Trump Administration Pressuring Israel to Move Ahead With Peace Deal, Senior Israeli Minister Says

Day before Kushner visit to Israel and as Netanyahu meets Trump envoy, finance minister Moshe Kahlon says U.S. feels deal is possible, but notes 'sides not ripe' for peace

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon speaking at the Herzliya Conference, June 20, 2017.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon speaking at the Herzliya Conference, June 20, 2017. Hagai Frid

A day ahead of the arrival of U.S. President Donald Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner in Israel for talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah, Israel's finance minister said that the American administration is pressuring Israel to move forward on reaching a peace deal with the Palestinians.

"There's mounting American pressure to advance a deal," Moshe Kahlon told a conference in central Israel on Tuesday. "Something has happened. The American government feels it can reach an agreement, maybe because the good ties with the Israeli government allow Trump more influence than was possible during Obama's term," he said.

Kahlon made the statements as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt. The two-hour meeting between the two was intended to lay the groundwork for the meeting between Netanyahu and Kushner on Wednesday. Their meeting was also attended by Molcho and Israel's ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer. Netanyhu's office refused to divulge the content of the meeting.

U.S. special envoy Jason Greenblatt and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem, June 20, 2017.
Haim Tzach/ GPO

Ahead of their meeting, Greenblatt met with Netanyahu's senior aide, Isaac Molcho, and held meetings in Ramallah with top aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Kahlon noted that he thinks Netanyahu is interested in renewing peace talks with the Palestinians. He stressed that the solution to the conflict was two states for two people, but said he was skeptical of whether the sides were ripe for reaching a permanent agreement at this point.

"Everyone understands that in the end there will be two states, but no one wants to say that they understand that," said Kahlon. "At the end of this process, that's what will happen in our region. I don't see it happening tomorrow, but at the level of vision, that's what will happen. I think that the Palestinians aren't ready for a political agreement. I got that impression from conversations with them. Who's right: us or them? The truth is somewhere in the middle. They themselves say: Let's get through these years. We have internal problems, problems with Gaza, etc. I don't see them going now in the direction of an agreement."

Kushner will meet Wednesday in Jerusalem with Netanyahu and in Ramallah with Palestinian President Abbas in order to hear from the two how they would like to move forward toward a renewal of the peace process.

Kushner and Greenblatt also want to hear the two leaders' positions on various central issues, like borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and others, in order to map out the differences between the sides on each issue. One of the ideas being considered in the White House is to formulate an American document of principals for solving these central issues on the base of renewing peace talks.

Greenblatt and Kushner's meetings with Netanyahu come as land was prepared Tuesday for the construction of a new settlement "Amichai" for those evacuated from the illegal outpost of Amona. In the morning, Netanyahu tweeted that he is the first prime minister in decades to establish a new settlement in the West Bank. He added that "there hasn't been, nor will there be a better government" for the settlement enterprise than that which he currently leads.

Heavy machinery work on a field as they begin construction work of Amichai, a new settlement which will house some 300 Jewish settlers evicted in February from the illegal West Bank settlement of Amona, in the West Bank June 20, 2017.
RONEN ZVULUN/REUTERS