Trump sends Greenblatt to Israel to defuse Temple Mount crisis
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Trump sends Greenblatt to Israel to defuse Temple Mount crisis

Condemning Halamish terror attack, White House official says US 'committed to finding a resolution to the ongoing security issues'

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt (l) meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)
Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Negotiations, Jason Greenblatt (l) meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, March 13, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

WASHINGTON — After days of silence on an escalating crisis surrounding the Temple Mount, US President Donald Trump dispatched his special envoy for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, to the region Sunday night to try and end the bloodshed and tension. Greenblatt is expected in Israel on Monday.

A senior administration official told The Times of Israel that Greenblatt was on his way to “support efforts to reduce tensions in the region.”

Greenblatt, who has been one of Trump’s point men in his attempt to broker an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord, will “be closely coordinating” with Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner, the National Security Council, the State Department and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.

“President Trump and his administration are closely following unfolding events in the region,” the senior administration official said.

Kushner has been leading administration efforts to calm the crisis, CNN reported earlier Sunday, quoting a US official saying Kushner was in contact with the Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians.

Over the last week, a crisis erupted after Israel installed metal detectors to the entrances to the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City. That move came after three Arab Israelis shot dead two Israeli police officers just outside the compound on July 14 with guns they had smuggled into the site.

File: US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit in Amman, March 28, 2017 (Wafa/Thair Ghnaim)
File: US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt meets Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit in Amman, March 28, 2017 (Wafa/Thair Ghnaim)

The decision to instal the metal detector gates triggered widespread protests throughout East Jerusalem and the West Bank, with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announcing Friday that his government would “freeze contact on all levels” with Israel until the metal detectors were removed.

Israel’s Security Cabinet discussed during an emergency meeting Sunday night ways to reduce tensions surrounding the holy site. That included a review of the continued use of the metal detectors.

A previous meeting by the cabinet on Thursday night ended with a decision to leave the detectors in place, reportedly against the advice of the IDF and the Shin Bet security services.

The Trump administration official also addressed a terror attack that took place Friday night in the West Bank settlement of Halamish, in which a Palestinian assailant broke into a home and killed three members of the Salomon family gathered for a Shabbat meal.

“The United States utterly condemns the recent terrorist violence including the horrific attack Friday night that killed three people at their Shabbat dinner table in Halamish and sends condolences to the families of the innocent victims,” the official said. “We are engaged in discussions with the relevant parties and are committed to finding a resolution to the ongoing security issues.”

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