Chris Murphy says he raised US objection to terror stipends with PA premier, discussed possible path forward on issue; Democratic lawmakers express optimism after Bennett meeting
The Palestinian Authority is not strong enough to play a major role in the ongoing Gaza reconstruction efforts, a senior Democratic senator said during a Friday briefing on the recent Congressional delegation trip he led in the region.
“My sense is that the PA is not in a strong enough of a position in Gaza right now to be able to administer the reconstruction in the way they had been in the past, so we’re gonna have to put together some international consortium,” said Chris Murphy, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia and Counterterrorism.
The PA has had almost no influence in Gaza since the Hamas terror group violently seized the territory in 2007 from PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah, leading Israel and Egypt to institute a stifling blockade which they say is to prevent the smuggling of weapons, but has also decimated the economy.
Murphy noted that Egypt — which is brokering ongoing indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas in Cairo to solidify a long-term ceasefire following the last major conflict in May — has also been involved in reconstruction efforts, but lamented that this has largely been limited to “clearance of debris and rubble” from the Strip.
“It’s taken too long for the international community to come to the table with a workable plan on Gaza reconstruction,” Murphy said.
He added that part of what he and the three other Democratic senators with him did during their meetings in Israel last week pushed Jerusalem to “get creative” about how the effort can be advanced and how more humanitarian aid can be allowed into the enclave without strengthening its Hamas rulers.
Murphy also noted the “donor fatigue” in the international community where countries are wary of coughing up billions of dollars to reconstruct, only to see buildings in the enclave leveled by Israeli strikes in subsequent rounds of fighting.
Hours earlier on Friday, Qatar’s envoy to Gaza Mohammed al-Emadi announced that efforts to send aid from his country to the Strip, including to employees of the Hamas government, had failed after the PA backed out of an arrangement that would see them play a role in the transfer of the money.
Qatar pledged $500 million for Gaza following the May 10-21 conflict that began with intense rocket fire into Israel and prompted heavy Israeli retaliatory raids.
Al-Emadi said that a mechanism agreed earlier in the week where PA banks would transfer the money to Hamas employees was no longer an option. He said the banks had refused to take part, fearing they could be targeted by sanctions for transferring money to a terror group.
The collapse of the deal was likely to further inflame tensions between Israel and Hamas, which has frequently stepped up provocations in a bid to pressure Israel to allow in money.