Yerushalayim (Ilana Messika/TPS) – Senior advisers to US President Donald Trump will visit Yerushalayim and Ramallah this week to revive peace talks, a White House official confirmed on Monday. Middle East Envoy Jason Greenblatt is expected to arrive on Monday, followed by Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner on Wednesday.
“Excited to be traveling back to Israel and the Pal. Territories to continue the discussion about the possibility of peace,” wrote Greenblatt on Twitter.
The trip was first reported in the Wall Street Journal and sourced to a White House official speaking on condition of anonymity. “It is important to remember that forging a historic peace agreement will take time and to the extent that there is progress, there are likely to be many visits by both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt, sometimes together and sometimes separately, to the region and possibly many trips by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to Washington, D.C., or other locations as they pursue substantive talks,” said the White House source.
The visit will be the latest installment in a flurry of Israel-Palestinian diplomacy during the initial period of the Trump administration. Prime Minister Netanyahu visited the White House in February, followed by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in May. Later in May, Trump said during a visit to Israel that both parties are “reaching for peace,” and also reportedly lambasting Abbas for “lying” about working towards peace with Israel.
“You tricked me in DC! You talked there about your commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement [against Israel],” Trump was reported to have shouted at Abbas.
Despite the criticism, however, Trump also asked Netanyahu last month to “hold back” on Israeli construction in Yehudah in order to facilitate peacemaking efforts. That has caused friction between the prime minister and right-wing elements in the governing coalition and amongst Netanyahu’s support base – an issue that could become acute if the president’s representatives push for more building limits.
Spokespeople for the United States Consulate in Yerushalayim said they had not yet been briefed on the visit, and outside observers said the White House has tried hard to keep details about the state of the peace process under President Trump out of the news.
According to one analyst, however, Greenblatt and Kushner are unlikely for a resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. They are also likely to have more on their agenda this week than a narrow focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I believe [Greenblatt and Kushner] are exploring other negotiating paradigms until true negotiations are possible, which a very few believe are a probability now. The Americans are realistic in seeing the Palestinians are split between Fatah and Hamas and the issue of Abbas’ succession,” said Lenny Ben-David, a former Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli embassy in Washington and current director of publications at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank.
Ben-David told TPS that the current visit will likely take place in the context of Trump’s view towards a regional peace deal. He also said that even in the absence of full-blown talks, there is value to the visit.
“There are steps that can be made, whether in economic development or easing of restrictions to ameliorate tensions between both parties. I assume their visit is to discuss with both sides and hear their positions, but much of that is a rehash of what we’ve already seen. One novel item I think can be discussed is normalization and coexistence activities, and second, the issue of the PA stipends to terrorists and their families,” he added.
With additional reporting by Andrew Friedman.