Norway’s FM first foreign leader to visit Gaza since war’s end

Israel turned down request from left wing European delegation to go to Gaza.

IDF vehicle drives along Gaza border fence [file] (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF vehicle drives along Gaza border fence [file]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende visited Gaza’s Shejaiya neighborhood on Monday, the first foreign leader to travel to the region since Operation Protective Edge ended with an Egyptian- brokered cease-fire some two weeks ago.
Brende, who met with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in the morning before traveling to Gaza, is scheduled to travel to Cairo on Tuesday for discussions on a planned donor’s conference for Gaza expected sometime next month.
Discussions are underway in various capitals in search of mechanisms that will ensure supervision of the funds going into Gaza, to safeguard that the money does not find its way into Hamas’s coffers.
Diplomatic officials said that Brende’s Gaza visit was coordinated with Israel, and that Jerusalem had no problem with the trip since it was designed to prepare for the donor’s conference. By contrast, last week Israel denied a request by a Spanish-based left wing European delegation that would have included a few European Parliament members, because of a concern this would have been used for Hamas’s propaganda purposes.
Israel told the delegation to try entering Gaza through Egypt, one official said.
Turkey’s Anadolu Agency quoted a source close to the Palestinian government as saying that a preparatory conference to discuss the reconstruction of Gaza will be held on Wednesday in Zurich.
According to the report, both the Palestinian unity government and potential donors – including Arab and foreign businessmen and possible investors – will present proposed plans for Gaza’s reconstruction.
The report said the meeting will also “shed light on restrictions that will be removed by Israel if the Palestinian unity government assumes control of the strip before the [October] donor conference is held.”
Before going to Gaza, Brende – in a photo opportunity with Netanyahu prior to their meeting – said he wanted to “send condolences from Norway on what has taken place in difficult times for Israel this summer.”
Netanyahu, meanwhile, told Norway’s top diplomat that he had come to the region during “tumultuous times.”
The prime minister said there was a “growing awareness in the international community of the threat posed by Islamist terrorism and radicalism.” He added that there was a need to “nip it in the bud, and those who don’t do so will find Islamic terrorism that is here today, tomorrow at their doorstep.”