Qatar should use its “gazillions of petrodollars” to finance peacemaking, not confrontation, an Israeli official said today, responding to a planned $1 billion fund to protect “the Arab character” of Jerusalem.
The establishment of a Palestinian state, with east Jerusalem as its capital, is one of the “foremost” rights of the Palestinian people, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani said, in proposing the fund at the Arab Summit in Doha yesterday. Qatar will contribute $250 million to its coffers, he said, without specifying how the money would be spent.
“This proposal is yet another Qatari attempt to spread ignorance and hatred, fueled by gazillions of petrodollars,” Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said in response to the proposal. “They should try spending their money on peacemaking for a change.”
The fate of east Jerusalem, home to Jewish, Muslim and Christian shrines, is one of the most divisive issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel captured the eastern sector of the holy city from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move that is not internationally recognized. Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the future capital of a state based on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while the current Israeli government says its capital city must remain undivided.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he welcomed the establishment of the fund and the Qatari pledge.
“The Israeli occupation is working in a systematic and hurried way to Judaize east Jerusalem, change its features and uproot its Palestinian residents, attacking the al-Aqsa Mosque and its Islamic and Christian holy sites,” Abbas said in a speech at the summit. The mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City is Islam’s third-holiest shrine.
Wassel Abu Yousef, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee, said that he hopes that the Arabs will be able to deliver on this pledge. No money was contributed to a similar fund for Jerusalem established at a previous summit, he said.
“The money can help in all aspects, including education, such as renovating schools,” Abu Yousef said. “In the health sector, we have a hospital in Jerusalem that’s about to close due to the lack of funding. And homes in east Jerusalem can be renovated.”
In October, Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad became the first head of state to visit Gaza since Hamas overran it in 2007. During that visit, he pledged nearly $500 million in aid to the impoverished Palestinian territory.
To contact the reporters on this story: Alisa Odenheimer in Jerusalem at firstname.lastname@example.org; Fadwa Hodali in Jerusalem at email@example.com
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