Tuesday, July 17, 2018
News Roundup

Kushner's Mideast peace push met with Palestinian skepticism

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Presidential adviser Jared Kushner met with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Thursday to try to jump-start moribund peace talks, but after months without progress, the Mideast envoy faces growing skepticism on the Palestinian side.

With no clear vision for peace outlined by the administration and domestic issues distracting President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, expectations for the new peace push are low.

The Palestinians initially welcomed Trump's election, but they have since grown impatient with what they say is a failure by the U.S. president to present a road map for peace. Specifically, they are seeking a halt to Israeli settlement construction on occupied lands and an American commitment to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state as part of a peace deal with Israel.

"If the U.S. team doesn't bring answers to our questions this time, we are going to look into our options because the status quo is not working for our interests," said Ahmad Majdalani, an aide to Abbas.

It was not clear whether Kushner offered any clarity during his three-hour meeting with Abbas. Nabil Abu Rdeneh, Abbas' spokesman, called the meeting "positive," without discussing details, and said the Palestinian leader had reiterated his desire for an American commitment to a Palestinian state.

Trump took office with hopes of striking what he calls the "ultimate deal" between Israelis and Palestinians — a goal that has eluded administrations before his dogged by the same intractable issues. But he has since given few details of his vision for peace, managing to frustrate both sides.

Kushner, Trump's chief Middle East adviser and his son-in-law, met Netanyahu in Tel Aviv earlier Thursday before traveling to Ramallah to meet with Abbas. Kushner is expected to return to the United States today.

Before his meeting with Kushner, Netanyahu spoke optimistically of the road ahead.

"We have a lot of things to talk about, how to advance peace, stability and security in our region, prosperity too," Netanyahu said, standing alongside Kushner. "I think that all of them are within our reach."

A statement from Netanyahu's office after the meeting said the talks were "substantive" but gave no details on progress or further steps.

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