15 March, 2018, 12:00 am
WASHINGTON – The White House on Tuesday hosted 19 nations, including Israel and Arab Gulf states, to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, but the Palestinian Authority boycotted the meeting, angered by the Trump administration’s policies on Jerusalem.
The administration was also putting the final touches on a Middle East peace plan, and US officials said the conference was integral to future negotiations.
“Fixing Gaza is necessary to achieve a peace agreement,” one of the senior administration officials said.
The officials stressed that the multi-nation humanitarian and reconstruction effort remained in beginning stages.
Jared Kushner, a senior adviser to Mr Trump who was overseeing the Israeli-Palestinian peace-process for the White House, gave a two-hour presentation to the attending countries, officials said, but the potential US peace plan was not addressed.
Attendees included representatives from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as several European nations.
The format did not allow for direct discussions between Israel and the Arab states, officials said.
Potential electricity, water, sewage, and health projects were discussed, but officials declined to outline specific proposals.
A senior administration insisted that many projects could be implemented without assistance of the Palestinian Authority, but the goal was to have it ultimately engage in the multilateral process.
Gaza faced a 43.6 per cent unemployment rate, and many in Gaza blamed Israel for the hardships, accusing it of placing an economic blockade on the enclave that had drastically reduced movement of people and goods.
But Gazans also fault their own leaders, complaining of a power struggle between Hamas, the armed group that seized military power in Gaza in 2007, and Fatah, the secular party of Western-backed Palestinian President Abbas.
Israel, which pulled its settlers and soldiers out of Gaza in 2005, said it has been forced to control access to and from the territory to prevent Hamas from sending out gunmen and bombers, and from smuggling in weapons or material to make them.
The Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, escaped an apparent assassination attempt in Gaza on Tuesday, when a bomb struck his convoy.
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority signed an agreement in October that called for the Islamist group to hand administrative control of Gaza to the Authority, but it remained to be fully implemented.