US President Donald Trump’s Mideast negotiating team held talks in Tel Aviv and Ramallah on Thursday, trying to revive the moribund diplomatic process, even as it pointedly refrained from any public commitment to a two-state solution.
Before meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, said that the president “is very committed to achieving a solution here that will be able to bring prosperity and peace to all people in the area.”
He did not, however, give any public indication that Washington believed that solution needed to be a two-state one.
The Trump administration is resisting pressure to clarify its stance on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, amid warnings from Palestinian leaders that their patience is running thin.
When asked at a press briefing why the US was hesitant to commit to the two-state solution, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert replied on Wednesday: “We are not going to state what the outcome has to be – it has to be workable to both sides.
And I think, really, that’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it.”
A State Department official told The Jerusalem Post
that Nauert’s use of the word “bias” was unprepared, and that she meant to say the administration would support whatever outcome the parties would jointly agree upon.
“It’s been many, many decades, as you well know, that the parties have not been able to come to any kind of good agreement and sustainable solution to this,” Nauert added. “So we leave it up to them to be able to work that through.”
Washington’s hesitance to come out clearly in favor of a two-state solution is one of the issues that is causing frustration in Ramallah.
Nevertheless, the official PA news agency Wafa quoted Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as telling Kushner and the delegation that “we know that the issues are difficult and complicated, but nothing is impossible in the face of [well-placed] efforts.”
Wafa quoted Abbas as saying, “We are highly appreciative of President Trump’s efforts... [Trump] has repeated since the beginning that he will work to achieve a historic peace deal.”
Notably, the Wafa report of Abbas’s meeting with the White House delegation did not make mention of the two-state solution or the settlements.
Kushner arrived on Wednesday evening from meetings in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt accompanied by US Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt. They met for three hours with Netanyahu, before going to Ramallah.
Kushner told both Netanyahu and Abbas that Trump appreciates their efforts.
Neither the Israelis nor the Americans provided any detail about the discussion Netanyahu had with the delegation, which was also attended by Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, and David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel.
After the meeting, the Prime Minister’s Office issued only a brief statement saying the talks were “constructive and substantive,” and that Netanyahu was looking forward to continuing those discussions in the weeks ahead.
At the beginning of the meeting, Kushner said that the US-Israel relationship is “stronger than ever.”
Trump, in an Instagram message after the meeting, echoed the sentiment, writing to Netanyahu that “there is no doubt that our relationship with you is stronger than ever.”
He signed off with the words “See you soon,” a possible reference to an expected meeting with Netanyahu next month when they are scheduled to address the UN General Assembly on the same day. Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office, however, said that nothing has “yet been set” regarding a possible meeting.
On the Palestinian side, Fatah Vice Chairman Mahmoud al-Aloul told a group of journalists and writers in the Gaza Strip via video conference that the Trump team is “adopting Israeli claims and then coming to us to discuss them,” Wafa reported.
Aloul said the White House would be better served by focusing on making peace rather than discussing Palestinian prisoners’ salaries and incitement.
Over the past two weeks, the Palestinian leadership has called on the Trump administration to back the two-state solution and ask Israel to stop building settlements.
“If the administration cannot take these positions, then there will be no peace process, no negotiations and no American patronage,” Abbas confidant Ahmad Majdalani said on Wednesday.
Some Palestinian officials have said that if the Trump administration does not back two states and ask Israel to stop building settlements, the Palestinians will once again turn to international organizations.