WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump’s meetings next week with Israeli and Palestinian leaders at the UN General Assembly will be largely detached from the latest round of conversations a US delegation had with both sides during a trip to the region in August, according to an administration source.
“Achieving peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians remains one of the president’s highest priorities, but the United Nations meetings will primarily focus on other issues and serve as check-in opportunities,” a senior White House official told The Times of Israel on Saturday.
“Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and Dina Powell just came off of a very productive trip to the region and those peace conversations are continuing at a steady pace and will be mostly separate from the United Nations meetings,” said the source.
Trump will meet with both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas next week, as all three will be in New York for the United Nations’ annual confab.
He will meet with the former on Monday and the latter on Wednesday. His speech to the world body is on Tuesday — as is Netanyahu’s.
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster told reporters on Friday the major focus of the meeting will be Iran, while the administration’s efforts to forge a final-status Israeli-Palestinian accord will also be on the agenda.
“While their conversations will be wide-ranging, we expect that Iran’s destabilizing behavior, including its violation of the sovereignty of nations across the Middle East, to be a major focus,” he said.
He later added, “Of course, the president will talk about the prospects for a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, among a broad range of regional issues, with all of the leaders he’s meeting during the week.”
Trump’s forthcoming summit with Netanyahu comes at a sensitive time for both the Iranian front and the peace front.
In the last several months, he has made less-than-subtle indications he plans to decertify Iran as is noncompliance of the 2015 nuclear deal when he is next slated to report to Congress in October, despite International Atomic Energy Agency investigators and America’s own intelligence community saying it is abiding by the pact.
On Thursday, Trump waived wide-ranging economic sanctions against Iran’s oil, trade and financial sectors.
Yet, the US Treasury Department also imposed fresh sanctions on 11 Iranian entities for their alleged support of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Tehran’s ballistic missile program and other programs to conduct cyberattacks and support terrorism.
Last month, the former real estate mogul dispatched a US delegation to the Middle East to try and renew negotiations between the sides. That group included Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, special peace envoy Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell.
No tangible developments occurred, but Palestinians continue to criticize the US team for its refusal to back a two-state solution, a goal that has been central to American foreign policy for decades.
In August, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert responded to these criticisms by saying the Trump administration did not want to “bias” itself by supporting any particular outcome to the conflict.
Trump’s meeting with Abbas will also come shortly after the State Department voiced the administration’s full support for the Taylor Force Act, legislation that would cut US aid to the Palestinian Authority until it ends what critics describe as its long-standing practice of rewarding Palestinians who commit acts of terror against Israelis.