Trump Envoy Meets Bennett, Livni in D.C. as Israel and U.S. Discuss Settlement Policy

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President Trump's envoy Jason Greenblatt shakes hands with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, March 26, 2017.
President Trump's envoy Jason Greenblatt shakes hands with Education Minister Naftali Bennett, March 26, 2017.Credit: Jason Greenblatt/Twitter

Far-right leader Naftali Bennett and opposition lawmaker Tzipi Livni met with U.S. President Donald Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt in Washington over the weekend, as Israel and the United States discussed reining in settlement construction. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet Sunday that no agreement was reached and that talks on the matter will continue.

In a series of tweets, Greenblatt said he and Bennett discussed American-Israeli relations and the peace process on Sunday. “We discussed the importance of working to improve the economic life of Palestinians,” Greenblatt tweeted. “We also discussed President Trump’s vision for peace and his thoughts on how best to achieve it.”

The meeting between Greenblatt and Bennett, Netanyahu's education minister and head of the Habayit Hayhudi party, lasted more than an hour. Sources in Bennett’s party said that he presented Greenblatt with his view on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “It was a very important meeting and it was an opportunity for Greenblatt to get a different perspective,” one source said.

On Friday, Greenblatt met with Livni, a member of the oppositionist Zionist Union, who told him about previous rounds of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, in which she held a central role. Livni shared her conclusions from the talks with Greenblatt and presented the path she believes should be taken in order to advance the peace process.

A day before Greenblatt's meeting with Livni saw the end of four days of intensive negotiations on reigning in settlement construction in the White House. Israeli and American officials were unable to reach a final and comprehensive deal. However, a joint statement published early Friday said that Israel is willing to curb settlement construction in principle, and is ready to take into account Trump’s intent to advance the peace process.

“The United States delegation reiterated President Trump’s concerns regarding settlement activity in the context of moving towards a peace agreement,” the statement said. “The Israeli delegation made clear that Israel’s intent going forward is to adopt a policy regarding settlement activity that takes those concerns into consideration. The talks were serious and constructive, and they are ongoing.”

The talks began last week on Monday, with the American team headed by Greenblatt and the Israeli delegation headed by Netanyahu’s chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz, and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer.

The statement reiterated that the talks were focused on the settlements and “concrete, near-term measures to improve the overall climate in order to advance the prospects for a genuine and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

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