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Netanyahu’s vision for Gaza: Internationally supervised demilitarization

The prime minister is in talks with world leaders over a mechanism that would ensure that funds and materials allocated toward rebuilding Gaza don’t sponsor terrorism, Israeli official says.

By  | Jul. 29, 2014 | 10:20 AM |  5
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, July 24, 2014.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, July 24, 2014. Photo by AP
A rocket fired by militants in the Gaza Strip makes its way towards central Israel, July 16, 2014.Photo by AP
 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to establish an international framework for demilitarizing the Gaza Strip, supervising entry of people and goods into the enclave and preventing smuggling, a senior Israeli official said Monday. This mechanism will oversee the use of funds, building materials and arms in Gaza, in order to ensure that they are not used for terror.

According to the official, Netanyahu asked several foreign leaders for ideas on how the international community could assist in implementing these goals.

“Dismantling the tunnels is a first and necessary step toward demilitarizing the Strip,” Netanyahu said in a statement to the media on Monday. “A mechanism for preventing the rearmament of terror organizations and a demilitarization of Gaza has to be part of any solution. The international community should forcefully insist on this.”

Netanyahu delineated three areas in which international supervision can be involved. The first addresses Israel’s concerns that when hostilities cease, an international fund will be established, through which billions of dollars will be channeled from Arab states and Western countries toward rebuilding Gaza.

Netanyahu supports international efforts to rebuild Gaza, with investments in its economy and infrastructure, but demands strict supervision of the money transferred, to ensure that it does not fall into the hands of Hamas or other terror organizations.

The second area addresses construction. Netanyahu wants tight supervision over materials that enter Gaza for the purpose of rebuilding after the battles end.

Netanyahu believes that international supervision is required for shipments of concrete, cement, iron and other materials, so they do not serve for construction of more tunnels from Gaza into Israel to replace those destroyed by the IDF during the present operation.

In recent years, intense international pressure led Israel to renew shipments of building materials into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing. Israel did so despite concerns that these would be diverted to Hamas for building bunkers for its military wing operatives. The discovery of numerous tunnels over the last two weeks, in which hundreds of tons of concrete were used, affirmed Israel’s concerns.

The third and final area touches on Hamas’ weapons. Netanyahu doesn’t believe that the group will agree to disarm and hand over the thousands of rockets, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles it holds.

Nevertheless, he wants augmented supervision over Gaza’s borders, particularly with Egypt, in order to ensure that Hamas does not rearm or upgrade its capabilities.

Netanyahu also wants to see international supervision over dual-purpose materials entering Gaza, which could be used by Hamas to produce its own rockets.

The prime minister also wants to place the issue of Hamas rockets on the international agenda, in order to increase diplomatic pressure on the organization.

The declaration by European Union foreign ministers last week, calling for the disarmament of Hamas and other terror organizations in the Strip, is a first step in this direction.

A senior official said that Netanyahu has raised these issues in talks with several foreign leaders since the campaign began. These include U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and others. This official said that Netanyahu does not yet have a clear idea of what this supervisory mechanism might look like or what it might include, but he is asking foreign leaders for ideas.

Kerry clarified on Monday that any cease-fire agreement must address the demilitarization issue. “We also believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must lead to the disarmament of Hamas and all terrorist groups. And we will work closely with Israel and regional partners and the international community in support of this goal,” he said.