White House denies plans for summit with Arab leaders to roll out peace plan

US official refutes Israeli newspaper report that Camp David conference in the works, says envoys will discuss ‘next steps’ with president after visit to Jordan, Israel

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, right, listens as US President Donald Trump, left, announces a revamped North American free trade deal, in the Rose Garden of the White House on October 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, right, listens as US President Donald Trump, left, announces a revamped North American free trade deal, in the Rose Garden of the White House on October 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

A White House official on Wednesday evening denied a report by an Israeli newspaper that the United States was planning a conference with Arab leaders at Camp David, during which US President Donald Trump would be rolling out his plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

“No summit has currently been planned,” the official said in a statement to The Times of Israel.

The report Wednesday by the Yedioth Ahronoth daily said invitations to the conference would be extended by Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, as he visits Israel and the Middle East this week to drum up support for the plan.

The official said the White House’s Middle East team — which includes Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, who is also in the region — would report back to Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the National Security Agency upon returning to the US “to discuss the many potential next steps to expand upon the success of the Bahrain workshop.”

Besides Israel, Kushner and the US peace team are set to travel to Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Yedioth report had claimed that during the purported conference, which it said would be held before the general elections in Israel on September 17, Trump would outline the broad strokes of his plan without making any binding proposals.

US officials have previously stated the plan would not be released until after the Israeli elections.

US President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, right, meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, on June 22, 2018. (Matty Stern/US Embassy Jerusalem/Flash90)

The report also asserted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had helped plan the meeting, which could be a boon to his reelection hopes.

Citing an unnamed US source, Yedioth said Netanyahu is not expected to be invited to Camp David, however, as his presence could deter Arab leaders from attending. It did not say which countries would receive an invite.

After the report about the Camp David summit, the Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry slammed the supposed initiative as an attempt by the White House to strengthen Netanyahu on the eve of the elections, solidify the “normalization” of ties between Israel and Arab states and sideline the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative which called for a two-state solution.

The ministry said the summit showed Trump doesn’t consider the Palestinian leadership to be a partner for peace.

The US has so far kept the political elements of its plan under wraps, while the economic aspects of it were presented last month by Kushner at an American-led conference in Bahrain.

The Palestinians skipped the Bahrain conference and have rejected the peace plan outright, pressing on with their boycott of the administration since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and cut Palestinian aid.

Palestinians say the plan is an attempt to bribe the Palestinian people without addressing their demands for independence.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas listens while US President Donald Trump makes a statement for the press before a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on September 20, 2017, in New York. (AFP/Brendan Smialowski)

Previewing Kushner’s latest trip, a US official said last week the purpose of it was to follow up on the Bahrain workshop.

“We would like to finalize the plan’s economic portion, including to discuss the potential placement of the investments,” the official said, referring to the $50 billion investment packaged for the Palestinians and the wider region proposed by the plan.

The delegation’s trip is to be understood as the conclusion of the first stage of the peace plan’s unveiling, but not yet as the overture to the presentation of the political part, the official stressed.

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

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