President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is singling out Hamas for blame for the plight of the Palestinian people, but suggests the US believes the militant group could still have a role to play in Gaza if it demonstrates "clear, peaceful intentions" with Israel.
The Washington Post op-ed, published Thursday and co-written with special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt and the US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, comes amid continuing interest in the timing of the the Trump administration's planned roll-out of its peace plan for the region. Improving the situation in Gaza, the home of about 2 million people, is sure to be a central focus.
"Life could significantly improve in short order for the Palestinian people if Hamas allowed it," the authors write.
The three authors say that there are "engaged, interested parties with resources" who are looking to help rebuild Gaza's infrastructure, but, the op-ed goes on, "without real change accompanied by reliable security, progress is impossible."
"If Hamas demonstrates clear, peaceful intentions - not just by word but, more importantly, by deed - then all manner of new opportunities becomes possible," Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman write.
Recent months have seen tensions grow along the fence between Gaza and Israel, culminating in an exchange of fire a week ago that saw more than 100 rockets and mortars fired by militants toward Israel, and dozens of airstrikes by Israeli warplanes on Hamas positions in the coastal enclave. Militants have also been using kites and balloons to launch arson attacks in Israel.
Israel has maintained a land, sea and air blockade on Gaza since June 2007, when Hamas took over Gaza. The blockade effectively locks the more than 2 million Gaza residents inside their territory and is seen by the UN as a major contributor to the deterioration of living conditions there.-Israel says it's a necessary security measure.
Jamie McGoldrick, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Gaza, said this month that new restrictions imposed by Israel in retaliation for the incendiary kites "risk triggering a dramatic deterioration in an already fragile situation and desperate humanitarian conditions, particularly for the health sector."
The UN has warned that by 2020,-conditions in Gaza could deteriorate to the point that it is unlivable.
Kushner was tapped by his father-in-law, Donald Trump, shortly after taking office to work on what the US President called the "ultimate deal" between Israelis and Palestinians. But talks with the Palestinians stalled after the Trump administration's controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and move the US embassy there. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to meet with Kushner and his colleagues ever since.
But Abbas -- whose authority is essentially limited to the West Bank -- is involved in his own power struggle with Hamas. The Washington Post op-ed calls on Hamas to let the PA run the Gaza crossings into Israel and Egypt, something for which Abbas himself has also been striving.
Kushner and Greenblatt traveled to the Middle East last month, with stops in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Israel, which included a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The U.S. wants Gulf states to pay for future development in Gaza, though Abbas has been suspicious of American intentions, believing the US is interested in dividing not uniting Palestinians.
According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Kushner's op-ed demonstrated that American officials are "mere spokesmen for the Israeli occupation."