NEW YORK (Sep. 26)
Israel wants the United Nations to adopt the newly autonomous Palestinian region of Gaza as “a showcase” for international development efforts.
In a preview of his address to the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said in an interview here Sunday that such a move by the world body would transform itself from “a peacekeeping” force to a “peacemaking” force.
Peres praised the work of the U.N. Development Program in Gaza, but said that doubling its current $30 to $40 million budget would have a “quite large’” effect in reducing poverty in Gaza and thereby increasing the chances for peace.
Peres was scheduled to address the General Assembly on Thursday.
Earlier this month, Peres asked U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to ask Germany and Japan to commit money for such a project.
Peres, in his conversation with Boutros-Ghali, hinted that a positive response from Germany and Japan could pave the way for Israel’s support for both countries’ admission as permanent members of the Security Council. Both Germany and Japan are actively seeking admission to the Security Council.
Asked to reflect on the year since the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles in Washington, Peres said that “the Middle East will never look the same again.
‘A BASIC CHANGE’
“It is not just an added policy — it is a basic change,” the foreign minister said during the half-hour interview right after his arrival in New York Sunday night.
“In the past Israel has had to struggle heavily to defend ourselves in a region of hostility,” he said. “Now we think that a region without hostility will add greatly to the prosperity of other people and the security of Israel.”
This change, said Peres, will be in evidence next month at a regional Middle East economic conference slated to be held in Casablanca, Morocco. The conference, a brainchild of Peres, was originally proposed earlier this year for Jordan, but King Hussein backed out.
“If, until now, all the moves that were made were to produce peace among countries,” Peres said, then the conference in Morocco will be the first move “to build a Middle East of peace, which means to build regions of peace, not only relations between countries.”
Such peace, he said, means having regional enterprises in areas of water, energy, tourism, infrastructure, and industry.
Peres said he hopes that the Casablanca conference will lead to the creation of a Middle East Development Bank. The United States was reportedly cool to the idea initially, but is now apparently willing to support it.
“Every region has its own development bank,” Peres said. “The World Bank provides financing opportunities for countries, not to regions. The Middle East has to develop itself regionally, not just nationally.”
Peres said he envisions a $10 billion capitalization for such a development bank. He said that at least a quarter of the funds would be raised as equity, with 40 percent of the shares purchased locally and 60 percent by outside countries.