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White House Holds Gaza Aid Conference Without Palestinian Authority

WASHINGTON (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. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a top adviser, presented concrete ideas to assist the Gaza Palestinians.

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

The Palestinian Authority, the international representative of the Palestinians, boycotted 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.

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.

Elizabeth Campbell, the director of UNRWA’s Washington office, told JTA that said one measure the Trump administration could take to improve Gaza immediately was to restore UNRWA funding. Trump froze some funding earlier this year because the Palestinians backed away from talks on restarting the peace process.

After the conference, which lasted six hours, the White House deemed it a success.

“Everybody agreed to work together,” a senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters.

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