US peace envoys to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt next week for talks
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US peace envoys to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt next week for talks

Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt reportedly seeking input on when to launch Trump peace plan, ideas on resolving Gaza crisis

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (second left) and US President Donald Trump's special envoys Jason Greenblatt (left) and Jared Kushner (center) meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the PMO in Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (second left) and US President Donald Trump's special envoys Jason Greenblatt (left) and Jared Kushner (center) meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the PMO in Jerusalem, June 21, 2017. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Tel Aviv)

White House special adviser Jared Kushner and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt will reportedly travel to Israel and other Middle East countries next week for talks with regional leaders on when to present a Trump administration peace plan, as well as to seek ideas on resolving the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The tour comes amid a nadir in relations between the United States and the Palestinians, with the Palestinian Authority refusing to speak to Washington over the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and the subsequent relocation of the US embassy to the city last month.

Adding to the tensions, Greenblatt is mired in a spat with top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, who earlier this week accused the US envoy of parroting right-wing Israeli views.

Channel 10 television, citing a senior official in Washington, reported Tuesday that Kushner and Greenblatt will visit Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other unspecified countries to discuss the Trump peace plan.

No meetings with Palestinian officials have been scheduled so far. But the US official, who was not named in the TV report, said that if the Palestinians show willingness to meet the pair of US envoys, the American team would be open to a meeting.

Kushner — who is US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law — and Greenblatt are also looking for ideas on solving some of the remaining issues in the peace plan, the official said.

Trump wants to lock down the right timing to present the plan and is interested in feedback from neighboring countries, the official said.

This photo taken on July 31, 2017 shows a Palestinian woman ironing clothes during the few hours of electricity supply they receive every day, at Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
A Palestinian woman ironing clothes during the few hours of electricity supply that Gaza receives each day, at Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, July 31, 2017. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

The official also said that US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s return to Washington early in the week was not to prepare for presenting the peace plan but rather was a routine visit for general talks and to update Kushner and Greenblatt ahead of their trip to the region.

Regarding Gaza, the American official told the television channel that Washington has no clear plan for resolving the humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave and was therefore seeking Israeli and regional ideas.

Gaza faces shortages of electricity and drinkable water. Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on the Strip which they say is designed to prevent the Hamas terror group from importing weapons and other goods that could be used to build military equipment or cross-border tunnels.

The deteriorating living conditions have been cited by security officials as a major factor fueling violent clashes on Israel’s border with the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave.

Israel has said the humanitarian situation will not improve until Hamas returns the bodies of two IDF soldiers and the two civilian captives it holds. It blames Hamas for the dire reality, charging the terror group with diverting millions in aid to purchase weapons, dig tunnels, manufacture rockets and train its military wing, instead of using it for the welfare of the people.

Gaza’s woes have been exacerbated by an ongoing dispute between Hamas and the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, which has cut the salaries it pays to workers in Gaza and imposed various sanctions, including cutting of payments for electricity supplies to the enclave.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians ground to a halt in April 2014 and have been moribund ever since.

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