Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump at Ben Gurion airport on May 23, 2017.
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Israel on Sunday welcomed the US announcement that a top-tier delegation will come to the region in the near future to advance the diplomatic process, while the PLO Executive Committee called on the Trump administration to endorse the two-state solution and halt settlement construction.
The White House announced over the weekend that President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner, US special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt and Dina Powell, the US deputy national security adviser for strategy, will travel to the region in the coming days and meet with leaders in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Israel will “welcome, as always,” Trump’s envoys Kushner and Greenblatt when they come to the region to try to “ignite” the diplomatic process, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
PM Netanyahu Meets with Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt (credit: GPO)
Before the meeting, Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi told reporters that while there is an American “hope” to renew Israeli-Palestinian talks “this is very much dependent” on the Palestinians.
“Since April 2014 they have refused to return to discussions with Israel,” Hanegbi said, but added that the US scored a significant breakthrough when Greenblatt was here a month ago and brokered a historic deal regarding water that will be sold to the Palestinians from the Red Sea-Dead Sea canal project.
“This might be an encouraging sign for a continuation of a dialogue, and the Americans – through the important delegation that will come shortly – will try to renew the process,” he said.
The PLO Executive Committee, meanwhile, issued a statement Saturday night that “urged the American administration to back the principle of two states along the 1967 borders and ask the occupation authority Israel to halt colonial settlement activities.”
The Executive Committee, led by PLO chairman and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, is the PLO’s top body and convenes intermittently to discuss the Palestinian issue.
Unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, Trump has not unequivocally backed a twostate solution, nor has he condemned or called settlements illegal.
Asked during a February press conference alongside Netanyahu in Washington whether he preferred a two-state or onestate solution to the Israeli-Palestinians conflict, Trump responded: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like.”
During that same press conference, he urged Netanyahu to “hold back on settlements for a little bit” – a far cry from the Obama administration’s intermittent calls for a total settlement freeze.
“Our meeting concluded that we need to hear answers from the Americans on these two issues,” PLO Executive Committee member Abu Yousif said in a phone interview. “There is little hope for renewing the peace talks without the Trump administration endorsing the two-state solution and stating its opposition to settlements.”
The exact date of the American delegation’s arrival in Israel and the Palestinian territories is unknown, but Palestinian officials including Abu Yousif expect them to arrive before the end of the month.
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