U.S. Officials Reportedly Visit Mideast to Hold Talks on Gaza Crisis, Advance Peace Negotiations

Administration officials discuss the establishing of an independent committee that would overlook affairs in the Strip, receive funding from Europe, U.S.

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Tear gas canisters fired by Israeli troops fall over Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border on May 18, 2018.
Tear gas canisters fired by Israeli troops fall over Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border on May 18, 2018. Credit: Khalil Hamra/AP
Jack Khoury

Senior U.S. officials recently paid a visit to an unnamed Arab country where they held talks on how to improve the humanitarian, political and security crisis in the Gaza Strip, London-based daily Al-Hayat reported.

According to the report, a suggestion was raised during the talks to pass on the management of the Strip's affairs to an independent committee that would receive financial aid from Europe and the U.S. in order to ameliorate living conditions in Gaza.

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Hamas, the report alleged, will be requested to take political steps to enable the promotion of a peace deal.

The Palestinian Authority was reportedly enraged by the offer that could potentially help the U.S. to increase pressure applied on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to return to the negotiations table.

Earlier on Saturday it was reported that the Trump administration is aiming to roll out its much-hyped but long-delayed Middle East peace plan next month. 

Five U.S. officials and a congressional aide told the Associated Press that the administration intends to release the peace plan in mid- to late-June, shortly after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, although they cautioned that the timing could slip depending on developments in the region. The report said that Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and special envoy Jason Greenblatt have already begun quietly briefing select allies and partners on elements of the proposal.

Al-Hayat did not disclose which Arab country hosted the officials for the talks, but assessments suggest that it was Egypt due to its geographical proximity to the Strip and in light of the ongoing contacts between Egyptian intelligence and the top brass of Hamas. This assessment could be strengthened by Egypt's decision this weekend to open the Rafah crossing for the month of Ramadan and bring aid into the Strip.

Nonetheless, no Palestinian or Arab officials have confirmed the report. Hamas is very careful in making political statements, and deny every report on peace deals brewing behind the scenes.

Both the head of Hamas' political wing,Ismail Haniyeh, and the head of Hamas in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, have made statements recently that attest to the fact that the Palestinian leadership does not intend on stopping violent protests along the Gaza border in favor of reaching an agreement with Israel.

Sinwar said Friday that the choice of a popular struggle does not mean the organization is giving up on its armed struggle against Israel. In an interview with Hamas’ Al-Aqsa television channel Sinwar said that the “Palestinian resistance uses all the means it has available and all the means appropriate for a specific period."

However, Haniyeh has confirmed that he has heard from various international elements who wish to solve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Haniyeh has also stressed that the so-called "March of Return" will continue until the blockade on Gaza ends.

Meanwhile, Haaretz has learned that Palestinian businessmen in the Strip receiving offers from international figures who seek to lead civilian and financial projects in order to create employment for thousands of young Palestinian. There are also attempts to invest in agriculture and fishing in the Strip by extending the territory where Gazan fishermen are allowed to work to 12 nautical miles, which would in turn boost the economy in Gaza.

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