October 14, 2014
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon will visit the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, in order to see for himself the extent of the damage caused there during the 50-day war with Israel to receive a report on preparations being made to begin reconstruction.
Under the agreement between the parties, UN employees in Gaza will oversee the use of the construction material and heavy equipment to be brought into the Strip to assure that they are not used to rebuild Hamas’ tunnels or fortifications.
“The UN-brokered trilateral agreement on a temporary Gaza reconstruction mechanism has opened the door for much needed reconstruction, taking fully into account Israel’s legitimate security concerns,” Ban said, at the start of a two-day visit to the region. “I urge both sides to implement this mechanism in good faith.”
With that, Ban stressed that rebuilding Gaza is not enough to change the Strip’s difficult reality. He called on Israel to fundamentally change the conditions in Gaza by easing the blockade on the Strip, saying, “If conditions in Gaza simply revert to where they were before this escalation, the clock will be reset for more instability, underdevelopment and conflict.”
Ban called on Israel to allow the orderly entry and exit of people and goods to and from the Strip, to encourage economic growth that would “change the dynamics on the ground and ultimately enhance stability in Gaza, which in turn will improve Israel’s security.”
He also stressed that “the sides must quickly return to the negotiation table with the readiness to make the tough but necessary compromises.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the present of Ban in Jerusalem, condemned the United Nations on Monday for its conduct in Gaza during Operation Protective Edge. He defended the Israel Defense Forces’ attacks on UN facilities during the operation, noting that Hamas had violated the neutrality of UN installations when it used them to fire rockets at Israel.
“When they found rockets in UN schools, UN officials returned them to Hamas, the same Hamas that fired the same rockets on Israeli cities and Israeli citizens,” Netanyahu said.
A day after the international donors’ conference in Cairo raised billions to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip, Ban arrived in Israel on Monday to discuss the reconstruction with senior Israeli government officials, saying it must begin without delay.
At Sunday’s donor conference, Ban said the root causes of the summer’s hostilities were “a restrictive occupation that has lasted almost half a century, the continued denial of Palestinian rights and the lack of tangible progress in peace negotiations.”
Netanyahu, however, said Monday that the occupation was irrelevant. “The root cause of the violence that burst from Gaza is not Israel’s occupation in Gaza, for a simple reason: Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza,” he told the UN chief. “The root cause of this summer’s outburst of violence was Hamas’s rocketing of Israeli cities.”
Netanyahu did not mention the rehabilitation of Gaza in his remarks.
Before meeting with Netanyahu, Ban referred to the trilateral mechanism established by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations to carry out the rehabilitation and oversee it from a security perspective.
Ban got a more positive message in his meeting with President Reuven Rivlin than he got from Netanyahu.
“The rehabilitation of Gaza is an Israeli interest as much as a Palestinian one,” Rivlin said at the opening of their meeting. “Our Palestinian neighbors in Gaza are held captive by Hamas. They deserve safety and a better life.”
Rivlin added that Israel is not “blind to the difficulties” faced by the residents of the Gaza Strip. However, he added, “The lifting of the restrictions can only take place after the Palestinian leadership, and the international community … dismantle the terrorist capabilities of Hamas, and ensure that Israeli citizens will be able to live in safety.”