The FINANCIAL — U.S. President Barack Obama will meet Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss "additional steps" to improve the situation in the Gaza Strip, the White House said, according to RIA Novosti.
The two leaders cancelled their planned meeting in Canada on May 31 following an international crisis sparked by the Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid convoy. They agreed to meet "at the first opportunity."
On Sunday Israel agreed to ease the Gaza blockade and pledged to take steps to improve relations as soon as possible due to increasing international pressure following the Freedom Flotilla attack, which left nine activists dead and dozens injured.
"There is more to be done, and the President looks forward to discussing this new policy, and additional steps, with Prime Minister Netanyahu during his visit to Washington on July 6," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.
The White House welcomed the Israeli announcement to allow all goods into the Palestinian enclave, except weapons and materials that can be used in their production.
"The United States welcomes the new policy towards Gaza announced by the Government of Israel, which responds to the calls of many in the international community," the statement says. "Once implemented, we believe these arrangements should significantly improve conditions for Palestinians in Gaza, while preventing the entry of weapons."
"We will work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, the Quartet, and other international partners to ensure these arrangements are implemented as quickly and effectively as possible and to explore additional ways to improve the situation in Gaza, including greater freedom of movement and commerce between Gaza and the West Bank," Gibbs added.
The spokesman reaffirmed Israel's "right to self-defense" and the U.S. commitment to work with Israel and other partners to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza.
The statement urged humanitarian organizations to use "established channels" and undergo Israeli safety checks while delivering goods to Gaza, hit by a humanitarian crisis after Israel and Egypt tightened the blockade of the enclave in 2007.
"There is no need for unnecessary confrontations, and we call on all parties to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza," the statement reads.
Gibbs also said that the $400-million U.S. aid package for the West Bank and Gaza was "a down payment on the U.S. commitment to the people of Gaza, who deserve a chance to take part in building a viable, independent state of Palestine, together with those who live in the West Bank."
The White House spokesman also called for the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and condemned "the inhumane conditions of his detention."