PA turns down invitation to White House meeting on Gaza crisis
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PA turns down invitation to White House meeting on Gaza crisis

Amid ongoing freeze in ties with Washington, senior Palestinian official accuses Trump administration of ‘liquidating’ Palestinian national project

A Palestinian man near the UNRWA relief and social program office in Gaza City on January 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
A Palestinian man near the UNRWA relief and social program office in Gaza City on January 8, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

The Palestinian Authority has turned down an invitation from the Trump administration to participate in a meeting at the White House later this week on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, a Palestinian official said Saturday.

Speaking with the Voice of Palestine radio, PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani accused the US of trying to undermine the Palestinian Authority and said there was no need for a meeting because Gaza “is a political issue and not a humanitarian one.”

“The United States knows very well that the cause of the tragedy of the Gaza Strip is the unjust Israeli siege, and what is needed is political treatment of this issue,” he claimed.

Majdalani, who also serves as an adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, told Voice of Palestine that the White House meeting on the Palestinian coastal enclave “does not come in a vacuum” and is part of Washington’s broader effort to further isolate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and “liquidate the Palestinian national project” altogether.

PLO official Ahmad Majdalani Ahmad Majdalani (Facebook page)

The rejection comes amid ongoing Palestinian anger over the US’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the promise to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in May.

The Palestinians have been refusing to meet with senior US officials since December.

Majdalani also insinuated that US President Donald Trump’s Middle East special envoy Jason Greenblatt’s “humanitarian concern” for the people of Gaza was not genuine, pointing to what he called the US “liquidation” of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

In January, UNRWA was notified that the US was withholding some $100 million in funding for the agency. Trump has said that the Palestinians must return to peace talks to receive US aid money.

Israel accuses UNRWA of helping to perpetuate the Palestinian narrative of Israel’s illegitimacy by granting refugee status to the descendants of refugees, even when they are born in other countries and have citizenship there. The population of Palestinian refugees thus grows each year, even as other refugee populations in the world shrink with each passing generation.

In the wake of the announced budget cuts, UNRWA officials have warned the agency was facing an “existential financial crisis,” and has stepped up fundraising efforts elsewhere to make up the shortfall.

In a Thursday op-ed in the Washington Post, Greenblatt revealed that the White House would be convening a Tuesday meeting of “stakeholders,” with the goal of improving life in the Gaza Strip.

US President Donald Trump's peace envoy Jason Greenblatt (L) tours a Hamas terror tunnel near the Gaza Strip with Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories Yoav 'Poly' Mordechai on August 30, 2017. (COGAT Spokesperson's Office)
US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy Jason Greenblatt (L) tours a Hamas terror tunnel near the Gaza Strip with Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories Yoav Mordechai, on August 30, 2017. (COGAT Spokesperson’s Office)

“In response to the burgeoning humanitarian situation in Gaza, key countries and stakeholders are preparing to act: There was a meeting in Cairo on Thursday, and there will be a brainstorming session at the White House next week to find real solutions to the problems that Hamas has caused,” Greenblatt wrote.

A spokesman for Greenblatt declined to say who the stakeholders and countries are. It’s not clear who took part in the Cairo meeting, although Hamas officials were recently in the Egyptian capital to discuss reconciliation with the Palestinian Authority.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza has been deteriorating for years and sharply declined after the Hamas terror group took charge of the Strip, ousting the Palestinian Authority.

Israel and Egypt imposed a tight blockade on Gaza to prevent Hamas from importing weapons and material that could be used to carry out attacks or build fortifications and tunnels. Israel and the US also accuse Hamas of diverting millions in aid money to use for arms.

In recent months the Palestinian Authority has also withheld funding for electricity supplied to the Strip in an attempt to press Hamas toward reconciliation.

The culmination of all these have left Gaza on the verge of “full collapse,” according to the UN.

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