U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House, March 20, 2018. Evan Vucci/AP

Trump Administration Will Ask Gulf States to Invest Up to $1 Billion in Gaza Economy

Most projects, like port and solar energy grid, planned for northern Sinai near border ■ Sources: Kushner, Greenblatt will raise issue on upcoming Mideast trip to generate momentum before peace plan unveiling

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is trying to convince the Arab monarchies in the Gulf to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in economic projects in the Gaza Strip, in an attempt to calm the security situation there and generate momentum before the White House presents its Middle East peace plan.

According to Israeli and Arab sources, the idea will be raised when Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special envoy, speak this week with the leaders of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel.

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According to these sources, Kushner and Greenblatt hope to secure funding from the Gulf states and the cooperation of Israel and Egypt in implementing the economic projects.

The White House declined to elaborate, telling Haaretz that the administration “won’t discuss specifics before the conversations have taken place.” Kushner and Greenblatt are heading to the Middle East this week for talks focusing on both Gaza and the administration’s upcoming peace plan.

Palestinian fishermen unload boxes of fish from their boat at the Gaza City port, December 18, 2013. Khalil Hamra / AP

According to the sources who spoke with Haaretz, among the issues Kushner and Greenblatt seek to tackle first is the energy supply for Gaza, which has suffered severe electricity shortages and disruptions in recent months.

“This is an issue that is urgent, and at the same time, can be dealt with relatively quickly,” said one of the sources, all of whom requested anonymity. “The Americans are counting on the Gulf states to help with the money necessary for solving it.”

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According to Israeli sources, one option being discussed is a solar energy project that would serve some of Gaza’s energy needs. It would be built near the Egyptian town of El-Arish in northern Sinai. The sources said that overall the White House hoped that somewhere between $500 million and $1 billion would be raised.

One source divided the envisioned projects into two categories: those that can be promoted in the near future, and those that will require years of work to implement.

“They want to secure money mostly for things that can be done right now,” the source said. “This is seen as a way to create a better reality in Gaza, and to showcase success and progress ahead of the presentation of the Trump peace plan.”

Among long-term projects to serve Gaza would be the construction of a port in northern Sinai and the building of a power plant and water desalination plant. The general framework of most of the projects is construction in northern Sinai near the Gaza border. Such undertakings could create jobs for thousands of Gazans.

Some of these ideas were first raised by Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yoav Mordechai, who until recently was the coordinator of government activities in the territories. Mordechai represented Israel at a Gaza conference at the White House earlier this year.

As Haaretz reported last month, the plans being considered include a new industrial zone, desalination plants and plants making construction materials in northern Sinai.

These ideas originally ran into skepticism from the Egyptians but are now gaining renewed interest, especially if the White House can indeed secure funding from the Gulf.

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