Netanyahu assures Kushner Israel’s ‘little’ political ‘event’ won’t affect ties

Netanyahu assures Kushner Israel’s ‘little’ political ‘event’ won’t affect ties

Trump’s Mideast team visits Jerusalem to promote US peace plan, but timing of its release again unclear after new Israeli elections called

(L-R) Brian Hook, US special representative for Iran, Trump adviser Jared Kushner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Israel's US envoy Ron Dermer, at a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, in Jerusalem, on May 30, 2019. (Ziv Sokolov/US Embassy Jerusalem)
(L-R) Brian Hook, US special representative for Iran, Trump adviser Jared Kushner, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Israel's US envoy Ron Dermer, at a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, in Jerusalem, on May 30, 2019. (Ziv Sokolov/US Embassy Jerusalem)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday met US President Donald Trump’s top Mideast adviser Jared Kushner in his Jerusalem office, and told him that Israel-US ties will not be affected by Wednesday night’s political “event” that saw the premier dissolve the Knesset and call a second election within months after failing to form a coalition.

“Even though we had a little event last night – that’s not going to stop us. We’re going to continue working together. We had a great, productive meeting which reaffirms that the alliance… has never been stronger,” Netanyahu said, according to a recording released by the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

“I have to say that I am tremendously encouraged by everything that I hear about how the United States, under President Trump, is working to bring allies together in this region against common challenges, but also to seize common opportunities,” he added.

Kushner, accompanied by Trump’s Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, arrived in Jerusalem last night after stops in Morocco and Jordan. They are on a trip to lay the groundwork for the economic section of the administration’s peace plan.

The Trump administration purposefully set its peace plan launch for after coalition negotiations, when Israel would have a functioning government, and it isn’t clear if the date will change now that the country is again going to the polls.

“I came with greetings from President Trump for you and all the people of Israel,” Kushner told Netanyahu. “This was my first visit to Israel since the president recognized the Golan Heights, which was a very important announcement. The security of Israel is something that’s critical to the relationship between America and Israel and also very important to the president in his heart, and we appreciate all your efforts to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.”

Kushner and Greenblatt met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman on Wednesday as the administration tries to rally support for its Bahrain conference next month. The official Petra news agency said the two parties “discussed regional developments, especially efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”

The king restated his commitment to the two-state solution, with the formation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, a position that appears to be at odds with Trump’s still undisclosed “deal of the century.”

Jordan, a key US ally, has not yet said whether it will attend the June 25-26 meeting in Manama, capital of the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain. The Palestinians have said they will not attend the summit, rejecting it as heavily biased in favor of Israel.

Kushner, who arrived in the Jordanian capital Amman from Morocco, has said the Bahrain conference will focus on the economic foundations of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The conference will not include core political issues, such as Palestinian statehood.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (center) meets White House adviser Jared Kushner (4th from left) and US special envoy Jason Greenblatt, (3rd from left) in Amman on May 29, 2019. (Petra News)

Reliant on American political and military support, it will be difficult for Jordan to reject the summit invitation. But with most of its people of Palestinian descent and the kingdom bordering the West Bank, it will also be difficult to embrace a plan that does not include a Palestinian state. Any perception that Jordan is selling out the interests of the Palestinians would be deeply unpopular and possibly even destabilizing.

Greenblatt and Kushner met with Morocco’s King Mohammed VI on Tuesday to discuss Morocco’s support for the peace conference. Moroccan officials declined to comment on Kushner’s visit.

The White House has billed the Bahrain conference as “a pivotal opportunity… to share ideas, discuss strategies and galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement.”

But Palestinian political leaders say they will boycott it and Palestinian business leaders said they won’t go either, raising further questions about the plan’s viability.

For now, the Americans are pinning their hopes on wealthy Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, hoping their regional influence and deep pockets can make the conference a success.

The Saudis, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, along with host Bahrain, have accepted invitations to attend. This has fueled Palestinian jitters that they will come under heavy pressure to accept large sums of money in exchange for freezing or abandoning aspirations for an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

In accepting the invitation to the Bahrain conference, Gulf countries have been careful to express solidarity with the Palestinians but have also signaled flexibility.

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