Qatar Proposes $1 Billion Jerusalem Heritage Fund

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Qatar's emir proposed on Tuesday that the Arab League create a $1 billion fund to protect the Arabic and Islamic heritage of Jerusalem, the disputed holy city that remains one of the most intractable issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, said he would contribute $250 million to the fund.

He also proposed a special meeting "at the nearest time possible" to promote Palestinian reconciliation between the Fatah and Hamas political factions and the formation of a new Palestinian transitional government.

His proposals, made at a two-day Arab League summit meeting in Doha, Qatar, primarily devoted to the Syria conflict, reflected the emir's increased political influence in Middle East politics and the vast sums of oil-wealth he has used to exert it. Qatar, an important United States ally, played a decisive role in the revolution in Libya and in financing the insurgency in Syria.

In an opening speech at the summit meeting, the emir said the Islamic and Arab heritage of Jerusalem, which the Arabs call Al-Quds, is under threat because of Israel's claims on the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians have asserted that Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

"There will be no peace before we find a just, permanent and comprehensive solution that meets all the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, primarily through the establishment of an independent state, with Al-Quds being its capital," the emir said.

Exhorting fellow Arab League members to back their verbal pledges of support for the Palestinians with money, the emir said "I hereby ask you to approve the formation of a fund that supports Al Quds with a capital of one billion dollars. This should be implemented as soon as this summit ends." He did not explain precisely how the money should be used.

A spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry criticized the emir's proposal, accusing him of seeking to negate the Jewish heritage of Jerusalem and promoting it as a city with an exclusively Islamic past.

"There is no history of Jerusalem without Jewish history," said the spokesman, Yigal Palmor. "To deprive Jerusalem of its Jewish foundations would be like depriving Mecca of its Islamic foundations, which would be absurd."

The emir has inserted himself vigorously into the Palestinian issue before, particularly in efforts to achieve reconciliation between the Palestinian Authority, the government in the Israeli-occupied West Bank run by the Fatah faction, and Hamas, the Islamist militant group that governs Gaza. Israel, the United States and European Union consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Last October the emir became the first head of state to visit Gaza since Hamas took control there in 2007, and he pledged $400 million to help finance Gaza projects at a time when aid from elsewhere was in steep decline.

Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem.

world

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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