The Arab League on Tuesday approved a Qatari proposal to set up a $1 billion fund for Arab East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of an independent state under any peace deal with Israel.
Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, said his country will contribute $250 million to the fund, which he called for in an opening speech to an Arab summit in Doha that focused on the crisis in Syria and stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.
“The summit… calls for setting up a fund to support Jerusalem to the value of $1 billion to finance projects and programmes that would maintain the Arab and Islamic character of the city and reinforce the steadfastness of its people,” the draft resolution said.
The Islamic Development Bank, based in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah, will manage the fund, it said.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the fund to help protect the Arab character of the city and urged Arab states to contribute to it.
The Palestinian Authority (PA), which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is in deep financial crisis.
On Friday the United States promised $500 million in aid to the PA, and Israel pledged to resume transferring $100 million in monthly tax revenue it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf.
Qatar’s emir did not say if the proposed Arab fund would be channelled to the PA, whose writ does not run in East Jerusalem.
Palestinian officials are sceptical of Arab aid pledges, as few Arab countries carried through on promises last year to cover a Palestinian funding gap aggravated by Israeli sanctions.
Last year Arab donations, including $200 million from Saudi Arabia, constituted almost half the PA’s foreign aid, with the United States and European Union providing around $330 million.
“As we’ve have seen many times before, unfortunately decisions in Arab summits often do not materialise on the ground,” said Ghassan Shaka, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
“Financing is just a means, political help is the important thing,” he said. “The Arab world must convince and apply pressure so the world knows what’s required for peace.”