US officials discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace with Gulf leaders

Trump Mideast envoys traveling the region to drum up support for administration’s long-awaited proposal

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, on February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)
White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner at a conference on Peace and Security in the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland, on February 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

US officials Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt have met with leaders in the United Arab Emirates and Oman as part of a regional tour to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Kushner, US President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, and Greenblatt, the US Middle East peace envoy, met with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on Monday, the US embassy in the UAE said.

“They discussed increasing cooperation between the United States and the United Arab Emirates, and the Trump administration’s efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” it said a statement. “Additionally, they discussed ways to improve the entire region through economic investment.”

The US officials addressed the same issues in talks with Oman’s Sultan Qaboos on Monday.

Brian Hook, the US special representative for Iran, also attended the meetings.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (2nd from right) meets at his Jerusalem office with the ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer (right); White House adviser Jared Kushner (center); US Ambassador David Friedman (second left); and special envoy Jason Greenblatt, on June 22, 2018. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Earlier this month Kushner briefed countries at a conference in Warsaw on Washington’s plans for a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians to be formally presented after Israeli elections in April.

Kushner said in a Monday interview that the US has tried to figure out a “realistic… and fair solution” to the issue.

“We’ve focused on the following four principles that we’ve used in which to create the plan,” he said in an interview aired on UAE-based Sky News Arabia.

“First principle is to have freedom. We want people to be able to have the freedom of opportunity, the freedom of religion, the freedom of worship, regardless of your faith.

“Respect. We want all people to have dignity and to respect each other. Opportunity. We want people to be able to better their lives and not allow their grandfather’s conflict to hijack their children’s future. And the final one is security.”

Top officials from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain — none of which recognize Israel — attended the Warsaw conference alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the talks a “turning point.”

But the Palestinians rejected the meeting as an “American conspiracy” with aims to “normalize” Israeli control of the West Bank.

The US recognition of contested Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, along with the cancellation of hundreds of millions of dollars in American aid to the Palestinians, have prompted the Palestinians to cut off ties with the White House and preemptively reject the peace plan.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, meets US President Donald Trump In the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017. (Fadi Arouri, Xinhua Pool via AP)

They say that all signs indicate the plan will fall far short of their longstanding goal of establishing an independent Palestinian state in the Israeli-controlled West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Even if it disappoints the Palestinians, the plan could also run into Israeli opposition. Netanyahu’s governing coalition is composed of religious and nationalist hardliners who oppose serious concessions to the Palestinians. With Netanyahu seeking reelection, and pledging to form a similar coalition if he wins, it is unlikely that he would make any concessions, particularly before the April 9 vote.

On Monday, Netanyahu’s Likud and the New Right party sparred over the framework revealed by Kushner, with both parties warning that the other would allow the establishment of a Palestinian state under the Trump plan.

According to a diplomat who spoke with the Associated Press last week, Kushner has said that despite the odds the plan faces, “privately, people are much more flexible.”

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