Senior EU officials warn Gaza despondency could lead to more violence

John Gatt Rutter visits Gaza, says the feeling in Gaza is that conditions have not changed since before Operation Protective Edge, and if anything, have gotten worse.

Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP) take part in a military show in Gaza City September 2, 2014.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian (PFLP) take part in a military show in Gaza City September 2, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Widespread despondency in the Gaza Strip could lead to a return to the kind of violence seen this summer, the EU’s representative to the West Bank and Gaza said on Wednesday.
John Gatt-Rutter, who visited the Gaza Strip on Monday and met with four Palestinian Authority ministers, NGO representatives, UNRWA officials, and human rights activists, said the feeling was that the conditions in Gaza have not changed since before Operation Protective Edge and, if anything, have gotten worse.
Because little has happened since the cease-fire to improve the situation, “there is a sense of desperation,” he said.
One of the major issues for the local population is the complete absence of any serious emergency response to address the Strip’s major humanitarian needs, he said.
There is also a lot of concern about the failure to pay salaries, he added.
Gatt-Rutter said the anger in Gaza is directed at “the Palestinians,” as well as the EU and Israel. Asked if he heard criticism of Hamas, he said, “We are not hearing any good words about anyone at the moment. There is a lot of anger and a lot of it is aimed at the Palestinians.”
The EU’s ambassador in Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, said the destruction in Gaza “has been devastating and we feel that if it is unaddressed there is a considerable potential for violence.”
A return to the status quo before the fighting is not an option, according to Faaborg-Andersen who said there was a need to pursue the dual goal of “lifting the siege of Gaza and allowing a return of normalcy” and safeguarding Israel’s legitimate security concerns.
These twin goals, he said, must be pursued “in parallel, not sequentially.”
Faaborg-Andersen called for “a return to Cairo as soon as possible for negotiation of a long-term, sustainable and verifiable cease-fire,” and for “a return of the Palestinian Authority to spearhead the reconstruction of Gaza.”
Egypt is likely, in the coming days, to send out invitations to the sides to return to Cairo for negotiations, he said.
A donors conference for Gaza is scheduled for October 12, however, Faaborg-Andersen said long-term investment in Gaza was unlikely unless assurances were in place that there will not be a return to the status quo. It is unclear whether Israel will be invited to attend that conference, or whether it would attend if asked.
The EU envoy said it was important not to focus on Gaza alone, but rather to see it within the larger context of reigniting discussions about the twostate solution.
Faaborg-Andersen declined to relate to reports that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was willing to give Palestinians land in Sinai adjacent to Gaza for a state, saying there had been no confirmation of this and that it was too theoretical to discuss.
Regarding whether the EU would entertain diplomatic solutions beyond a Palestinian state in the West Bank, he said, “If the parties agree on another way to solve the issue, we would not oppose.”