White House to meet on Gaza crisis Tuesday, as it prepares to unveil peace plan

Jared Kushner will propose solution for battered coastal enclave that envoy Greenblatt calls ‘a necessary step’ toward peace

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner arrives to attend US President Donald Trump's press conference on February 16, 2017, at the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/ Nicholas Kamm)
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner arrives to attend US President Donald Trump's press conference on February 16, 2017, at the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP Photo/ Nicholas Kamm)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration will convene a conference at the White House on Tuesday aimed at solving the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, with Jared Kushner and National Security Council staff outlining their plan for alleviating suffering in the coastal enclave.

“Solving the situation in Gaza is vital for humanitarian reasons, important for the security of Egypt and Israel and is a necessary step toward reaching a comprehensive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, including Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank,” US President Donald Trump’s Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt said in a statement Monday.

While the gathering will be dedicated to deteriorating conditions in Gaza, no Palestinian representatives plan to show, a PLO Executive Committee member told Voice of Palestine radio last week.

“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,” said Ahmad Majdalani.

Trump officials also did not invite anyone from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the UN agency that provides various social services in Gaza, to the session.

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

Israel accuses UNRWA of helping to perpetuate the narrative of Israel’s illegitimacy by granting refugee status to the descendants of refugees, including those who were born in other countries and have citizenship there.

Palestinians, for their part, are still furious with Washington over its December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and plans to move the US embassy there in May. PA officials have refused to meet with US officials since Trump’s announcement.

What’s more, the summit comes just as the White House is preparing to release its intensely awaited peace plan, which The New York Times reported would be released soon.

The proposal would not prescribe either a one-state or two-state solution to the conflict or seek a “fair and just solution” for Palestinian refugees, the newspaper said. The document will, instead, put forward ideas for solving the key issues in the conflict, such as borders, security, refugees and the status of Jerusalem. It is not clear yet exactly when that plan will be unveiled.

Tuesday’s conference will be attended by staff from the White House, State Department, National Security Council, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

Greenblatt will open the confab by delivering remarks on a meeting he had in Cairo last week with the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, a 15-member group that coordinates international development assistance to the Palestinian people.

“The Trump administration believes that deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza require immediate attention,” Greenblatt said in his statement Monday.

“We are pleased with the committed list of attendees which includes many of the relevant parties and anticipate a robust dialogue,” he added. “The challenge will be determining which ideas can be realistically implemented in light of the fact that the Palestinians of Gaza continue to suffer under the authoritarian rule of Hamas.”

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