Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday warmly greeted US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser, Jared Kushner, in Jerusalem.
They were joined by US Ambassador David Friedman and US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt for a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office.
Kushner has been tasked by the president with advancing peace efforts, and Wednesday’s meetings — he was heading next to see Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — marked his first direct foray in the region, after he accompanied Trump here last month.
“This is an opportunity to pursue our common goals of security, prosperity and peace, and Jared I welcome you here in that spirit, I know of your efforts and the president’s efforts and I look forward to working with you to reach these common goals,” Netanyahu told Kushner as the two men shook hands before the talks.
Netanyahu went on to say that Trump’s visit to Israel last month was a “historic trip, with fantastic warmth, and made an indelible impression on the people of Israel.”
Kushner responded by telling Netanyahu that Trump sends “his best regards and it is an honor to be here.”
Channel 2 political analyst Udi Segal reported that Greenblatt and Kushner had come to bring a message of a general desire for peace that the television reporter described as a “Miss Universe wish for world peace,” with absolutely no concrete proposals, details, goals or even a plan to get Netanyahu and Abbas in the same room.
Well-placed sources have also told The Times of Israel that there are no imminent plans for a Netanyahu-Abbas summit.
US officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, have said that they are pushing Abbas to end incitement to violence against Israel, and to stop paying stipends to terrorists and their families. At the same time, it is understood that the US does not want to impose preconditions that would prevent a resumption of substantive peace efforts.
Trump and Netanyahu held a series of warm encounters during the US president’s visit here last month, and the administration has been markedly milder in its statements about Israeli settlement expansion than the Obama administration. But while Netanyahu has been repeatedly critical of Abbas, including in a tweetstorm on Saturday night, Trump has declared that he believes the PA president is “ready to reach for peace.”
Following the meeting with Netanyahu, Kushner and Greenblatt were to set off for talks with Abbas in his Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank. Trump has tasked Kushner with the ambitious goal of laying the groundwork for what he calls the “ultimate deal.” Deep divisions remain, however, clouding the chances of a significant breakthrough.
This month marked the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War — a seminal event in which Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians claim these areas for a future independent state.
Greenblatt has already made several visits to the region. Kushner will fly back to the US Wednesday night whereas Greenblatt is scheduled to stay for another day.
Immediately after he arrived in Israel on Wednesday, Kushner visited the family of Staff Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka, 23, who was killed in a terror attack outside the Old City of Jerusalem last week.
Kushner was joined by US Ambassador David Friedman on the visit. Kushner told member’s of Malka’s family that Trump asked him to personally convey the condolences of the American people.
Malka was killed in an assault by three Palestinian attackers near the Old City on Friday evening. The three men were shot dead by Israeli forces.
It was the latest incident in a wave of Palestinian attacks that began in September 2015. Since then, Palestinian assailants have killed 43 Israelis, two visiting Americans, a Palestinian and a British student, mainly in stabbing attacks. Some 250 Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire during the same period, most identified as attackers by Israel.