US envoy fumes at Palestinians for rejecting Gaza aid drive

Jason Greenblatt accuses PA and Hamas of ‘hypocrisy’ for claiming that effort to provide humanitarian help is meant to separate Strip from West Bank, hints donors are wary of Hamas

US President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, arrives at a news conference about a water-sharing agreement between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in Jerusalem, July 13, 2017. (AFP/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)
US President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, arrives at a news conference about a water-sharing agreement between Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in Jerusalem, July 13, 2017. (AFP/Pool/Ronen Zvulun)

US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoy accused the Palestinians of “hypocrisy” Thursday, after a Palestinian Authority official said American efforts to provide humanitarian relief to Gaza were aimed at separating the Palestinian enclave from the West Bank.

“Hamas & the PA, who have been fighting one another for over a decade, are each cynically claiming that the US is trying to divide Gaza and the West Bank, instead of acknowledging that we are trying to help the Palestinians in Gaza,” Jason Greenblatt wrote on Twitter early Thursday morning.

“What hypocrisy,” he added.

Greenblatt and senior White House official Jared Kushner are currently on a tour of the Middle East, where they are discussing the Trump administration’s efforts to put forward an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan with allies in the region.

On Tuesday they met with Jordan’s Kind Abdullah and on Wednesday with Saudi Crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and they are also expected to visit Qatar, Israel and Egypt.

On Monday, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, alleged that a reported effort by the administration to raise over $500 million from Arab states for Gaza was designed to further divide Palestinians in the PA-run West Bank from those living in the Strip, run by the Islamist terrorist organization Hamas.

“The Palestinian leadership warns the countries of the region against cooperating with a move whose goal is to perpetuate the separation between Gaza and the West Bank and lead to concessions on Jerusalem and the holy sites,” the statement from Abu Rudeineh said, according to reports.

US President’s peace process envoy Jason Greenblatt, left, meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas at the President’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

The fundraising effort is reportedly part of Kushner and Greenblatt’s discussions in the region.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, which first reported on the funding drive, the money would be used to develop an industrial area in the northern Sinai, which abuts Gaza, including a power station and factories to serve the residents of the Palestinian enclave.

The projects are also expected to help improve the security situation in northern Sinai, where the Egyptian army has been battling to suppress an Islamist terror campaign in the peninsula.

Noor, the 33-year-old wife of Hani al-Laham, an employee of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority government, stands with her children outside their shack home near the beach in Gaza City on June 4, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

UN officials have warned that Gaza is on the cusp of a humanitarian disaster and observers have placed some of the blame on efforts by Abbas to squeeze rival Hamas, including withholding salaries from Gazan civil servants and crimping the flow of electricity and medical supplies into the Strip.

Washington hopes that improving the situation in Gaza, where electricity and drinking water supplies are meager, will help calm the security situation, which has seen several weeks of violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians in the Strip.

But Greenblatt hinted that donors were wary of putting money in Gaza while Hamas remains in power there.

“Hamas continues to fail the Palestinians of Gaza – arson kites & balloons & many mortar & rocket attacks directed against Israelis. How can the international community help when murderous Hamas leaders continue to squander the resources of Gaza? The people deserve better,” he tweeted Thursday.

Greenblatt and Kushner are not expected to meet with Palestinian officials while on the trip. Ramallah has already rejected the nascent Trump peace proposal and cut off contacts with administration officials following the White House decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of their own future state and say the US move showed Washington is not an honest broker.

Despite the freeze in contacts, Greenblatt has still found a way to spar with top Abbas aide Saeb Erekat.

Earlier this month, the two engaged in a brief back-and-forth via op-eds published in Haaretz, in which Greenblatt suggested Erekat move aside for new voices and Erekat accused Greenblatt of parroting right-wing Israeli views.

Three missiles from Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system are seen from Gaza city on June 20, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

The envoy has also been vocal in criticizing Hamas. His comments Thursday came following a day of intense cross-border fire, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatening that Israel could step up attacks if Gazans do not stop attacking Israel with rockets and incendiary kites and balloons.

Israelis at a kibbutz near Gaza inspect the scene where a rocket fired from the Strip fell near houses, smashing windows, on June 20, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The intensity will increase as necessary,” he said at graduation ceremony for new IDF officers. “We are prepared for every scenario, and its best that our enemies understand this, and now.”

Israeli jets on Wednesday bombed dozens of sites belonging to Hamas’s military wing, after southern Israel was pounded with a barrage of some 45 rockets.

The fighting began overnight when Israeli planes carried out air strikes in Gaza in response to continuing kite and balloon attacks, which had sparked some 20 fires the day before.

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