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Trump to launch peace push within a month – Arab report

US president planning series of incremental deals over a ‘limited period of time,’ leading up to a final agreement, al-Hayat says

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

US President Donald Trump delivers a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)
US President Donald Trump delivers a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Menahem Kahana)

In the coming month, US President Donald Trump will announce a new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative aimed at securing a series of deals ahead of a final status arrangement, the pan-Arabic daily al-Hayat reported on Wednesday.

Citing a Trump administration official who was not identified by name, the report said details of the plan are still being hammered out but that it is based on “the launch of a political process for a limited period of time during which there will be separate negotiations for final-status issues.”

Trump plans to make individual deals on the final status issues leading up to a final peace agreement, the official told the London-based paper.

The report came a day after Trump wrapped up a visit to the region, first in Saudi Arabia and then in Israel. In addition to meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he traveled to Bethlehem in the West Bank for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Tuesday, a senior White House official who gave a press briefing aboard Air Force One en route from Israel to Italy told reporters that the US was working on building strong relationships in the Middle East between Israel and its Arab neighbors that will build momentum for a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. On Wednesday Trump met with Pope Francis in the Vatican.

The official said that “the first step [toward peace]… is to bring relationships that are warm and strong privately and bring them more public and also set forth a common set of principles that everyone wants to abide by.”

While not providing details on what these common principles may be, the official said efforts should be “quiet and discreet.”

US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)
US President Donald Trump, left, and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas shake hands during a joint press conference at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (AFP/MANDEL NGAN)

Trump has repeatedly said he was looking to broker the “ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians and was convinced he could do so. Trump has tasked his son-in-law Jared Kushner and former real estate lawyer Jason Greenblatt with charting a course forward. Still, White House officials had downplayed the prospects for a breakthrough on his trip, saying it was important to manage ambitions as they wade into terrain that has tripped up more-experienced diplomats.

In a speech Tuesday at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, the president heaped praise on Israel while calling on both sides to make compromises toward peace. He urged them to put aside the “pain and disagreements of the past” and declared that both sides were ready to move forward.

The president notably avoided all of the thorny issues that have stymied peace efforts for decades. He did not mention Israeli settlements, the status of Jerusalem or even whether the US would continue to insist on a two-state solution giving the Palestinians sovereign territory.

In a meeting with opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog on Tuesday, Kushner said Washington intended to move fast to advance a renewal of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, a spokesman for Herzog said, with Greenblatt reportedly set to return next week so as not to leave a “diplomatic vacuum.”

Talks between Israelis and Palestinians have been in limbo since April 2014 when US-sponsored negotiations ground to a halt.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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