WASHINGTON — White House senior advisor Jared Kushner pulled together a conference Tuesday with various stakeholders in the stalled Middle East peace process because “the administration of President Donald J. Trump believes that deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza require immediate attention,” the press secretary’s office said.
The World Bank said in a new report that Gaza “has seen conditions steadily deteriorate over the last two decades, leading to collapsing of the economy and basic social services,” and “while additional cash inflows are urgently needed to bring relief to the difficult living conditions, a lasting recovery depends on a concerted strategy to revive the Gaza economy through access to external markets and expansion of commercial activities.”
“While additional aid is needed to provide humanitarian relief in the short term and ease the fiscal stress, it cannot continue to substitute for long term measures,” said Marina Wes, World Bank director for the West Bank and Gaza. “Serious commitments by all parties are needed to spur growth and jobs by putting in place the right conditions for a dynamic private sector. Without addressing the constraints, Gaza will continue to suffer with a heavy toll on its population.”
The White House conference included Kushner, Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, members of the National Security Council staff, State Department representatives, and representatives from the United Nations, the European Union, and the Office of the Quartet.
Representatives attended from Bahrain, Canada, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
The White House said the conference built upon a meeting held in Cairo last week, “and will carry ideas forward to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) meeting in Brussels, Belgium, at the end of the month.”
“The situation in Gaza must be solved for humanitarian reasons and for ensuring the security of Egypt and Israel,” the administration said. “It is also a necessary step toward reaching a comprehensive peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, including Palestinians in both Gaza and the West Bank.”
Attendees at the meeting “discussed concrete proposals for finding realistic, effective approaches to the challenges Gaza currently faces.”
“White House officials presented specific project ideas, developed in conjunction with the NSC staff and Department of State officials, which the AHLC may seek to fund through discussions at its upcoming meeting in Brussels,” the readout continued. “The nations and entities represented at the conference have the ability to work together and make a difference. The dialogue will continue, in the coming days, in close coordination with other stakeholders, as all parties take tangible steps toward making meaningful improvements in the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza.”
In a statement addressed to Greenblatt posted on Hamas’ website, Hamas International Relations Bureau member Bassim Naim warned that “the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza is likely to incite a huge explosion of unpredictable implications” and “the situation on the ground is much worse than what you described.”
“As for your peace plan, which you claimed Hamas rejected without even seeing, you may be right, but what do you expect from Hamas seeing your president’s daily statements and decisions erasing fundamental rights and established principles of our national struggle?” Naim added.