WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump’s point men on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have diligently listened to its key players for 10 months, studying the region’s storied past, working to earn the trust of both sides and leveraging the serendipitous alignment of interests that has recently formed between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors.Their listening tour continues, but the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, as well as his special representative for international negotiations, Jason Greenblatt, have in their short time in diplomatic service formed some ideas of their own. They’re beginning to formalize them and to sketch out a path forward based on those ideas that will bring both sides to the table, where they acknowledge compromises will have to be made, politicians will have to show some bravery and the disagreements that until now have been expressed behind closed doors will be made public.Axios.com and The New York Times reported last week that the White House “peace team” had entered a new phase in its effort.Administration officials have long said that Kushner and Greenblatt would eventually turn their talk into action, but a formal process– in which proposals are finalized, put to paper, exchanged and shared with the media– is still months away. No major developments are expected for some time. Nevertheless, Kushner and Greenblatt are indeed no longer simply listening: They are at a point where they are coming up with an American policy on the conflict.
Even once that formal drafting comes, the administration will not rush the parties into talks, having learned of the fallout from hasty negotiations in the past.“We have spent a lot of time listening to and engaging with the Israelis, Palestinians and key regional leaders over the past few months to help reach an enduring peace deal,” Greenblatt told The Jerusalem Post. “We are not going to put an artificial timeline on the development or presentation of any specific ideas and will also never impose a deal. Our goal is to facilitate, not dictate, a lasting peace agreement to improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians and security across the region.”Kushner and Greenblatt are aware that events out of their control may impact the process in unexpected ways. While Israel’s quiet alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states may provide them with diplomatic tools unavailable to previous administrations, crisis and the growing prospect of war with Iran and its proxies may negate the benefits and render a serious peace effort untenable.Both men hope for an indigenous peace and believe that a true settlement to the conflict cannot be imposed from without. But they have now seen decades of evidence proving that, left to their own devices, the parties will grow further apart – not closer together. And they’ve learned that, in those few moments in history when peace was closest in reach, American leaders were always present, prodding the parties to take the leap. They acknowledge that failure is a distinct possibility, but feel dutybound to try, encouraged by a president who views an Israeli-Palestinian settlement as the ultimate deal.And their team rejects the aggressive tactics of some of their predecessors, but ultimately agrees with the notion that US leadership in this region can only go so far.“You know the old saying – ‘You can lead a horse to water, you can’t make it drink,’” former US secretary of state John Kerry said in the final days of his time in office.“We did a lot of leading to a lot of water.”
PM Netanyahu Meets with Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt (credit: GPO)