Trump and new Saudi heir vow to pursue Mideast peace
Call comes with Jared Kushner in region for talks aimed at restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday spoke by telephone with the newly appointed Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia to congratulate him on his recent elevation as next in line for the Saudi throne.
The phone call came after Saudi King Salman earlier appointed his 31-year-old son as crown prince, placing him firmly as first-in-line to the throne.
Trump and Salman committed to “close cooperation to advance our shared goals of security, stability, and prosperity across the Middle East and beyond,” the White House said in a statement.
The two men also “discussed efforts to achieve a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” as well as prioritizing the severance of all support for terrorism.
“They discussed ways to further deepen economic cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia,” and resolving the ongoing dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the statement said.
The phone call came as Trump’s son-in-law and special adviser Jared Kushner met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 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 headed next to see Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — marked his first direct foray in the region, after he accompanied Trump here last month.
The White House said in a statement about Kushner’s talks with Netanyahu that “the meeting was productive and the two sides reaffirmed their commitment to advancing President Trump’s goal of a genuine and lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians that enhances stability in the region,” while also “acknowledging the critical role Israel plays in the security of the region.”
The White House said that Kushner and Greenblatt were to return to Washington, where they will brief Trump, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
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 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.
A senior Palestinian official said that a preparatory meeting with Greenblatt on Tuesday had not gone well and became tense over the payments. He said the Americans “are buying” Netanyahu’s complaints about Palestinian incitement, and that Greenblatt was insisting on an end to the welfare payments.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing a closed diplomatic meeting, said the Palestinians had rebuffed Greenblatt’s pressure and demanded an Israeli settlement freeze. He said a Palestinian delegation would head to Washington next month for further talks.
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 had been. 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.”
On Tuesday, the Trump administration again said that Israel’s settlement expansion does not help the peace process.
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, at a media briefing, spoke about the development of more Israeli settlements, in response to a reporter’s inquiry.
Nauert said, “The president has been clear all along — his position on this has not changed — and that is that we see settlements as something that does not help the peace process.”
Her comment came the same day Netanyahu announced that ground had been broken for the construction of the first Israeli West Bank settlement in 25 years.
The new settlement, to be known as Amichai, is to accommodate residents of the illegal Amona outpost, which was evacuated in February in line with court orders, because it was built on private Palestinian land.