U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry travels Saturday to Cairo for a donor conference on rebuilding parts of the Gaza Strip leveled during 50 days of fighting between Hamas and Israel.
Senior State Department officials traveling with Secretary Kerry say the priority here is to address the immediate needs of the people of Gaza, where fighting destroyed the only power plant along with more than 15,000 homes.
More broadly, U.S. officials hope to break the cycle of war and reconstruction. And that, they say, requires a return to talks on a two-state solution to create both long-term stability for Gaza and confidence among donors that they are not paying to rebuild what will soon be knocked down again.
A senior State Department official said, “There’s a lot of discouragement around the world about where we are on efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think people feel like they’ve lost some hope that that’s really going to be possible.” So he said it’s important for Secretary Kerry to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to trying to achieve that outcome.
U.S. officials say there have been some “positive steps” since the end of fighting, including agreement on the delivery of construction materials to Gaza under United Nations procedures for end-use monitoring to satisfy Israeli security concerns. There also has been progress in the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority on meeting salaries and taking more control of border crossings in Gaza.
The end of fighting, however, is not the same thing as lasting peace, said a second senior State Department official. “This conference is something that has to be done and is absolutely the right thing to do,” he said, “but it’s not a celebration or a culmination. It’s more of a necessary step that has to be followed by continued work to reach a sustainable solution.”
On the sidelines of talks in Cairo, Kerry will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Kerry also is expected to meet separately with other foreign ministers in attendance to discuss instability in Libya, nuclear talks with Iran, and the fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.