Israelis Living on Southern Border Urge Trump Envoy to 'Dramatically Improve' Gaza Economy

Local leader tells Jason Greenblatt that Israel has a moral obligation to help improve 'our neighbors' living conditions'

Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East envoy, arrives to visit Kibbutz Nahal Oz, just outside the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, August 30, 2017.
AMIR COHEN/REUTERS

Israelis living on the Gaza border told President Trump's envoy Jason Greenblatt during his visit earlier this week that "dramatically improving" the living conditions in the Strip could help stave off another war between Hamas and Israel. 

Greenblatt, Trump's envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, toured the Israel-Gaza border region on Wednesday, visiting the Kerem Shalom border crossing and Kibbutz Nahal Oz. While at the kibbutz, he spoke with Alon Shuster, the head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, which includes a number of kibbutzim situated directly on the border fence.

Shuster told Greenblatt that despite the threat from Hamas, the Israeli residents of the border region mostly believe reconciliation with the Palestinians as part of a diplomatic agreement is possible. He added that the Trump administration should work to develop the Palestinian economy and create opportunities for the people of Gaza, since the current humanitarian crisis there raises the risks for another round of war.

In a letter sent to residents of the council on Friday, Shuster wrote that he and others who met with Greenblatt "asked him to help improve the infrastructure in Gaza – water, sewage, electricity and more – and to secure the welfare of Gaza's residents." The Trump administration said ahead of Greenblatt's arrival to the region two weeks ago that examining ways to avoid another war in Gaza would be a main focus of his visit. 

Shuster, a member of the Zionist Union party, also wrote that the residents of the border area told Greenblatt that "we make a clear distinction between Israel's right to defend itself, and our moral obligation – which also makes sense on a pragmatic level – to dramatically improve our neighbors' living conditions."

Greenblatt also met with Palestinians from Gaza at one of the border crossings and heard about their living conditions under the current humanitarian crisis. 

Greenblatt, according to Shuster, was "touched" by the message he heard from the Israeli residents of the border region.  

On Twitter, Trump's envoy wrote that during the visit he was "reminded of how important peace is," adding that "no one should be forced to run to bunkers from rockets attacks." Greenblatt also stated that the Trump administration wants to see the Palestinian Authority regain administrative control of the Gaza Strip, although he did not explain how he expects that to happen.