’s reconstruction conference in Cairo, hosted by Egypt and Norway, while announcing the donation.

"Our efforts for Gaza will be successful only if placed in the larger framework of our support to Palestine and our commitment to the peace process."

Norway's Foreign Minister Borge Brende said that countries participating in the conference – including Turkey, the United States and Qatar – had pledged approximately $5.4 billion - $1.4 billion more than Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said is necessary to reconstruct Gaza. 

Abbas, however, is the head of the West Bank, not Gaza. Until recently, Gaza was controlled by Hamas, following the fallout that followed its 2006 Palestinian legislative election victory.

Despite handing power to a unity government in June 2014, Hamas was not invited to Sunday's conference. It has criticized the organizers on social media for not inviting "Palestinian parties from all sides, especially those directly involved in reconstruction."

While the international community gathered to pledge money and aid reconstruction, others have underlined that economic assistance is not enough to provide a long-term solution to Gaza's problems.

"The one thing we can be certain of is that we will need to lift the blockade if we are to rebuild Gaza," the head of the UN's Relief and Works Agency Chris Gunness told the Anadolu Agency in an email in August. "If they fail to lift the blockade, the peace that we hope to achieve may be short lived."

Hugh Lovatt, the Israel/Palestine Project Coordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told AA - also in August - that although funding Gaza's reconstruction is necessary; it is not enough.

"Funding for the reconstruction in Gaza is basically funding for Israel’s continued occupation," Lovatt said. "We rebuild Gaza and then Israel comes in and blows everything up in the next war."

He added that addressing the economic issue without addressing the deeper political problems will not lead anywhere because Israel and Egypt control crossing points through which material would be brought into Gaza.

A long-term solution would require the international community and the EU to change its policies towards Hamas, he said.

"The policy of boycotting Hamas, of not having any contact with it, is a failure and has not worked," he said.

Hamas is designated a "terrorist organization" by Australia, Canada, Egypt, Jordan, the EU, Israel, Japan, the UK and the U.S., but not by Iran, Russia, Turkey, or China and some Arab nations.

Israel has said that the "Operation Protective Edge" offensive – its deadliest on the Gaza Strip in six years – which caused mass destruction was aimed at halting rocket attacks from Gaza.

While more than 2000 people - most of them civilians - died in Gaza during Israel's bombardment, around 11,855 housing units were destroyed or severely damaged, and at least 425,000 people are now displaced in emergency shelters or with host families, according to an August report by the U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The EU said in a press release Sunday that "its objective remains with the State of Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, sovereign and viable State of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security and mutual recognition.’’

Lawmakers in Britain - an EU member - vote later Monday on whether to recognize the state of Palestine. 

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