Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett met Wednesday night with US President Donald Trump’s peace envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, following reports earlier in the day that the US would soon announce a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Greenblatt arrived in Jerusalem Sunday for what a senior White House official described as “an interim visit as talks continue about potential next steps. President Trump has made it clear that working toward achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians is a top priority for him.”
Bennett has in the past expressed disappointment with the new US administration, saying Trump’s election had not brought about the boom in West Bank settlement construction many had expected.
Writing on Twitter, Bennett described the Wednesday meeting as “successful” and said they had discussed “a number of regional issues.”
Also on Twitter, Greenblatt said the parley was a “good meeting,” adding that it was “helpful to hear all Israeli perspectives.”
— Jason D. Greenblatt (@jdgreenblatt45) July 12, 2017
On Tuesday, Greenblatt, Friedman and US Consul General Donald Blum met in Jerusalem with a Palestinian team, which included chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, PA intelligence chief Majid Faraj and the head of the Palestinian Investment Fund, Mohammed Mustafa. On Wednesday, before the meeting with Bennett, they were hosted at the Prime Minister’s Office by Benjamin Netanyahu.
The meeting with the prime minister came hours after the pan-Arabic Al-Hayat daily reported that the US intends to facilitate talks between Israel and the Palestinians, which Trump will “soon” be calling for.
The daily quoted Greenblatt as telling a senior Palestinian official on Tuesday that Israel had agreed to “slow down” settlement construction during formal negotiations between Palestinians and Israel.
The Prime Minister’s Office denied the report, saying, “There is no such commitment” to freeze settlement building.
Settlements have long been one of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the Palestinians and much of the international community saying that their expansion threatens the territorial continuity of a future Palestinian state.
In the past the Palestinians had insisted on a settlement freeze as a precondition for starting talks, though they have eased up on that demand since Trump entered office.
A spokesman for the Jewish Home party said last week that proposed legislation to make it harder to divide Jerusalem under a future peace deal was intended to strengthen Netanyahu’s position vis-a-vis the new administration of US President Donald Trump.
Raphael Ahren and Dov Lieber contributed to this report.