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UN Envoy to Peres: No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza

UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry, in a meeting with President Peres in Jerusalem, drops a bombshell: “There is no humanitarian problem in Gaza.”
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 2/24/2010, 3:47 PM / Last Update: 2/24/2010, 3:52 PM

United Nations Middle East envoy Robert Serry, who met with President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem on Wednesday, said, “There is no humanitarian problem in Gaza.”

Serry acknowledged, however, that there is a need for certain goods in Gaza, such as materials for the rehabilitation of several buildings. This puts the lie to claims by international groups of a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza caused by Israel’s partial blockade. In fact, Israel has allowed tens of thousands of tons of humanitarian and basic goods to be brought into Gaza via its crossings.

Peres, in his remarks, dismissed the violent and vocal Arab opposition to Israel’s new list of National Heritage Sites. Following two days of Arab rioting in Hevron and threatening statements by Palestinian Authority leaders, Peres told Serry that there is no need “to produce artificial conflicts. Israel will continue to grant freedom of worship to every religion in every holy place.”

Serry informed the President that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon plans to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority soon to discuss several issues, including how Israel can facilitate the movement of goods into Gaza. In this context he said that there is no humanitarian problem in Gaza, although building materials are in short supply.

The President explained why Israel restricts such materials: “Hamas is a murderous body, a terrorist organization, and an Iranian agent that spends all its efforts in expanding its weapons arsenal through tunnel smuggling. Hamas uses building materials to construct these tunnels and strengthen its terrorist network. Israel will not compromise the security of its citizens by allowing such tunnels. The minute Hamas abandons the use of terror, the entire situation in Gaza will immediately change for the better.”

President Peres asked that the UN Special Coordinator deliver a message to the U.N. Secretary-General regarding the dangers of Hamas incitement: “Israel plans to invest significant amounts in infrastructure that will increase the accessibility of holy sites to all worshipers. By doing so, it aims to honor and allow freedom of worship to all, irrespective of their faith, and protect the holy sites. There is no violation of Muslim or Christian religious rights in any holy place.”

PA Refuses to Talk
Serry thanked the President for clarifying the issue, and added that the most serious obstacle to peace remains the lack of trust between both sides. With the proper steps, he said, “there exists an opportunity to resume [direct] talks.” Peres agreed that this is the only alternative, and that “every delay by the Palestinian leadership” will only weaken the chances for peace.

Peres then went out on a limb by saying, “There exists a consensus in Israel in favor of two states for two people… You cannot decide final positions at the start of negotiations. You cannot start a movie with a happy ending. Therefore, the sooner we sit down and talk the better.”

In conclusion, Serry thanked Israel for its enormous contribution to the rescue efforts in Haiti: “Israel’s actions in Haiti have strengthened the positive relationship between the United Nations and Israel. We thank you for your efforts.”