- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The White House quietly brought together officials from Israel and Arab states in the same room for the first time Tuesday, a conference aimed at relieving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The six-hour meeting was convened in an ornate room of the Eisenhower office building adjacent to the White House, hosted by senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for Middle East peace talks.

A total of 20 countries attended, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, as well as representatives from the United Nations and the European Union.

“The situation in Gaza must be solved for humanitarian reasons and for ensuring the security of Egypt and Israel,” the White House said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”

However, officials from the Palestinian Authority did not accept an invitation to the White House to attend. Palestinians are angered at Mr. Trump’s decision late last year to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and to move the U.S. embassy there from Tel Aviv.

The administration is preparing to release its peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, and the Jerusalem Post called Tuesday’s meeting “the possible start of a regional dialogue over Israeli-Palestinian peace.”

White House officials presented specific project ideas to aid the Palestinians in Gaza, developed with the National Security Council staff and the State Department, proposals that may be addressed at an upcoming conference in Brussels, home of the EU.

“The administration of President Donald J. Trump believes that deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza require immediate attention,” the White House said. “The attendees yesterday discussed concrete proposals for finding realistic, effective approaches to the challenges Gaza currently faces. The nations and entities represented at the conference have the ability to work together and make a difference.”

Gaza, a Palestinian enclave of about two million people controlled by the terrorist group Hamas, has faced chronic shortages and water contamination. Two of its three entry points are blockaded by Israel due to national security concerns.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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