Peace talks take back seat on Trump’s UN agenda

In his first address to the UN President Donald Trump is expected to focus more on his showdown with North Korea, Iran’s nuclear program and the broad threat of violent religious extremism.

September 18, 2017 08:49
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at Ben Gurion airport on May 23, 2017. (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)


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NEW YORK – The Trump administration’s push for peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians will not feature prominently this week at the UN General Assembly, where the president, on his first trip there, will prioritize more pressing national security concerns, officials told The Jerusalem Post.

In his first address to the international body – often the subject of his administration’s criticism – President Donald Trump is expected to focus more on his showdown with North Korea, Iran’s nuclear program and the broad threat of violent religious extremism.

But to his Middle East peace team, the negotiations process continues on its long trajectory, next to which the UN assembly is merely a fixed week on the calendar.

“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,” one White House official told the Post.

“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.”

While the administration’s peace team is not expected to make tangible progress in New York, Trump himself will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas around his speech on Tuesday.

And Trump’s national security adviser, H. R. McMaster, says he will likely raise his hopes for peace with virtually every foreign leader he meets during the week.

“Of course, the president will talk about the prospects for lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, among a broad range of regional issues, with really all of the leaders he’s meeting during the week,” McMaster told reporters last week.

But the actual work of getting both parties around the same table – a serious negotiation well under way, officials say – will not intensify alongside these meetings. And US officials are not anticipating any revelatory gestures from either Netanyahu or Abbas in their speeches.
Palestinians and Israelis expect little after Trump/Netanyahu meeting (credit: REUTERS)

One official said the administration expects both leaders to continue speaking to their political bases – a practice that, sooner rather than later, will have to end for progress to be made.

Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has been the administration’s attack dog on the international stage in recent months, and has ardently defended Israel in UN bodies the US believes are systemically biased against the Jewish state.

In large part due to this bias, the White House has threatened to cut significant levels of funding to several UN agencies.

Trump may repeat those threats in his Tuesday speech, Haley told reporters on Friday.

“I personally think he slaps the right people, he hugs the right people and he comes out with the US being very strong in the end,” she said.

Asked specifically whether Trump addresses US funding to the UN in his speech, Haley responded: “You’ll have to wait and see.”


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