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Qatar threatens to stop Gaza aid

What happened: According to Israeli media Qatar has threatened to stop the financial aid it sends to the Gaza Strip if Israel were to apply sovereignty to parts of the West Bank.

  • Qatar’s funds have been a key component of an informal ceasefire arrangement between Israel and Hamas. Last week, Israel allowed the latest instalment of $50 million of Qatari funds into the Gaza Strip.
  • According to Ynet, “The transfer reportedly came as part of an apparent de-escalation agreement with the Gaza factions, with the al-Akhbar newspaper reporting that the Hamas incendiary balloon unit agreed to stop their attacks in response.”
  • Yesterday IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi warned Israel could soon face renewed violence in the West Bank, which could easily spread to Gaza. During a training exercise he told soldiers that in a few weeks they were liable to find themselves in the West Bank, “because of disturbances and terrorism. You need to be flexible, the upcoming incidents can evolve into warfare in Gaza”.
  • Alternate Prime Minister (APM) and Defence Minister Gantz gave a briefing to security correspondents yesterday. He said, “We’ll adopt the most responsible formula in the spirit of the plan that Trump proposed. What’s good about it, in my view, is that for the first time it takes a realistic look at the reality on the ground. We need to not only manage the conflict, but to shape the directions for the future border arrangements, and above all, to minimise as much as possible the chances of Israel turning into a bi-national state. Whatever we do will have a price. Even if we do nothing, there will be a price.” Adding, “I am willing to establish a dialogue directly and immediately with Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], understanding that in the future two state entities will exist side by side.”
  • On Monday, thousands of Palestinians attended an anti-annexation protest rally in Jericho. The rally was also attended by the UN’s peace envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, the EU’s representative and dozens of diplomats from around the world, including from the UK.

Context: According to a new poll among Palestinians by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PCPSR), 88 per cent of Palestinians reject US President Donald Trump’s peace plan.

  • Asked to choose a single strategy in response to the proposed annexation, 31 per cent of Palestinians say that they prefer a return to armed struggle, 23 per cent prefer resumption of negotiations based on a detailed Palestinian counter-proposal, 18 per cent prefer non-violent resistance, 15 per cent prefer abandoning the Oslo agreement and the severing of relations with Israel, and 6 per cent prefer to abandon the two-state solution in favour of a one-state solution.
  • The poll also found support for the two-state solution rose to 45 per cent, while half of Palestinians opposed the plan. Four months ago, support for a two-state solution stood at 39 per cent, according to a similar poll conducted by PCPSR. Only 37 per cent of those surveyed said they believed that the Palestinian Authority should abandon the push for a two-state solution in response to Israeli annexation of the West Bank.
  • When asked if they supported a return to armed struggle in response to the planned annexation, a slight majority of Palestinians (52 per cent) said they supported it, with 42 per cent in opposition.
  • According to Israel Hayom, “Netanyahu and senior officials in the diplomatic-security establishment believe that annexation will trigger serious reactions at the first stage, but that Israel’s rapprochement with Arab states will not sustain long-term damage.”
  • The past few months have been the quietest period in Gaza in recent years. The assessment within the security establishment is that Hamas has chosen to prioritise improving the economy, dealing with coronavirus and at the same time continue to build up its military capabilities. Renewed violence with Israel would not be conducive to achieving these objectives.

Looking ahead: Israel’s new security cabinet will meet today for the first time since the government was formed over a month ago.

  • Later today in the White House, the President’s son-in-law, senior adviser Jared Kushner, his adviser Avi Berkowitz, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and possibly even President Trump himself are scheduled to meet. They will discuss whether to support Israel if it were to expand its sovereignty to areas in the West Bank. Ambassador Friedman is expected to report that Prime Minister Netanyahu and APM Gantz have failed to agreed on a plan. The meeting will also deal with sovereignty’s impact on the US’s global status and its upcoming election.
  • Also later today, the UN Security Council will hold a Zoom meeting to discuss the issue. Ahead of the meeting, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said: “History has proven that Palestinian intransigence has not stopped the development of the Zionist enterprise. We have an ongoing dialogue with the international community, but any decision about sovereignty will be made by the government of Israel.” The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said that he hoped Israel would listen to the international community and would back down from making a decision.