Trump Reportedly Developing New Middle East Regional Strategy

Approach would include greater involvement by Arab states to foster a new peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, according to New York Times report.

Jordanian King Abdullah II, left, meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on February 2, 2017.
YOUSEF ALLAN/AFP

WASHINGTON - The Trump administration is beginning to devise a regional strategy for Middle East peace, which would include greater involvement by Arab states, leading in turn to a new peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

According to a report published on Thursday in the New York Times, this strategy appeals both to President Trump and to his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who has been tasked with promoting an Israeli-Arab peace agreement.

The report mentioned that Kushner has recently met with a number of Arab officials in Washington, D.C., including the influential ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, Yousef al-Otaiba. At the same time, Trump has spoken over the phone with a number of Arab leaders, most prominently Saudi King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, and according the report, these conversations "shaped the thinking" of the new president with regards to the Middle East peace process.

Last week, Trump met in Washington with Jordanian King Abdullah, who became the first leader from the Middle East – and the second in the world – to spend time face-to-face with the new president. Abdullah warned Trump in the meeting about the consequences of moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and of expanding Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Hours after that meeting, the White House put out a statement that included positive language on settlements from the point of view of the Israeli government (declaring that "existing settlements" were not "an impediment to peace"), but also asked the Israeli government not to expand or build new settlements.

The report noted that Trump had "decided to slow down the embassy move" even before his meeting with the Jordanian King. Indeed, after promising numerous times during the campaign to move the embassy to Jerusalem, Trump has adopted a more cautious tone since entering the White House, saying instead that "it was too early" to discuss the idea, and that his administration hasn't yet reached any decision on the matter. While the Israeli government has publicly called on Trump to fulfill his promise, Israeli officials – according the report – made it clear in private conversations that this was not a top priority for the current Israeli government.