Trump Envoy Jason Greenblatt to Visit Israel Soon to Discuss Renewed Peace Talks, Israeli Official Says

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Donald Trump's Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017.
Donald Trump's Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017.Credit: Kobi Gideon, GPO

The United States is stepping up its negotiations with Israel and the Palestinians ahead of a possible drafting of an American statement of principles, which would serve as a basis for a renewed negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians.

A senior Israeli official stated that Jason Greenblatt, U.S. President Donald Trump's envoy on the peace process, will come to the region soon to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. The official said that the visit may take place next week or right after Ramadan ends June 24. A senior American official confirmed that Greenblatt is trying to schedule a visit but that a final date has yet to be finalized.

Israeli and Palestinian sources said that the Americans would like Netanyahu and Abbas to present their stances on the core issues up for negotiations – borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem and the settlements – so they can map the differences and decide whether, and if so how, to draft a document that would delineate the principles along which the negotiations would be renewed.

"The Americans have ideas and drafts for principles for the renewing of the negotiations," said an Israeli source informed with the details of the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. "The White House made preparations and held consultations with a number of people in order in order to map the positions of the sides and the talks with Netanyahu and Abbas are a part of this process."

A senior Palestinian official said that Abbas and his advisors view positively the administration's efforts to deal with the side's positions on the core issues and not just on the current issues regarding the state on the ground. According to the official, the Palestinian side is still not considering the consultations with Trump's Middle East peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, next week as the beginning of a new round of negotiations, but rather they view it as a stage in which the Trump administration is determining how it means to renew the talks.

The Palestinian official stated that during his meeting with Abbas in Bethlehem several weeks ago, Trump raised the idea that the Palestinians and Israelis each send five-person teams to Washington to get started with the negotiations. According to him, the Palestinians view this positively and are waiting for the end of Ramadan in order to try and reach a date for sending a delegation to Washington.

Two weeks ago, Haaretz reported that the Trump administration is considering drafting a document that would delineate the solutions to the core issues according to which the negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis would take place. The White House has yet to decide on this issue, but both Israel and the Palestinians believe that Greenblatt coming to map the two sides' positions is in preparation for the drafting of this document.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted in a meeting of his Likud part two weeks ago that the White House may present a statement of principles for the renewing of negotiations. "The current administration has a strong will to put something on the table," he said in a closed meeting of Likud lawmakers in the Knesset. "We have many positions that are important to us, and this doesn't mean that what we tell them is acceptable to them."

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday that President Donald Trump told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during their meeting in Bethlehem several weeks ago that he expects him to take action to end the Palestinian Authority's funding for terrorists and their families.

"The president's been very clear with the Palestinian Authority over actions he expects them to take and he's indicated he has a certain window of patience" during which he wants the this issue resolved, and if this takes too long "He's going to become disinterest" with the peace talks. Tillerson added that Trump stressed that if this happened this would certainly adversely affect the extent of U.S. support for the Palestinian Authority.

In the State Department's current 2018 budget, the aid for the Palestinians is slated to increase, while the support for most Arab nations is expected to be cut sharply. 

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