A day before Jared Kushner's arrival to Israel for talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah, the U.S. State Department reiterated the Trump administration's position on Tuesday that Israeli settlement construction is unhelpful to U.S. President Donald Trump's peace efforts in the region.
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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. When asked another question on the matter, she stated again that "the president has said that unrestrained settlement activity is not helpful to the peace process." Nauert also said that the State Department is in close coordination with the White House on the peace effort, and is helping Kushner and Trump's peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, organize their visit.
Nauert also used the occasion of the briefing to condemn the attack in Jerusalem last week in which Palestinians killed Hadas Malka, an Israeli policewoman. "We want to condemn the terror attack, the attack that took place against the Israeli police officer that resulted in her death and wounded several others," she said. "We want to extend our sympathies and condolences to the family and the Israelis as well. That brings to mind that we want to reiterate our commitment to stand with Israel against terrorism."
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.”
Kushner will meet Wednesday in Jerusalem with Netanyahu and in Ramallah with Palestinian President Abbas in order to hear from the two how they would like to move forward toward a renewal of the peace process.
Kushner and Greenblatt also want to hear the two leaders' positions on various central issues, like borders, security, refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and others, in order to map out the differences between the sides on each issue. One of the ideas being considered in the White House is to formulate an American document of principals for solving these central issues on the base of renewing peace talks.
Greenblatt and Kushner's meetings with Netanyahu come as land was prepared Tuesday for the construction of a new settlement "Amichai" for those evacuated from the illegal outpost of Amona. In the morning, Netanyahu tweeted that he is the first prime minister in decades to establish a new settlement in the West Bank. He added that "there hasn't been, nor will there be a better government" for the settlement enterprise than that which he currently leads.