by WorldTribune Staff, July 8, 2018
The United States will prioritize improving conditions in the Gaza Strip in order to bring the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the negotiating table with Israel and move President Donald Trump’s peace plan forward, a report said.
The PA continues to boycott peace talks in protest of Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
The boycott has led the U.S. to consider an infusion of development aid funds to Gaza, The Washington Post reported on July 7.
“It’s providing support to people in Gaza as a first stage,” one senior Israeli official told the Post. “They know the Palestinians are not willing to consider [the larger proposal], so they are starting to put more attention on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
U.S., Israeli and Arab officials requested anonymity to discuss the U.S. diplomatic initiative because the plan led by senior White House adviser Jared Kushner remains under wraps, the report said.
“We definitely have a Gaza focus right now because the situation is the way it is, and we want to try to help,” a senior Trump administration official told the Post. “But it’s not as though we think we need to fix Gaza first before we would air the peace plan.”
One possibility would be projects to improve Gaza’s electrical and water services in the short term, most likely funded by Persian Gulf states and other potential donors and coordinated with UN Middle East envoy Nikolay Mladenov, according to the report.
Israeli officials said they welcome a “Gaza first” approach as a way to both put pressure on Hamas and wait out the rival Ramallah-based PA leadership. Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority maintain an embargo on Hamas-led Gaza.
A recent report by Haaretz said the Trump administration is trying to convince Arab monarchies in the Gulf to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in economic projects in Gaza, in an attempt to calm the security situation in the coastal enclave and generate momentum before the White House presents its peace plan.
Trump recently declined to offer a timetable for announcing his plan, saying only that “progress” had been made in tackling the complex issue.
“A lot of progress has been made in the Middle East, a lot,” he said in late June after a meeting at the White House with King Abdullah II of Jordan.