Kushner to lead Trump team on Middle East peace trip

US President Donald Trump with his son-in-law Jared Kushner in this file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 13 August 2017
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Kushner to lead Trump team on Middle East peace trip

AMMAN: Now that the situation in East Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa has calmed down somewhat, the Trump administration is planning to restart Arab-Israeli peace talks, even though there is little interest in the US-led effort at the present time.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is embroiled in a struggle to survive politically amid a likely corruption indictment, while the Palestinian leadership is focused more on who will succeed Mahmoud Abbas as president and on the upcoming meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC).
US President Donald Trump is sending a high-level delegation to Israel, Palestine and Arab states in a new peace push. The delegation will be headed by the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and is expected to visit Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt.
Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell is expected to be part of the delegation. If she is, it will be the first time that a US delegation to the region will include an Arab American.
Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Abbas, welcomed the impending visit. “We are committed to peace based on the two-state solution,” he said. “We informed the American administration that we are ready for peace on this basis. And we are waiting now for the American delegation to work together toward peace.”
The statement from the White House announcing the upcoming visit repeated the traditional US position, stating that the “US president reaffirms that peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties and that the United States will continue working closely with the parties to make progress towards that goal.”
It also said that Trump “believes that the restoration of calm and the stabilized situation in Jerusalem after the recent crisis ... has created an opportunity to continue discussions and the pursuit of peace that began early in his administration.”
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi told Arab News that the Palestinian leadership is much more concerned with the decision by the Fatah central committee to call for a meeting of the PNC. “We are not that hopeful for such visits, but right now our focus is on the upcoming meeting,” she said.
The last time that the Palestinian Parliament in exile met was in 1996, when a session attended by then-US President Bill Clinton in Gaza amended all clauses that contradict the Oslo Accords.
Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian foreign minister, was equally ambivalent. “I don’t know anything about the visit, but if it is related to the peace process, I don’t expect anything,” he told Arab News.
Aaron David Miller, who was a member of the Clinton and Obama peace delegations to the region, posted a pessimistic remark on his Twitter account. “Hope goal of Kushner’s August peace mission isn’t reviving negotiations. Gaps on core issues are Grand Canyon like,” he wrote.
While there are obvious grounds for pessimism, the probable inclusion of Dina Powell does offer some hope of progress.
The daughter of an Egyptian Army captain, Powell was born in Cairo and moved to the US when she was 4 years old.
Powell is one of the few that actually has government experience, having served as assistant to the chief of White House personnel during George W. Bush’s presidency. She was later appointed assistant secretary of state for education and culture affairs, and traveled to the Middle East with Condoleezza Rice, the former US secretary of state, who has nothing but praise for Powell.
“Dina is one of the most capable people I know. She is creative and committed,” Rice told Politico in January. “She did crucial work for me at the State Department where we were trying to be more effective in outreach to the Muslim world and to empower women. Because of her own background as a woman of Egyptian descent she was a cultural ambassador — absolutely an essential member of my team.”


Palestinians protest US visa denial to experts to come to UN

Updated 31 min 55 sec ago
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Palestinians protest US visa denial to experts to come to UN

UNITED NATIONS: The Palestinians are protesting the US refusal to grant visas to six experts from the prime minister’s office to come to the United Nations to present a report on Palestinian implementation of UN goals for 2030.
The Palestinian UN ambassador, Riyad Mansour, told two reporters Wednesday that Israel “complicated the matter” by refusing to allow several of the experts to travel from Ramallah to Jerusalem where the US Consulate is located to check on their visas.
“We condemn this action,” Mansour said.
He said it violates the UN agreement with the United States as host country of the world organization, which requires the US to facilitate UN work and allow delegates to attend UN meetings.
Mansour said he plans to send a letter of protest to the General Assembly committee dealing with host country relations.
The US Mission said it was looking into the complaint. Israel’s UN Mission did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Since the experts couldn’t attend the high-level meeting taking place this week at UN headquarters, Mansour said he and his team “were able to improvise” and presented the Palestinian report on Tuesday. He said it “received a long applause from the participants.”
Mansour said he started the presentation by “condemning the fact that they were denied visas, and the work of our delegation was obstructed in violation of the headquarters agreement.”
The high-level meeting is hearing what nearly 50 countries are doing to implement the UN goals to combat poverty, promote development and gender equality, and preserve the environment by 2030.
The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in November 2012 to upgrade the Palestinians’ status from a UN observer to a non-voting observer state, enabling it to make a voluntary report.
Mansour said that although the Palestinians are trying their best to fulfill the different UN goals by 2030, “the overriding issue influencing our effort to accomplish these objectives is the negative effect of occupation” by Israel.
In spite of that, he said, “we almost have 100 percent of education for our kids, our illiteracy is close to zero, there’s improvement in the medical field, but there’s need and challenges.”
Mansour said the Palestinians need more hospitals, more schools in east Jerusalem and elsewhere, and more housing.
“In terms of food security, we don’t have people who are starving although 1.2 million of the population in the Gaza Strip rely on food program assistance and help from UNRWA,” which is facing a funding crisis after major US cuts.