Gaza aid conference convenes at WH with Israel - but without PA

Trump envoy Jason Greenblatt leads Gaza Conference, bringing together Israel, Arab nations to discuss Gaza Strip, Israelis held by Hamas.

Marcy Oster and Ron Kampeas,

White House
White House
Flash 90

JTA - The human suffering in the Gaza Strip has grown over the past year, top U.S. Middle East negotiator Jason Greenblatt told a conference to discuss aid for the coastal strip that did not include the Palestinian Authority.

Representatives of nearly two dozen countries and international organizations gathered Tuesday at the White House for the meeting.

Greenblatt said that in Gaza, poverty and food insecurity are growing, electricity is scarce and contaminated water is a danger. He said he would present the assembly with proposals to alleviate the suffering in Gaza.

“We asked you here because we believe we can do much better – we must do much better,” he said.

The Palestinian Authority, the international representative of the Palestinians, is boycotting the conference over the Trump administration’s recognition in December of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which is designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization.

“We regret that the Palestinian Authority is not here with us today,” Greenblatt said. “This is not about politics. This is about the health, safety and happiness of the people of Gaza, and of all Palestinians, Israelis and Egyptians.”

UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency charged with delivering aid to Palestinian refugees and their descendants, and the preeminent relief provider in Gaza, was not invited to the meeting since it is aimed at donors and countries in the region, a Trump administration official said. Jordan, Sweden and Egypt will host a separate meeting on Thursday in Rome specifically relating to UNRWA, according to the official, who said the U.S. plans to participate in that meeting as well.

Representatives of Israel and its neighbors Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates were among the meeting participants. Qatar, which is a major donor to Gaza, and which is being shunned by key U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, also attended.

The full list of participants: Bahrain, Canada, Cyprus, Egypt, the European Union, France, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman, the Middle East Quartet, Qatar, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United Nations. The Quartet is the grouping of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations that helps shepherd negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Greenblatt called on all parties in attendance to “leave all politics at the door” in order to “concentrate on realistic and practical solutions to the problems we are here to address.”

He said it was key to consider the security needs of Gaza’s neighbors, especially considering that it was controlled by Hamas, a terrorist group.

“We all know that none of this will be easy,” Greenblatt said. “And everything we do must be done in a way that ensures we do not put the security of Israelis and Egyptians at risk – and that we do not inadvertently empower Hamas, which bears responsibility for Gaza’s suffering. But the situation today in Gaza is unacceptable, and spiraling downwards.

“An essential part of achieving a comprehensive peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, including those in the West Bank and Gaza, will be resolving the situation in Gaza."

Greenblatt closed his address by demanding Hamas return the remains of fallen IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, as well as Avraham Mengistu and a second Israeli civilian, whose name has not been released.

"Hamas must return the missing IDF soldiers who were taken by Hamas, as well as the missing Israeli civilians."

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