by Khaled Abu Toameh, Tovah Lazaroff
The Palestinians are threatening to boycott the United Nations Children’s Fund after the agency decided to accept offers from Israeli firms to bid for construction work in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Contractors Union denounced UNICEF and warned Palestinians against cooperating with Israeli firms.
The head of the union, Osama Kahil, said he received complaints from Palestinian contractors who told him that Israeli firms had asked for their cooperation in carrying out construction work in the Gaza Strip, offering them half of the revenues.
“We contacted the head of UNICEF and held a meeting with her after which we decided to boycott the agency until it backtracks on its decision,” Kahil said. He added that Palestinians were outraged that Israelis, who were “responsible for destroying the Gaza Strip,” were being offered the opportunity to help carry out important projects.
The Contractors Union appealed to the Palestinian Authority to intervene with UNICEF to stop it from “tampering with the blood and rights of our people and their national sentiments.”
Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip threatened to hold protests against UNICEF and to close its offices because of its readiness to permit Israeli companies to take part in its projects. Hamas said it would not allow Israel to carry out any work in the Gaza Strip.
UNICEF spokeswoman Catherine Weibel said that no contracts had been awarded to any firms. She explained that UNICEF Special Representative in the Occupied Palestinian territory Jean Gough had met with the Palestinian Contractors Union on Tuesday.
“The priority and policy of the UNICEF office in the Occupied Palestinian territory is to purchase goods and services from qualified Palestinian manufacturers, authorized dealers and companies. We only buy from other providers when goods are not available,” Gough said.
Weibel explained that the project in question was a desalination plant.
UNICEF’s preference, she said, was to use local suppliers. But if Palestinian supplier could not provide the necessary parts then Israel was the next option.
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