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March 14, 2018 10:39 am

White House Hosts Meeting on Gaza Humanitarian Crisis Without Palestinians Present

avatar by Reuters and Algemeiner Staff

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The White House. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The White House on Tuesday hosted 19 nations, including Israel and Arab Gulf states, to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) boycotted the meeting, angered by the Trump administration’s policies on Jerusalem.

US President Donald Trump reversed decades of American policy in December, when he decided to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there from Tel Aviv. This incensed Palestinians and other US allies.

The administration is also putting the final touches on an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, and US officials said the conference was integral to future negotiations.

“Fixing Gaza is necessary to achieve a peace agreement,” one of the senior administration officials said. The officials stressed that the multi-nation humanitarian and reconstruction effort remains in beginning stages.

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Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Trump who is overseeing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for the White House, gave a two-hour presentation to the attending countries, officials said, but the potential US peace plan was not addressed.

Attendees included representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as several European nations. The format did not allow for direct discussions between Israel and the Arab states, officials said.

Potential electricity, water, sewage, and health projects were discussed, but officials declined to outline specific proposals. A senior administration insisted that many projects could be implemented without assistance of the PA, but the goal was to have it ultimately engage in the multi-lateral process.

Gaza faces a 43.6 unemployment rate, and many in Gaza blame Israel for the hardships, accusing it of placing an economic blockade on the enclave that has drastically reduced movement of people and goods.

But Gazans also fault their own leaders, complaining of a power struggle between Hamas, the Islamist terrorist group that seized power in Gaza in 2007, and Fatah, the secular party of Western-backed PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel, which pulled its settlers and soldiers out of Gaza in 2005, says it has been forced to control access to and from the territory to prevent Hamas from sending out gunmen and bombers, and from smuggling in weapons or material to make them.

The PA’s prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, escaped an apparent assassination attempt in Gaza on Tuesday, when a bomb struck his convoy. Hamas and the PA signed an agreement in October that called for Hamas to hand administrative control of Gaza to the PA, but it remains to be fully implemented.

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