U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner arrived Wednesday for a lightning 15-hour visit in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Kushner met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and PA President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss American efforts to resume the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
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Kushner met with Netanyahu for two-and-a-half hours on Wednesday. Special U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, also took part. On the Israeli side, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer was present, as was Netanyahu’s special adviser Isaac Molho. Netanyahu welcomed Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, with a warm hug and made a short statement to the cameras about his desire to work with the Trump administration to promote peace, security and prosperity.
At the end of the meeting, the White House released a statement saying that the meeting was productive and the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to advancing President Trump's goal of a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians that enhances stability in the region.
The U.S. officials and Israeli leadership underscored that forging peace will take time and the importance of doing everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking/
Kushner and Greenblatt told Netanyahu that they also wanted to hear Israel’s positions and its priorities with regard to a future agreement with the Palestinians and about how to move ahead on renewing the peace process. After the meeting with Netanyahu, Greenblatt and Kushner headed to Ramallah to meet with Abbas.
Senior Palestinian officials told Reuters before the meeting that in talks with Greenblatt over the past few days they were asked, ahead of Abbas’ meeting with Kushner, to prepare answers to 12 questions on the core issues and the peace process.
A White House statement said all parties during the meeting had acknowledged "the need for economic opportunities for Palestinians and major investments in the Palestinian economy."
Earlier, Kushner and Friedman visited with the family of Hadas Malka, a Border Patrol officer who was killed by Palestinian assailants in an attack in Jerusalem on Friday. According to a source briefed on the visit, Kushner conveyed Trump's condolences to the family. During the visit, which lasted half an hour, Kushner and Friedman lit a candle at a memorial site erected for Malka in Ezer, where she lived.
Kushner returned to the United States on Wednesday evening, while Greenblatt is to remain in the region to continue talks with the parties. The White House said in a statement that when Greenblatt returns to Washington he and Kushner would update Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster and will discuss the administration’s next steps in the peace process.
The day before Kushner's trip to the region, the U.S. State Department reiterated the Trump administration's position that Israeli settlement construction is unhelpful to Trump's peace efforts in the region.
The State Department's new spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, was asked during a press briefing about the Israeli government's latest announcements of settlement construction, which come while Trump is making a push to renew the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Nauert responded that Trump has not changed his mind on this issue.
"The president has been clear all along – his position on this has not changed – and that is that we see settlements as something that does not help the peace process," Nauert said.
A White House official told Haaretz this weekend, ahead of Kushner's arrival, that Trump considers Israeli-Palestinian peace a "top priority" and added that "it is important to remember that forging a historic peace agreement will take time and to the extent that there is progress, there are likely to be many visits by both Kushner and Greenblatt, sometimes together and sometimes separately, to the region and possibly many trips by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to Washington D.C. or other locations as they pursue substantive talks.”