Monday 16 July 2018

Palestinians impatient with Trump as Kushner seeks to kick-start talks

White House adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah yesterday. Photo: Getty Images
White House adviser Jared Kushner meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah yesterday. Photo: Getty Images

Josef Federman

White House adviser Jared Kushner has kicked off a renewed effort by the Trump administration to restart peace talks in the Middle East amid signs of growing Palestinian impatience with a lack of progress.

Mr Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law, held separate talks with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders yesterday, seeking to breathe life into a White House effort that appears to have got off to a slow start.

That effort has been further complicated by domestic troubles for Mr Trump, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

After initially welcoming the election of Mr Trump, the Palestinians have expressed increasing frustration with what they say is his failure to offer a clear vision for peace.

Specifically, they are seeking a halt in Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands and an American commitment to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.

"The US envoys come empty-handed," said Mahmoud Alloul, a top official in Abbas' Fatah movement. "That's why we will ask them whether they have answers about the basic issues. We will not deal with marginal issues."

Mr Kushner met Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem before heading to the West Bank city of Ramallah to meet the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the evening.

Mr Kushner is expected to return to the US today.

He said Mr Trump was "very committed to achieving a solution here that will be able to bring prosperity and peace to all people in this area".

Mr Trump took office with hopes of forging what he calls the "ultimate deal" between Israelis and Palestinians. But he has since given few details on his vision for peace, managing to frustrate both sides.

On the campaign trail, Mr Trump took a staunchly pro-Israel line. He promised to relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem - a move welcomed by Israel and opposed by the Palestinians - and refused to endorse the Palestinian goal of independence.

His platform played down the significance of Israeli settlements and he surrounded himself with a group of advisers with deep ties to the settlement movement, including Mr Kushner.

But since taking office, Mr Trump decided not to move the embassy and has urged Israel to restrain settlement construction. Still, he has not come out in support of the two-state solution, a position that was supported by most of the international community and by his Republican and Democratic predecessors.

Disappointed Palestinian officials privately gripe that Mr Trump's team has begun to support Israeli positions and ignore their concerns.

The atmosphere has been further complicated by troubles for all three leaders. Mr Trump's administration has become preoccupied with a series of domestic crises, most recently the fallout from the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Mr Netanyahu is facing a growing corruption investigation and Mr Abbas is deeply unpopular at home and stuck in a bitter rivalry with the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Irish Independent

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