Israeli PM wants Gaza foreign aid run through vouchers: Minister

Humanitarian agencies put the latest reconstruction costs for the impoverished Gaza Strip at $500m following 11 days of cross-border fighting in May.

Israeli Internal Security Minister Omer Bar Lev told the country's Army Radio that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (pictured) envisions a mechanism where foreign aid that 'will go in, in essence, would be food vouchers, or vouchers for humanitarian aid' [File: Ronen Zvulun/Pool via AP]
Israeli Internal Security Minister Omer Bar Lev told the country's Army Radio that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (pictured) envisions a mechanism where foreign aid that 'will go in, in essence, would be food vouchers, or vouchers for humanitarian aid' [File: Ronen Zvulun/Pool via AP]

Israel wants foreign aid to Gaza disbursed through a voucher system as a safeguard against donations being diverted to bolster the Palestinian enclave’s Hamas rulers and their arsenal, a government minister said on Tuesday.

Humanitarian agencies put the latest reconstruction costs for the impoverished Gaza Strip at $500m following 11 days of cross-border fighting in May.

Qatar bankrolled more than $1bn worth of construction and other projects in Gaza, some of it in cash, after a war in 2014. The payments were monitored and approved by Israel, and Doha pledged another $500m in late May.

New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett wants a shift in policy, Internal Security Minister Omer Bar Lev said.

“The Qatari money for Gaza will not go in as suitcases full of dollars which end up with Hamas, where Hamas, in essence, takes for itself and its officials a significant part of it,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

He said Bennett envisaged “a mechanism where what will go in, in essence, would be food vouchers, or vouchers for humanitarian aid, and not cash that can be taken and used for developing weaponry to be wielded against the State of Israel”.

Hamas, which has previously denied using Gaza aid for its military, did not immediately comment.

Mohammed al-Emadi, the Qatari aid envoy to Gaza, could not immediately be reached for comment.

A Palestinian official told Reuters news agency: “Nothing is final yet.”

Bar Lev said the proposed aid mechanism should run mainly through the United Nations. He did not rule out continued donations from Qatar and raised the possibility of European Union assistance.

“Should the mechanism be like this, I have no doubt that Israel would help in the improvement of the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip,” he said.

The EU, United States and some other countries have designated Hamas as a “terrorist” organisation.

Source: Reuters

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