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Kushner meets with Netanyahu, Abbas as confusion lingers over US peace efforts

Aug. 25, 2017 12:47 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 27, 2017 7:28 P.M.)
Jared Kushner and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- With expectations surrounding US peace efforts low among Palestinian leadership, Jared Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor, has arrived in the region, where he and other members of a US delegation met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday.

Israeli news daily Haaretz reported that Kushner met with Netanyahu Thursday morning in Tel Aviv, where Kushner told the Israeli PM that Trump is "committed to finding a solution that will bring prosperity and peace" to all the region's peoples.

Kushner is heading a delegation that includes US envoy for the peace process Jason Greenblatt, Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has been vocal in his support for Israeli settlements and his unflinching support for the Israeli government.

Official Palestinian Authority (PA)-owned Wafa news agency reported that Abbas and Kushner met on Thursday evening at Abbas’ Ramallah headquarters in the central occupied West Bank.

“We highly appreciate President Trump’s efforts to strike a historic peace deal, a statement he repeated more than one time during our meetings in Washington, Riyadh and Bethlehem,” Abbas said at the start of his meeting with Kushner.

"We know that this delegation is working for peace, and we are working with it to achieve what President Trump has called a peace deal. We know that things are difficult and complicated, but there is nothing impossible with good efforts," he said.

Kushner also reportedly delivered a message from Trump to Abbas, saying that Trump is “very optimistic” about peace prospects, and that he is “hopeful for a better future for all Palestinian people and Israeli people.”

Following the meeting, the PA released an official statement, saying “the PA and the US delegation had a productive meeting focused on how to begin substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Both sides agreed to continue with the US-led conversations as the best way to reach a comprehensive peace deal.”

Reports emerged this week that during a meeting with the Israeli left-wing Meretz party, Abbas expressed his confusion regarding the US stance on Israel and Palestine, saying he “can’t understand” the Trump administration’s position on the conflict.

Abbas discussed previous meetings he had with US envoys, saying that while “he heard that they support a two-state solution to the conflict and a settlement construction freeze,” the officials have yet to state such demands publicly or to Netanyahu.

"I have met with Trump envoys about 20 times since the beginning of his term as president of the United States," Haaretz quoted Abbas as saying, and that he still “can’t understand” the Trump administration’s position on the conflict.

Trump has repeatedly said peace between Israelis and Palestinians was something he could achieve as president. “I want to see peace with Israel and the Palestinians,” Trump said in April. "There is no reason there’s not peace between Israel and the Palestinians -- none whatsoever.”

While Trump has maintained on many occasions that, under his auspices, the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflict will be solved, his administration has painted a rather unclear picture regarding Trump’s plans in the region, while a number of high-profile US officials, including Kushner, are known to be staunch supporters of Israel.

In February, Trump said that when it came to a solution for the decades-long conflict he could “live with either” a one- or two-state solution, in a significant departure from the US’ publicly held position in favor of a two-state solution to the conflict.

However, his elusiveness has not belied the fact that Trump and his administration have maintained their pro-Israel stance, despite stated efforts to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which he said in the past was "not as difficult as people have thought over the years.”

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