Gaza takes re­ceipt of ¤13m in suit­cases

Is­rael backs Qatar’s ini­tial pay­ment as part of plan to end bor­der vi­o­lence

The Irish Times - - World News - MARK WEISS in Jerusalem

More than ¤13 mil­lion, pro­vided by Qatar, was paid to Gaza civil ser­vants yes­ter­day af­ter be­ing trans­ferred via the Is­raeli bor­der cross­ing in three suit­cases stuffed with notes.

The money from Qatar, trans­ferred with Is­rael’s bless­ing, was the first in­stal­ment of a to­tal of al­most ¤80 mil­lion that will be trans­ferred over the next six months. The trans­fer marks a key piece in a com­pli­cated jig­saw de­signed to en­sure an end to the bor­der vi­o­lence that has threat­ened on more than one oc­ca­sion in re­cent months to plunge Is­rael and Ha­mas into an­other war.

Af­ter months of shut­tle diplo­macy, led by Egyp­tian in­tel­li­gence and the United Na­tions spe­cial Mid­dle East en­voy, Nick­o­lay Mlade­nov, the sides now ap­pear close to agree­ing to Egypt’s three­stage truce deal.

The first stage con­sists of a sta­ble cease­fire and Ha­mas has al­ready taken steps to re­duce the weekly protests along the bor­der fence.

Donor money

In the sec­ond phase, large sums of in­ter­na­tional donor money and funds from Qatar will be trans­ferred to Gaza to re­ha­bil­i­tate the im­pov­er­ished coastal en­clave and re­lieve the dire hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis.

In the third stage, Ra­mal­lah’s Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity (PA), headed by Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas, will grad­u­ally re­assert its con­trol over Gaza.

How­ever, the sit­u­a­tion re­mains tense and Is­raeli se­cu­rity of­fi­cials have warned that any se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tion re­sult­ing in the re­sump­tion of mil­i­tant rocket fire from Gaza will be met with a firm Is­raeli re­sponse.

Sol­diers’ re­mains

One ma­jor hur­dle to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a last­ing truce is Is­rael’s in­sis­tence that be­tween the first and sec­ond stage, Ha­mas must re­turn the re­mains of two sol­diers killed dur­ing the 2016 Gaza war along with two men­tally chal­lenged Is­raeli civil­ians who crossed into Gaza and are be­lieved to be in Ha­mas cap­tiv­ity. With­out this, Is­rael warns, the next two stages will not hap­pen.

De­spite grow­ing op­ti­mism that a deal is close, sig­nif­i­cant op­po­si­tion to the emerg­ing ar­range­ment re­mains within Is­rael, Gaza and the West Bank.

Is­rael’s hard­line de­fence min­is­ter, Avig­dor Lieber­man, has made clear his adamant op­po­si­tion to any kind of truce ar­range­ment with Ha­mas.

“This is a ca­pit­u­la­tion to ter­ror­ism, and in ef­fect Is­rael is buy­ing short-term calm with money, while severely un­der­min­ing long-term se­cu­rity,” he said.

Ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Naf­tali Ben­nett, head of the far-right Jewish Home, de­scribed the cash trans­ferred to Gaza as “pro­tec­tion money”.

Op­po­si­tion leader Tzipi Livni from the Zion­ist Union crit­i­cised prime min­is­ter Binyamin Ne­tanyahu for al­low­ing suit­cases of cash to be trans­ferred to a ter­ror group which has sworn to de­stroy Is­rael.

De­spite re­port­edly agree­ing to the Egyp­tian frame­work, Mr Ab­bas warned that a truce be­tween Ha­mas and Is­rael would con­sol­i­date the split be­tween the West Bank and Gaza, and might pave the way for the estab­lish­ment of a sep­a­rate Pales­tinian state.

Pales­tinian protesters pelted the con­voy of Qatar’s am­bas­sador to the Pales­tini­ans, Mo­hammed al-Emadi, with stones yes­ter­day as he came to ob­serve the bor­der protests and some ac­tivists have even ac­cused Gaza’s Ha­mas leader Yahya Sin­war of trea­son.

The money from Qatar, trans­ferred with Is­rael’s bless­ing, was the first in­stal­ment of al­most ¤80 mil­lion to be trans­ferred over the next six months

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