Kushner Tells Netanyahu: Trump Committed to Finding Mideast Peace Solution

With expectations low, Kushner opens visit with one-on-one talk with Netanyahu; Jordanian king, Saudi crown prince call Abbas ahead of his meeting with Kushner

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Donald Trump's special adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner in Tel Aviv. August 24, 2017
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Donald Trump's special adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner in Tel Aviv. August 24, 2017 GPO

U.S. President Donald Trump's senior adviser Jared Kushner met Thursday afternoon with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv as part of the American administration's attempt to revive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

At the start of their meeting, Kushner told Netanyahu that Trump is "committed to finding a solution that will bring prosperity and peace" to all the region's peoples.

Kushner arrived in Israel on Wednesday evening, heading a delegation which also includes U.S. envoy for the peace process Jason Greenblatt, Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and was also joined by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

Kushner's meeting with Netanyahu began with only the two of them, and they were later joined by aides from both sides. In the evening, the American delegation will head to Ramallah for a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Kushner is expected to return to the U.S. on Friday. Special envoy Greenblatt  will remain in Israel for the next week to continue talks with both sides.

A picture taken on August 24, 2017 in the West Bank city of Ramallah shows a Palestinian demonstrator holding a cartoon depicting Senior White House Advisor Jared Kushner, during a protest against the arrival of a US delegation headed by Kushner to meet with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP

The American delegation arrived in Israel after holding a round of talks in Arab capitals. On Wednesday evening, ahead of his meeting with Kushner, Abbas received a phone call from the Jordanian king, briefing him on the content of his talks with Trump's senior aide. On Thursday, Abbas received a similar call from Saudi's crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, and was updated on the content the talks he held with Kushner at the beginning of the week.

On Wednesday, Kushner and his colleagues met with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and the head of Egypt's General Intelligence Khaled Fawzy.

The top Egyptian officials urged Kushner to increase efforts to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and voiced their willingness to help in regards to both the Palestinians and Israel.

A senior American official said Kushner and the delegates briefed Sisi about their talks with other Arab leaders and told him they were trying to formulate a clearly defined outline to renew the peace process. Kushner told Sisi he was interested in hearing the Arab states’ point of view in a bid to achieve tangible progress in renewing the talks.

His visit comes at a time when both Israel and the Palestinians’ positions have become significantly more rigid and expectations regarding the peace process are low.

Several Palestinian officials said off-the-record in recent days that the American peace team was biased in Israel’s favor and was even reciting Netanyahu’s talking points. Abbas didn’t use these words, but at the beginning of the week he criticized the Trump administration and said at a meeting with a Meretz delegation that he didn’t understand the White House’s conduct on the peace process.

Abbas is conditioning his cooperation with the U.S. peace initiative on the Americans publicly stating their commitment to the two-state solution and their objection to continued construction in the settlements. He said at the meeting with Meretz that Kushner and Greenblatt have already expressed, in talks with him, support for those two points, but hesitate to say as much to Netanyahu.

Palestinian officials said that if Kushner’s visit fails to yield positive results from their point of view, they would consider resuming the international campaign for statehood in UN institutions. This would mean pushing for a declaration at the UN General Assembly in support of accepting Palestine as a full UN member, and increasing efforts to sue Israel in the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Israeli officials are likewise displaying indifference to Kushner’s visit. At a briefing to reporters on Wednesday after his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Netanyahu evaded questions about Kushner and the American delegation’s visit.

In recent weeks, on the background of the police investigations against him, Netanyahu voiced especially hawkish stances on the Palestinian issue. At a rally organized for him some two weeks ago, Netanyahu expressed his objection to the establishment of a Palestinian state and to any withdrawal from the West Bank.