Rivlin: Israel welcomes the rehabilitation of Gaza

"We know that innocent people are being held hostage by Hamas," president tells UN projects director

Reuven Rivlin (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Reuven Rivlin
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
While Israel is willing to cooperate with the UN Office for Project Services in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Gaza, there is concern that the building materials intended for construction will be appropriated by Hamas and used to launch further assaults against Israeli towns and cities in the South, President Reuven Rivlin told UNOPS executive director Grete Faremo on Monday.
Faremo met with Rivlin at the President’s Residence after having met earlier in the day in Ramallah with the prime minister and deputy prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.
She did not elaborate on that meeting, other than to say that from her point of view it had been a good meeting and that she understood the Palestinians’ frustrations.
Faremo, a veteran politician, has been in her present role since August. She is no stranger to this part of the world, having served previously as Norway’s justice minister, defense minister, and petroleum and energy minister.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed her as UNOPS’s executive director in May, and she took up the job in August. Faremo is also a former director of Microsoft for Western Europe.
Rivlin, who seldom misses an opportunity to insert Jerusalem into the conversation, welcomed her to “Jerusalem, the capital of Israel.”
Israel cares a lot about the population of Gaza, Rivlin told his visitor and her delegation, adding that it was in the interests of Israel for Gazans to be rehabilitated.
“We know the population of Gaza suffered and we know that innocent people are being held hostage by Hamas,” he said.
While acknowledging the importance of improving the quality of life of the Gazan population, which he believes will lead to greater understanding between them and their Israeli neighbors, Rivlin made it clear that a way has to be found to distance Hamas from the rest of Gaza.
The president related some of Israel’s history with Hamas, and reiterated Israel’s fears that construction materials cannot be allowed to become instruments for attack in the hands of Hamas.
UNOPS takes great pride in implementing projects and will be happy to work with Israel, the Palestinians, the United Nations and the European Union, said Faremo.
Even though the situation is challenging, she said she can already see that some good progress has been made.
Faremo told Rivlin that she had participated in the Cairo donor states conference at which there were many people who were interested in seeing a better life for the Palestinians in the region.
“When you can effect changes on the ground there is room for hope,” she said.
Israel has no problem with the Palestinians, said Rivlin.
“The problem is Hamas.”
Whereas Israel would like to have open borders and peaceful coexistence, Hamas wants to close the border, he said.
He also reminded Faremo that during Operation Protective Edge, Hamas fired rockets at Israel from UN facilities in Gaza “to bring misery to us.”
“It is a very problematic situation,” Faremo agreed, saying that she has been following developments in the region for years and was present in Oslo when prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, foreign minister Shimon Peres and PLO chairman Yasser Arafat received the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize.
At that time, everyone present thought they were on the road to peace, she said, but later in the conversation stated that there is no easy solution.
“It’s a hard situation. We can only make our modest contribution by showing people that there is a choice and a future,” she said.