Egypt, U.S. Pressure Abbas to Assume Responsibility for Gaza

'The Palestinian Authority should be part of the solution for the Palestinians of Gaza and Palestinians as a whole. If not, others will fill that void,' Trump's special envoy says

Trump and Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, Egypt's president, speak while leaving the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2017 / Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Bloomberg, REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

WASHINGTON - On Wednesday, just hours after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke on the phone with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi about the situation in Gaza, the White House published a statement thanking Sissi for his attempts to bring calm to Gaza - and slamming Abbas for his stance on the same issue. 

"The Trump Administration strongly supports the efforts of President al-Sissi and the Egyptian government to help facilitate an agreement to restore calm in Gaza and bring about the conditions for the Palestinian Authority to fully assume its responsibilities in Gaza," said Jason Greenblatt, Trump's special envoy to the peace process.

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Greenblatt further stated that "The Palestinian Authority cannot criticize from the sidelines. The Palestinian Authority should be part of the solution for the Palestinians of Gaza and Palestinians as a whole. If not, others will fill that void." He added that "it's time for the Palestinian Authority to lead the Palestinian people – all Palestinians – to a better future."

The White House statement and the call between Abbas and Sissi point at an increased pressure, both from Washington and from the Arab world, on Abbas with regards to Gaza. Abbas has been concerned about the diplomatic efforts to improve the situation in Gaza, because he believes those talks will empower Hamas on expense of the Palestinian Authority. 

A general view shows an impoverished neighbourhood of the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip on August 25, 2018
AFP

Abbas has also expressed his fear that if the PA takes back over Gaza, as Greenblatt is urging it to do, Israel will retaliate against the PA whenever one of the local terror organizations in Gaza fires a rocket toward Israel, or even sends arson kites to the fields of Israeli communities on the Gaza border. A diplomat who had met with him earlier this year told Haaretz that Abbas "is afraid that he will agree to do the hard work of running Gaza, and instead of being rewarded for it, he will be punished by Israel and Trump whenever something bad happens there." 

Greenblatt's statement on the same day that remarks about Gaza made by American ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, were leaked to the press. Friedman said during a briefing call with the American Jewish Congress that an agreement without the PA in Gaza would be a "tremendous reward" for Hamas, and added that despite the PA's many shortcomings, the Trump administration prefers to work with the PA over working with Hamas.