Anxious for US President Donald Trump’s visit to Israel and the West Bank to take place in an atmosphere of relative conciliation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reportedly preparing a package of economic incentives for the Palestinians that he will unveil on Sunday, the day before Trump’s arrival.
Netanyahu plans to present the measures to his cabinet for approval on Sunday, Israel’s Channel 2 news reported on Wednesday evening.
In similar cooperative vein, the report said, Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon held talks in Jerusalem earlier Wednesday with his Palestinian Authority counterpart Shukri Bishara.
Among the measures they discussed were the opening of the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan 24 hours a day, progress on industrial zones near Jenin and Tarkumiya (west of Hebron), and more efficient arrangements for handling Israel’s transfer to the PA of taxes it collects on PA exports. A key concern raised by Bishara, the report said, was the high level of unemployment among well-qualified Palestinian graduates.
Trump’s Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt will meet with Israel and Palestinian officials on Thursday to help finalize some of the specifics of Trump’s visit, which will include an unprecedented visit by a serving US president to the Western Wall, a speech at the Israel Museum, talks with Netanyahu, and a visit to Bethlehem where Trump will also meet with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Trump said on Wednesday that during his Israel visit, “I’ll reaffirm our unbreakable alliance with the Jewish state.” In Saudi Arabia, his first stop on the trip, he said, he would meet with leaders of the Islamic world and “challenge them” to “fight hatred and extremism” because “we have to stop radical Islamic terrorism.”
According to the Palestinian Authority’s official Wafa news agency, PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Greenblatt met on Wednesday with PA officials ahead of Trump’s visit to Bethlehem on May 23.
Channel 2 said Trump’s busy schedule would leave “no window” for a tripartite meeting with Netanyahu and Abbas, but this report was not confirmed.
Trump’s visit next week comes amid efforts by the US president to renew long-dormant peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The US president, who has referred to an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement as “the ultimate deal,” said earlier this month, when hosting Abbas, that he would be willing to play whatever role was needed to strike an accord.
The new US Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, told the Israel Hayom daily in an interview published Wednesday that he does not believe Trump will arrive with any specific proposals to help jumpstart the peace process.
“I am fairly confident that the president will not come to Israel with any particular plan or road map or with any specifics on peace,” Friedman said, while adding that “I think he has made it clear that what he really wants to see at the beginning is for the parties to meet with each other without preconditions and to begin a discussion that would hopefully lead to peace.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.