Netanyahu Meets Trump's Envoy for Hours-long Talk on Peace and Settlement Construction

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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

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Monday with U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt and discussed efforts to promote the peace process and settlement construction in the West Bank. 

Netanyahu and Greenblatt, who is U.S. President Donald Trump's envoy to the Middle East peace process, "continued discussions relating to settlement construction in the hope of working out an approach that is consistent with the goal of advancing peace and security," the Prime Minister's Bureau said.

The statement did not specify whether any progress was made to resolve the dispute between Israel and the U.S. over settlements.

The meeting lasted over five hours, and was also attended by Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer. According to the PM's Bureau's statement, Netanyahu and Greenblatt reiterated both countries' "commitment to promoting real and viable peace between Israel and Palestinians, which will strengthen Israel's security and regional stability." Netanyahu told Greenblatt that he believes that under Trump's leadership, peace between Israel and all of its neighbors, including the Palestinians, could be advanced, and that he is looking forward to working closely with the U.S. president to achieve that end. 

Greenblatt reiterated Trump's commitment to Israel's security and to aiding Israel and the Palestinians in reaching a peace treaty through direct negotiations. 

In their meeting, the two discussed encouraging the Palestinian economy in order to improve quality of life in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "The prime minister promised Mr. Greenblatt that he is totally committed to fostering prosperity in Palestinian economy and sees it as a way to improve the possibility of reaching peace," the PM's Bureau's statement said.

Senior Israeli and American officials noted that the aim of Greenblatt's visit is to begin studying the positions of the Israeli and Palestinian sides in greater detail against the backdrop of the diplomatic stalemate of the past several years.

Greenblatt will also speak with Israeli officials about coming to an understanding related to Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank.

On Tuesday, Greenblatt will go to the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other senior Palestinian officials. Greenblatt will be meeting on Thursday with the leader of the opposition in the Knesset, Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union).

Accompanying Greenblatt on his trip is Yael Lempert, who held the Israel portfolio for the National Security Council at the White House during the Obama administration and has remained in the position under President Trump.

Greenblatt's visit to the region comes just days after Trump spoke by phone with Abbas, inviting the Palestinian leader to meet at the White House. In the course of the call, Trump said he believes that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, the White House said, and that the time had come to come to an agreement. Trump noted that such a deal would not only give Israelis and Palestinians the peace and security that they deserve, but also bring about positive changes in the region and the rest of the world.

A White House statement noted that Trump told Abbas that a peace agreement should be reached by direct negotiations between the parties and that the United States is interested in working with the two sides to achieve that goal. Trump told Abbas that he does not believe that the United States needs to force a solution on the parties and would oppose one side seeking to force a solution on the other.

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