JERUSALEM: President Donald Trump’s Mideast team met Friday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel as part of a visit with regional leaders to discuss the US plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
The meeting comes shortly before the Trump administration is expected to unveil its Middle East peace plan. Trump has promised to pursue the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians. But the Palestinians are shunning the Americans since Trump’s policy shift recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and his moving the embassy there from Tel Aviv. Trump said at the time he is not taking a position on the boundaries of Israeli sovereignty that are to be determined in negotiations.
The White House issued a statement after Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner along with Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday afternoon in Jerusalem.
“They discussed the means by which the humanitarian situation in Gaza can be alleviated, while maintaining Israel’s security. They further discussed the continued commitment of the Trump Administration and Israel to advance peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” it said. The statement gave no additional details.
Kushner has been leading efforts to broker a peace deal between the two sides. US officials have said the long-awaited peace plan is near completion and should be released this summer following several postponements. The Trump team met this week with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and other regional leaders.
Netanyahu issued a statement after the hours-long meeting in which he “expressed his gratitude for President Trump’s support for Israel.”
No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them.
The Palestinians were angered by Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US Embassy there and have since rejected the US as peace broker. They see the decision as siding with Israel on the most sensitive issue in the conflict, arguing it disqualifies the US from its traditional role.
Details of the plan have not been released, but Palestinians fear they will get little more than a symbolic foothold in Jerusalem.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, home to key sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, in the 1967 war from Jordan. Palestinians claim the territory for its future capital. Israel claims the entire city as its eternal capital.
The fate of the city is an emotional issue at the heart of the conflict.