JERUSALEM: US President Donald Trump's special envoy Jason Greenblatt has met Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, as the White House put out feelers on reviving Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
The US State Department described the yesterday's visit by Trump's special representative for international negotiations as an orientation trip to enable him to get a sense of how "we can create a climate that leads to eventual peace negotiations". "I hope that we can do some good things together," Netanyahu told Greenblatt at the start of their meeting, according to a video posted by the premier's office.
Greenblatt replied: "I think we're gonna do great things together." He is due to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday. In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters Greenblatt would be doing "a lot of listening, discussing the views of the leadership in the region, getting their perspectives on the current situation and how progress towards eventual peace can be made". "I characterise it as the first of what will become many visits to the region," Toner added. He said that the issue of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank was likely to be discussed, although he did not expect immediate movement on the issue. "We see them as a challenge that needs to be addressed at some point," Toner said.
Trump on Friday invited Abbas "to visit the White House soon to discuss ways to resume the (Palestinian-Israeli) political process," in their first telephone conversation since Trump's inauguration in January. Greenblatt advised Trump on the Arab-Israeli conflict during the presidential election campaign. Trump received Netanyahu at the White House in mid-February and broke with decades of US policy by saying he was not bound to a two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israeli daily Haaretz yesterday quoted Palestinian Authority officials as saying "the Palestinians will make it clear they are interested in the Trump administration presenting its own peace plan". The peace process has been deadlocked since April 2014 following the collapse of indirect negotiations led by then US secretary of state John Kerry. Since Trump came to power, having pledged to lead the most pro-Israel US administration in history, Palestinian officials have been quietly alarmed by their lack of access to senior White House figures.