(photo credit: Courtesy)
Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, is scheduled to arrive in Israel in some two weeks to begin talks with the government on construction in the settlements, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump agreed at their meeting last month in Washington to set up a mechanism to come to understandings between Jerusalem and Washington regarding guidelines for construction in the settlements.Greenblatt is leading that mechanism.
The settlement construction issue was a continuous point of friction during the eight years of the Obama presidency, and the idea now is to draw up guidelines on where construction will and will not be permitted so as to remove the potential for this issue to become an irritant in US-Israeli ties.
At a press conference the two leaders held in Washington, Trump said that he would like to see Israel “hold back on settlements for a little bit. We’ll work something out.”
Greenblatt’s upcoming visit is considered part of the effort to “work something out.”
In a related development, the Prime Minister’s Office strongly denied a report Sunday in Haaretz claiming that, due to the political crisis over the Amona outpost, Netanyahu backtracked from efforts to bring the Zionist Union into the government last year as part of a dramatic regional peace initiative that would have culminated in a regional summit in Cairo.
According to the PMO, the reason cited for the failure to implement a regional peace deal was “mistaken from the foundation. This had nothing to do with Amona.”
“Netanyahu is interested in advancing a regional initiative,” the statement added.
According to the Haaretz report, Netanyahu sent Zionist Union head Isaac Herzog a document six months ago regarding the initiation of a regional peace initiative that included a willingness for territorial compromise and a curb on settlement construction.
During Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Bayit Yehudi ministers asked Netanyahu if the reports are true. Netanyahu responded by calling it an attempt to drag him into the battles in the Labor Party, and when pressed called the reports inaccurate.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said the reports prove Netanyahu cannot be trusted as a political partner.
“Netanyahu had many proposals, so I was very careful and checked it with the Arab countries,” Herzog told Army Radio. “But Netanyahu, like Netanyahu, ran away. When he had a chance, Netanyahu blinked. I don’t know if it was about Amona or his criminal investigations. It is Israel that is paying the price.”Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.