Kushner and Trump Team Arrive in Israel, Will Meet Netanyahu to Discuss Peace Plan

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Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner at the White House, May 16, 2019.
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner at the White House, May 16, 2019.Credit: AFP

Senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt arrived Wednesday evening in Israel, after spending the morning in Jordan to discuss the administration’s plan for Middle East peace and the economic conference scheduled to take place in Bahrain next month.

They arrived in the midst of a political crisis that threatens to throw Israel into another election as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu struggles to form a governing coalition by the Wednesday night deadline. 

They were accompanied by Kushner's deputy Avi Berkowitz and Iran Special Envoy Brian Hook. 

They met with Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer, and are expected to meet with Netanyahu on Thursday.

They also traveled to Morocco over the course of the trip, which is intended to bolster support for the plan and economic conference. The workshop is being boycotted by the Palestinian Authority.

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The Trump administration’s small team working on the Middle East peace plan — which is led by Kushner — is currently locked in a battle with the PA over how the Arab world will respond to its plan.

Kushner has arrived Tuesday in Morocco to seek King Mohammed VI's backing for economic elements of the Trump administration's peace plan. Morocco, alongside Jordan, has yet to offer any public position on either the peace plan or the Bahrain meeting.

The Palestinians hope Arab countries will support their position and reject the plan, which they believe will be one-sided and skewed in favor of Israel. The administration, meanwhile, hopes to convince as many Arab nations as possible to at least consider the plan as a basis for negotiations.

Earlier Wednesday, Kushner met with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Aman. Jordan is a key player in this political and diplomatic battle; historically, it is responsible for safeguarding Islam’s holy sites in Jerusalem; it has a peace treaty with Israel; and a majority of its citizens are Palestinians. A Jordanian rejection of the peace plan could make it harder for other Arab countries to embrace it, whereas flexibility toward the plan by Amman will likely make it easier for others to follow suit.

Amman has so far not announced whether or not it will participate in the economic conference on June 25-26, which will focus on the future of the Palestinian economy. The Trump administration will release the economic chapter of the peace plan before the conference, but not the political part, which deals with more sensitive aspects of the conflict.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their regional rival Qatar have already told the Trump administration they will attend. Meanwhile, a senior PA official stated Monday that both China and Russia will be boycotting the event.

The Russian foreign ministry took a dim view of the conference in a statement on Tuesday, saying the United States was attempting to "impose an 'alternative vision' of the Palestinian-Israeli settlement." 

"The Palestinian leadership has already categorically refused to take part, saying that the PLO will not surrender to anyone its exclusive rights to make crucial decisions regarding the realization of Palestinians' national aspirations," it said. 

Reuters contributed to this report. 

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