White House aides to visit region: Mideast peace 'difficult, but possible'

The White House official said the president is optimistic that a peace agreement can be reached.

Jared Kushner  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Jared Kushner
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump will send three envoys to the region in the coming days, hoping that talks which ended a crisis on the Temple Mount last month have provided an opportunity for broader dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Two of his aides leading the peace effort – Jason Greenblatt and Jared Kushner – will be joined on this trip by Dina Powell, an Egyptian-American who is the US deputy national security adviser for strategy.
They will meet with leadership from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and report back to the president, a White House official said.
Trump “believes that the restoration of calm and the stabilized situation in Jerusalem after the recent crisis on the Temple Mount/ Haram al-Sharif has created an opportunity to continue discussions and the pursuit of peace that began early in his administration,” the official said.
“While the regional talks will play an important role, the president reaffirms that peace between Israelis and Palestinians can only be negotiated directly between the two parties and that the United States will continue working closely with the parties to make progress toward that goal,” added the official.
The official said that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are actively consulting with the delegation. A Palestinian official said on Thursday that the US team is expected in roughly two weeks.
Kushner and Greenblatt have already visited the region multiple times. They hope to bring Israelis and Palestinians around the same table, but Palestinian officials in recent days have expressed concern with the Trump administration’s role, openly questioning whether it is too politically aligned with the Israeli government to play a constructive role. The White House official said the president is optimistic that a peace agreement can be reached.
“Trump has previously noted that achieving an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will be difficult but he remains optimistic that peace is possible,” the official said. “To enhance the chances for peace, all parties need to engage in creating an environment conducive to peacemaking while affording the negotiators and facilitators the time and space they need to reach a deal.”