Greenblatt: 'We've spent a lot of time listening, engaging'

Trump team said finally drafting its Middle East peace plan

US officials and analysts quoted by NY Times say proposal to be based on two-state solution, will tackle hot button issues including Jerusalem, settlements

US President Donald Trump listens while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press prior to their meeting at the Palace Hotel in New York City ahead of the United Nations General Assembly on September 18, 2017.(AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)
US President Donald Trump listens while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press prior to their meeting at the Palace Hotel in New York City ahead of the United Nations General Assembly on September 18, 2017.(AFP Photo/Brendan Smialowski)

US President Donald Trump’s administration has begun drafting an Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal based on a two-state solution, officials and analysts quoted by The New York Times said on Saturday.

A senior White House adviser said Trump’s Mideast peace plan will attempt to tackle hot-button issues such as the status of Jerusalem and West Bank settlements.

The framework, which could “take until early next year” to finalize, will not impose a timeline for the negotiations.

“We have spent a lot of time listening to and engaging with the Israelis, Palestinians and key regional leaders over the past few months to help reach an enduring peace deal,” Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt told The Times. “We are not going to put an artificial timeline on the development or presentation of any specific ideas and will also never impose a deal.”

US President Donald Trump’s envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt meets with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 25, 2017. (FLASH90)

“Our goal is to facilitate, not dictate, a lasting peace agreement to improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians and security across the region,” he said.

White House advisers drafting the plan include Greenblatt, Trump’s son-in-law and chief Middle East adviser Jared Kushner, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, the newspaper reported.

The four-member team is reportedly also consulting with State Department officials along with US Consul General in Jerusalem Donald Blome.

The Times report suggested that all sides might need to agree to confidence-building measures to get the process moving. “For Israel, it could include limiting settlement construction to current blocs without taking new land, recommitting to a two-state solution and redesignating a small part of the West Bank to give Palestinians more control,” the report said.

“For the Palestinians,” it went on, this “could include resuming full security cooperation with Israel, holding off seeking further international recognition and ending payments to families of Palestinians imprisoned for terrorist attacks. Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan, could add their own commitments, like overflights by Israeli passenger planes, visas for business people and telecommunications links.”

But a White House official quoted in the report dismissed such specifics as “mere speculation.”

The Trump administration has made clinching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal a priority, while stressing negotiations would take time and refraining from strong criticism of Israeli settlement activity.

Last month, Kushner paid a secret visit to Saudi Arabia, his fourth to the region in under a year, to discuss the peace efforts.

Greenblatt has also traveled to the region numerous times to meet with Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, and Jordanian officials.

Trump has previously distanced himself from the decades-old stance of previous administrations in support of a two-state solution and has said it will be up to the parties to decide on the outcome of a negotiated settlement.

Late last month, a senior White House official issued a lengthy defense of ongoing efforts by the Trump Administration to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

“As President Donald J. Trump has clearly stated, he is personally committed to achieving a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians that would help usher in an era of greater regional peace and prosperity. A few months ago, the president directed his advisers to continue discussions with regional partners about how best to support the peace effort,” the official said.

The official stressed that while “regional talks will play an important role,” Trump “reaffirms that peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties and that the United States will continue working closely with the parties to make progress toward that goal. No deal will be imposed on Israelis and Palestinians. We are committed to facilitating a deal that improves conditions for both parties.”

Israel’s Channel 2 reported on October 22 that the White House was close to revealing a “comprehensive regional arrangement.”

But a senior White House official told The Times of Israel later that there were “no imminent plans” to reveal a talks outline.

“It would be more newsworthy if we weren’t working towards an enduring peace,” the source said. “We are engaged in a productive dialogue with all relevant parties about an enduring peace deal, but are not going to put an artificial deadline on anything. We have no imminent plans beyond continuing our conversations. As we have always said, our job is to facilitate a deal that works for both the Israelis and Palestinians, not to impose anything on them.”

Reports have proliferated in recent months that the administration is putting together a proposal, asking both the Israeli and Palestinians to hold off on any unilateral or inflammatory moves that could endanger any peace effort before it is given a chance to get off the ground.

Then US Secretary of State John Kerry delivers a speech on Middle East peace at the U.S. Department of State on December 28, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images/AFP)

The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians has been comatose since 2014, when a US push championed by secretary of state John Kerry collapsed amid mutual recriminations.

In recordings released last week, Kerry blamed the Israeli government’s resistance to the establishment of a Palestinian state for harming the prospects of a peace deal, while warning Israel could face a future violent Palestinian uprising if there was no progress in peace talks.

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