Kushner arrives amid hazy hopes for effort to jump start peace talks
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US official: 'There are likely to be a lot of ups and downs on the way to peace'

Kushner arrives amid hazy hopes for effort to jump start peace talks

High-level US delegation visiting Jerusalem, Ramallah for meetings with leaders, but Palestinian officials say Washington has yet to show clarity on path forward

US presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)
US presidential adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on June 21, 2017 (PA press office)

A high level US delegation including senior White House adviser Jared Kushner arrived in Israel late Wednesday, ahead of meetings with Palestinian and Israeli leaders aimed at looking for way to jumpstart peace talks.

The visit by senior White House aide Jared Kushner, who is also US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell comes as Palestinian figures have become more vocal in expressing disappointment in Washington’s unclear approach to peace efforts so far.

The American delegation arrived Wednesday night and is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah starting on Thursday.

A US diplomatic source told reporters in Jerusalem on Wednesday night that Trump wanted discussions “to focus on the transition to substantive… peace talks, the situation in Gaza, including how to ease the humanitarian crisis there, and the economic steps that can be taken.”

The president acknowledges that “there are likely to be a lot of ups and downs on the way to peace and making a peace deal will take time,” but he “remains optimistic that progress toward a deal can be achieved,” the source said.

The delegation arrived in Israel after several meetings with other leaders around the Middle East on the topic, including in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. No breakthroughs are expected.

King Abdullah II, right, receives White House adviser, Jared Kushner, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Amman, Jordan. (The Royal Hashemite Court Twitter via AP)
King Abdullah II, right, receives White House adviser, Jared Kushner, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Amman, Jordan. (The Royal Hashemite Court Twitter via AP)

Amman said in a statement that King Abdullah II, Kushner and Greenblatt stressed the need to start “serious and effective peace negotiations” on the “basis of the two-state solution,” during a meeting Tuesday.

Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, poses for a photo with White House adviser Jared Kushner, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (MENA via AP)
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, poses for a photo with White House adviser Jared Kushner, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017. (MENA via AP)

Abbas reportedly told Israeli left wing politicians recently that despite more than 20 meetings with US officials he was still unclear what Trump’s strategy was.

“I don’t even know how they are dealing with us, because his entire administration is in chaos,” Abbas told a delegation of dovish Israeli lawmakers visiting Ramallah.

Ahmed Majdalani, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation which Abbas heads, told AFP they were demanding “a clear and frank answer on the position of the administration on the two-state solution and settlements”.

“Without a clear American commitment to the two-state solution and stopping settlements and ending the occupation, we don’t expect much from this administration.”

On Tuesday, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said that over two decades of peace negotiations with Israelis had produced “nothing,” and called on the international community to unilaterally establish a state of Palestine.

“We convinced the international community that the best way to reach a state is through negotiations. But after 24 years of negotiations, we have not gotten anything,” Maliki said in a meeting with British Secretary of State for the Middle East and North Africa Alistair Burt in Ramallah.

Omar al-Ghoul, a Palestinian political analyst, said there was little optimism from the Palestinian leadership.

“The level of optimism from the Palestinian leadership and people towards the Trump administration is zero,” he said.

“There is not a glimmer of hope the administration will change its politics and positions.”

Netanyahu has welcomed the upcoming visit by the three top US officials.

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (second left) and US President Donald Trump's special envoys Jared Kushner (left) and Jason Greenblatt (second right) meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (second left) and US President Donald Trump’s special envoys Jared Kushner (left) and Jason Greenblatt (second right) meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

A White House official told The Times of Israel earlier this month that Trump believes an “opportunity” has opened up to advance his peace initiative.

“He believes that the restoration of calm and the stabilized situation in Jerusalem after the recent crisis on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif has created an opportunity to continue discussions and the pursuit of peace that began early in his administration,” the official said.

Recently off-the-record remarks by Kushner — made to a casual gathering of congressional interns — were leaked to the media in which he said there may not be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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