This week we saw a rare occurrence — an international gathering aimed at finding solutions to the awful situation of Palestinians living in Gaza convened by the Trump Administration in the White House.
While the President’s Mideast adviser Jason Greenblatt deserves some credit for bringing 19 countries together, including Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, the confab showed exactly how self-defeating President Trump’s efforts with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been.
Also at the table were representatives of the European Union and the United Nations. Israel is being represented by Major General Yoav (Poli) Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Actions in the Territories. But the Palestinians themselves were not there.
Still stinging from the President’s foolhardy decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, declare the city Israel’s capital and say, outrageously, that he has taken the issue of Jerusalem off the table, the Palestinian Authority (PA) boycotted the meeting.
We know that the lives of around 1.8 million Palestinians living in Gaza, in what has been termed the world’s largest outdoor prison, are horrible. Much of the massive damage to infrastructure and housing from the last mini-war between Hamas and Israel in 2014 has not been repaired. The water supply is contaminated; electricity often runs just a few hours a day; there are problems with sanitation and sewage and serious risk of a pandemic; children are hungry. There are few jobs and most people live in grinding poverty without hope that things will get better. The Trump administration has made matters much worse by cutting US support for UNWRA, the United Nations Agency that cares for Palestinian refugees. The small coastal enclave is a ticking time bomb.
We know that the lives of around 1.8 million Palestinians living in Gaza, in what has been termed the world’s largest outdoor prison, are horrible.
The rivalry between the PA and Hamas does not help. Political reconciliation between the factions has bogged down and on Tuesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, who arrived to Gaza to open a water treatment facility, was the target of a failed assassination attempt.
Opening the meeting, 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.”
He added, “Over the past number of months, I have visited the Gaza border area. I have met Israelis who live in that area, and Palestinians who live in Gaza, including those who have serious health issues, businessmen trying to make a living, students desperate to succeed and others. Each has a dream for a better life. I have also seen the terror attack tunnels built by Hamas, and the remnants of the rockets used to murder Israelis — all built using money belonging to the international community, the Palestinian Authority and the people of Gaza. It is essential to tour these areas and meet these people to understand this terribly complex and tragic situation.”
The inhabitants of Gaza are not pawns, although they are often treated as such.
These are sentiments most of us can agree on. What a tragedy that President Trump felt the need to cut his own envoy off at the knees with his rash embassy move — all apparently to win the praise of his evangelical Christian political base and some right-wing American Jews in the United States.
The inhabitants of Gaza are not pawns, although they are often treated as such. Greenblatt’s words are welcome and should be praised – but they cannot compensate for Trump’s reckless, one-sided, irresponsible policy toward Israel and the Palestinians.