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US envoy said to advise Israelis to cooperate with Trump on peace

David Friedman tells Jerusalem officials to avoid confrontation with president over his efforts to renew talks, Haaretz reports

David Friedman is sworn in as the US ambassador to Israel during a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House in Washington, DC, on March 29, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)
David Friedman is sworn in as the US ambassador to Israel during a ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, next to the White House in Washington, DC, on March 29, 2017. (AFP/Mandel Ngan)

Washington’s newly appointed Ambassador to Israel David Friedman recently told Israeli diplomats that US President Donald Trump is intent on reaching a peace deal, and urged them to cooperate and aid the president in his endeavor, Haaretz reported Friday.

An Israeli government source told the newspaper that Friedman claimed Trump’s enthusiasm for relaunching the peace process presented a great opportunity for the Jewish state, and advised officials to avoid confrontation with the president over the matter.

However, Friedman has also advised Trump that the prospects of achieving peace at present are low, two people who spoke with the envoy told Haaretz.

“People whose opinion he values have told him it will be very difficult, perhaps even impossible, but he has so far not changed his mind,” one recounted.

Trump will visit Israel May 22-23 as part of his first foreign trip. He will also stop in Saudi Arabia and the Vatican, as well as Brussels and Sicily for NATO and G7 summits.

US President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC on February 15, 2017. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
US President Donald Trump (right) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (left) shake hands during a joint press conference at the White House in Washington, DC, on February 15, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

During the Israel leg of his trip, Trump will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin, as well as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Trump is expected to use the visit to advance his goal of mediating negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Jerusalem has reacted with great skepticism to the prospect of new peace talks.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked told a crowd in Washington, DC, on Wednesday that Trump’s peace push was ill-fated, while suggesting failed talks could spark a surge in terror attacks.

Israel's Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC on May 10, 2017 (screen capture)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC, on May 10, 2017 (screen capture)

PM Netanyahu has appeared reluctant to pursue new talks, but has been careful not to be seen as an obstructionist. This week he declared his support for Trump’s efforts.

He also reportedly postponed a meeting of a planning committee which approves new settlement construction — scheduled for this week — in a bid to avoid a potential spat with Trump on the eve of his scheduled visit.

Abbas met with President Vladimir Putin in Russia on Thursday, and said that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be “impossible” without the participation of Moscow in the peace process.

Abbas, according to a report in the official PA news site Wafa, also reiterated that he is still willing to participate in a three-way summit with Netanyahu in Moscow.

 

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