NEW YORK — US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt on Monday hailed the administration’s unconventional approach to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, arguing it was inherently different from previous US-led efforts in its focus on improving the lives of Palestinians and in allowing both parties greater freedom to make their own decisions.
Addressing a conference of international donors, Greenblatt also lamented the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, calling on the international community to act immediately to improve the living conditions in the coastal enclave.
“It is no secret that our approach to these discussions departs from some of the usual orthodoxy – for after years of well-meaning attempts to negotiate an end to this conflict, we have all learned some valuable lessons,” Greenblatt told participants of Ad Hoc Liaison Committee’s annual meeting at the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Trump administration has waded into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process keen on clinching a deal, but without an explicit endorsement of the two-state solution or significant restrictions on Israeli settlement building. Greenblatt, on his numerous trips to the Jewish state, has met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as well as officials and civil society leaders from both sides and has promoted efforts to strengthen Israeli-Palestinian coexistence projects and business partnerships.
“Instead of working to impose a solution from the outside, we are giving the parties space to make their own decisions about their future. Instead of laying blame for the conflict at the feet of one party or the other, we are focused on implementing existing agreements and unlocking new areas of cooperation which benefit both Palestinians and Israelis,” Greenblatt continued.
Chaired by Norway and co-sponsored by the US and the European Union, the AHLC is the main coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Palestinian Authority.
— Norway MFA (@NorwayMFA) September 19, 2017
Earlier on Monday, Trump met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss, among other things, the administration’s goal of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
“We are giving it an absolute go. I think there’s a good chance that it could happen,” the US president said.
Israeli-Palestinian peace “remains one of the president’s highest priorities,” a senior White House official told The Times of Israel on Monday, adding, however, that Trump’s meetings this week at the UN will focus mostly on other issues like Iran and Syria.
Greenblatt’s focus will be on “development assistance to the Palestinian people,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Israelis and Palestinians will hopefully focus their efforts on infrastructure to ensure the West Bank and Gaza get more water, more electricity, better sanitation, and transportation systems, Greenblatt told the conference.
“Let us use this next year to improve the movement of Palestinian goods and people,” he told the participants of the AHLC conference, which was attended by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and other top officials from across the world.
It is high time to stop merely monitoring the situation in Gaza and start changing the situation there, Greenblatt urged, slamming the Palestinian terror group Hamas, which controls the coastal enclave.
“For too long, Hamas has exploited the people of Gaza as hostages and shields, bullying them into submission. Hamas rules by the fist, instead of by improving the lives of the people it purports to govern,” he said.
“Hamas continues to divert money belonging to the Palestinians of Gaza — including funds provided by international donors — and uses these funds to build terror tunnels, missiles and for other nefarious uses,” said Greenblatt.
He called on the PA to retake control of Gaza and urged the international community to help this process come to fruition. “Relief from the suffering in Gaza can only be found when all interested parties gather together to help the Palestinian people and isolate Hamas,” he said.
Earlier this week, Hamas announced that it would dissolve its Administrative Committee, which runs Gaza, and that it was ready to hold new elections, clearing the way the Palestinian Authority to return to the coastal strip.