The Palestinian Authority must control the Gaza Strip and the area must be part of a future Palestinian state, the European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Tuesday.
“We see it very clearly: The West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza belong together. There is no state of Palestine without Gaza, nor with Gaza alone,” Mogherini said in advance of a Brussels meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee that handles donor funds to the Palestinians.
“This is why we expect all Palestinian factions to defy the spoilers and continue on the path of reconciliation, with courage and determination,” she said.
Mogherini noted the particularly tense and fragile state of relations between Fatah and Hamas.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in a televised address from Ramallah on Monday, charged that Hamas tried to assassinate PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah by blowing up a vehicle in his convoy during a Gaza visit last week.
Abbas in turn has increasingly reduced funding to Gaza, in an attempt to force Hamas to end its decade-long control there.
In Brussels, Mogherini told reporters, “The speech in Ramallah yesterday shows how fragile it is. I would hope that this will not halt the process further, when we should be looking all together for ways to take it forward.”
Gaza’s “economic outlook will most likely remain bleak without a clear progress toward reunification of the West Bank and Gaza,” she said.
Palestinian unity is also “an important element for reaching the two-state solution,” Mogherini said.
“There is – again, I would like to state it – no realistic alternative to the two-state solution and there is no alternative to the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza,” she said.
Joan Polaschik, the acting US principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, told the Ad Hoc Liaison meeting that the return of the PA to Gaza would allow for economic rehabilitation and improve security for the Strip’s two border countries, Israel and Egypt.
“We view the Palestinian Authority as the legitimate governing body in Gaza,” she said.
“Hamas’s continued control of Gaza remains our biggest challenge,” Polaschik said as he accused the group of diverting development and assistance aid to perpetuate violence against Israel.
In addition, “Hamas continues to hold the missing Israeli soldiers and civilians, who must be returned,” she said.
“So let’s be clear: Hamas and its commitment to violence is the primary obstacle to rapidly improving the lives of the people of Gaza,” Polaschik said.
“We must be careful that our efforts do not do anything to empower Hamas,” said Polaschik. She added, “The goal here is to not let Hamas off the hook and create a situation similar to what exists in Lebanon today.
“Despite the efforts of the international community, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip has worsened over the past year,” Polaschik said. “Nearly every indicator is on the decline. Electricity remains scarce. Hospitals cannot meet demand. Poverty and food insecurity are growing.
“This situation must be addressed from a humanitarian perspective. It also poses a significant threat to Israel and Egypt, and potentially to regional security,” she added.
THE AD HOC Liaison Committee, which met in Brussels on Tuesday, holds such donor gathering twice a year, in the spring and the fall.
But on January 31, the group also held a special meeting on the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation in Gaza that brought together high-level representatives such as Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi.
All three countries sent a stepped-down representation to Tuesday’s gathering.
The meeting was chaired by Norway and hosted by the EU. The 15-member committee also includes: Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the United States, Canada, Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
The Ad Hoc Liaison Committee summary of the meeting also called on Israel to help boost Palestinian trade by easing restrictions on movement and access at Gaza’s two active crossings with Israel and in the West Bank.
To increase the electricity supply in Gaza, there are preparations under way to install “a new electrical feeder lines from Egypt and from Israel, and for the internal electricity grid,” the summary said.
“The Gaza power plant will be upgraded to significantly increase its production,” the summary stated. There are also plans to increase solar panel production, it said.
Building will begin on a North-South Water Carrier, to increase the quantity of water delivered to Gaza, the summary said.
Donor countries have “made clear that agreements on both power purchase (PPA) and Red-Dead water have to be concluded without further,” and Israel recommitted to help material arrive at the building sites for the projects, the summary said.