On 1 March I visited Gaza to see first hand the effect that the recent conflict has had on ordinary people. During my visit I pledged £30 million for the first phase of reconstruction in Gaza, known as “early recovery”. This will help restore basic services, and rebuild damaged and destroyed homes, schools and hospitals. The pledge includes a new £20 million provision and £10 million from the support announced in January, bringing the UK response to the recent conflict in Gaza to nearly £50 million.
The Foreign Secretary reiterated this pledge on 2 March at the Sharm el-Sheikh conference on Gazan reconstruction, and spoke of the need for a comprehensive peace between Israel and her neighbours. He made it clear that the Palestinian people need a single Government across the occupied Palestinian territories. Participants at the conference welcomed the Palestinian national early recovery and reconstruction plan presented at the conference, and confirmed it would form the basis for their support to Gaza. They said they would channel their assistance through existing international and regional mechanisms.
Access for much-needed materials will be critical for early recovery and reconstruction to take place. Following my visit to Gaza, I met with Isaac Herzog, the Israeli Minister responsible for co-ordinating aid to Gaza, and pressed for improved access and for a relaxation of restrictions on the type of goods that are allowed across the border. At the Sharm conference the following day, there was broad support for full opening of the crossings to Gaza to allow reconstruction to take place. In his speech, the Foreign Secretary endorsed principles for humanitarian access drawn up by the UN and other humanitarian agencies.
The current focus on humanitarian aid and early recovery does not diminish the need for full reconstruction. The World Bank, EC and UN will take the lead on a full needs assessment, working closely with the Palestinian Authority. Reviving the Gaza economy is also critical to the long-term recovery of Gaza. Jobs need to be created, large-scale public infrastructure needs to be repaired, and civil administration rebuilt.