Palestinians See Kushner’s Upcoming Middle East Visit as 'Crucial,' D.C. Envoy Says

U.S. delegation to arrive in Israel, PA next week as part of American effort to renew Israeli-Palestinian talks. If it fails, the Palestinians could again pursue recognition at UN

Trump shakes hands with Abbas after making statements to the press, in Washington, D.C., May 23, 2017.
Evan Vucci/AP

WASHINGTON – The top Palestinian official in Washington, Ambassador Husam Zomlot, said Thursday that the upcoming visit of a delegation of senior U.S. officials to the Middle East, as part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to restart the peace process, would be crucial. If it fails, he said in a press briefing, the Palestinians could renew efforts to gain recognition through the international arena.

After a lengthy period in which the Americans mostly listened to the positions of both the Israelis and Palestinians without disclosing their plans for the region, the Palestinian Authority now expects to hear what the Trump administration’s vision for peace is.

"We are prepared and ready to travel the journey toward peace with President Trump," Zomlot told Haaretz in a separate conversation after the briefing. He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will be meeting the delegation “with great hope and anticipation to follow on” Trump’s commitment to reach a final-status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

“For us, this is an opportunity that must be seized, and we will spare no effort to help their historic mission succeed,” Zomlot added.

The visit, headed by Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, will be “crucial,” Zomlot stated, noting it will be used "to outline the way forward and discuss substantial issues” – though he did not divulge details of recent discussions between the PA and the U.S. administration.

Zomlot did say, however, that the delegation, which will also consist of Trump's special envoy to the peace process Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell, will visit Ramallah on August 24.

Also Thursday, Greenblatt, Powell, Trump's National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and other senior White House staffers from the national security team met with an Israeli delegation of defense officials.

The group was due to discuss the war in Syria, among other topics.

Zomlot told Haaretz that a Palestinian decision to renew international efforts for recognition, if the American push to advance the peace process fails, shouldn’t be seen as a threat.

"The UN is not a threat – it's our right to revert to it and to choose the time to do so,” he said.

Zomlot met with Greenblatt on Tuesday at the White House, where they discussed the upcoming visit. During the meeting, Zomlot presented the Palestinian position on a number of key issues, including settlements, Jerusalem and refugees.

A statement issued by the PLO delegation in Washington said Zomlot “reaffirmed the full readiness of the Palestinian leadership to support President Trump's efforts to reach a comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli issue."

During its Middle East tour, the American delegation is slated to hold talks with Israel and the Palestinians, as well as senior officials in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt.