US said seeking to raise $500 million for Gaza from Gulf states

Funding would reportedly go toward industrial area in Egypt’s Sinai from where electricity, desalinated water would be pumped to Strip

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A woman sits with her children in their shack home near the beach in Gaza City on June 4, 2018. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)
A woman sits with her children in their shack home near the beach in Gaza City on June 4, 2018. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP)

The United States is reportedly seeking to raise over $500 million from Gulf states to fund energy and economic development projects aimed at improving the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, as a prelude to revealing President Donald Trump’s plan for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The funds would be used to develop an industrial area in the northern Sinai region, which abuts Gaza, including a power station and factories to serve the residents of the Palestinian enclave, the Haaretz daily reported Monday.

White House special adviser Jared Kushner and US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who are due in the region for talks this week, are expected to pitch the ideas to leaders in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel, the report said.

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.

Jared Kushner, son-in-law and senior adviser to US President Donald Trump, speaks at the inauguration ceremony of the US Embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/ Flash90)

In addition, the US hopes that plans to boost the quality of life in Gaza will create a positive atmosphere ahead of Trump presenting his peace plan, an event for which no date has yet been set, the report said.

Sources told Haartez that a large part of the proposals for Gaza revolve around basing service infrastructure in northern Sinai, including, in addition to a power plant, a seaport, factories to manufacture building supplies, a water desalination plant and a project to construct a solar energy site near the Sinai city of el-Arish.

The projects would be expected to create jobs for Gazans and also improve the security situation in northern Sinai, making it appealing to the Egyptians, who for years have been battling to suppress an Islamist terror campaign in the peninsula.

The report said there are two approaches being looked at — projects that can be quickly implemented and those that will take years to complete. Currently, the White House is reportedly focusing on funding for the more immediate projects with the aim of improving the situation in Gaza “and to also achieve some progress on the ground before the peace plan presentation.”

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Yoav Mordechai, who until recently served as the Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, presented similar ideas in March at an international summit on Gaza, hosted at the White House, the report said.

Deteriorating living conditions in the Strip have been cited by security officials as a major factor fueling the violent clashes on Israel’s border, as well as a debilitating sense of desperation.

According to the report, solving Gaza’s energy crisis is the top priority.

Trump’s son-in-law Kushner and Greenblatt are looking to secure financing –amounting to over $500 million — from Gulf states, and ensure cooperation from Israel and Egypt, the two countries that border the Palestinian enclave, which since 2007 has been under the control of the Hamas terror group, the report said.

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)

Israel and Egypt both enforce a blockade of Gaza, which Israel says is necessary to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons into Strip. Currently, goods arrive at Israeli ports, where they are screened and then brought to Gaza on hundreds of trucks a day.

The White House declined to comment on the plans, telling Haaretz only that “we don’t want to discuss specific details before talks are held on the matter.”

Although Kushner and Greenblatt are set to meet with regional leaders to iron out details of the Trump peace plan, they are not scheduled to hold talks with the Palestinians, who have refused to meet with US officials ever since Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December and then moved the US embassy to the city last month.

Gaza’s woes have been exacerbated by an ongoing dispute between Hamas and the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which has cut the salaries it pays to workers in Gaza and imposed various sanctions, including cutting payments for electricity supplies to the enclave.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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