A Palestinian woman carries a water container to a refugee camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 27, 2024.

A Palestinian woman carries a water container to a refugee camp in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Feb. 27, 2024. (AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Israel will seek help from countries including the United Arab Emirates to rebuild Gaza when the conflict against Hamas ends, an effort that may face resistance from regional powers in the absence of a breakthrough in establishing a Palestinian state.

“Right now we’re focusing on winning the war,” Nir Barkat, Israel’s economy and industry minister, said in an interview with Bloomberg in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi. Once it’s over, “we’ll tap into our friends around the world.”

Asked whether Israel would reach out to the United Arab Emirates to fund any reconstruction effort in Gaza, Barkat said it would likely be on the list of regional neighbors that might be asked for assistance.

He was in the country for a World Trade Organization meeting.

Senior Gulf officials, such as Qatar’s prime minister, have previously said financial aid to rebuild Gaza is conditional on progress toward a two-state solution between the Palestinians and Israelis.

Mending ties

Israel and the UAE established diplomatic ties in 2020 under the so-called Abraham Accords. The UAE’s stance since then has revolved around maintaining dialog with the Israelis while trying to defend the rights of Palestinians.

Iran-backed Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, killed 1,200 people and abducted around 250 when its militants broke out of Gaza and rampaged through southern Israel on Oct. 7.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed nearly 30,000 people in Gaza, according to health officials in the Hamas-run territory, leading to severe international pressure on Israel to stop the fighting, or at least reduce its intensity.

The war has also caused economic devastation in Gaza, with the World Bank estimating there was a contraction in gross domestic product of more than 80% in the fourth quarter.

The next major phase of the campaign may be Israel sending ground forces into the southern Gazan city of Rafah, where more than one million civilians are seeking refuge from the conflict.

An offensive on Rafah “must be done,” said Barkat. “We have to make Hamas surrender.”

Saudi ties

The Oct. 7 attacks also put a dent in the progress made by Saudi Arabia and Israel to normalize diplomatic ties. Saudi officials paused diplomacy but have more recently restarted efforts to build ties.

Still, reports of Barkat meeting his Saudi counterpart at the WTO summit were denied by the kingdom’s government on Tuesday. Israeli media circulated a video of them sharing business cards in what appeared to be an impromptu encounter.

Neither the Israeli nor the Saudi governments said there was a meeting.

“We’re warmly welcomed by all of our neighbors here and the collaboration is healthy because we all want more security,” Barkat said. “We would like to develop a relationship with Saudis. It’s on the table.”

©2024 Bloomberg LP

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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