Palestinians Tamp Down Expectations for Early Progress Toward Talks

YERUSHALAYIM -
Greenblatt Kushner peace Palestinians, peace process
U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt (L) meets with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, in March. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

President Donald Trump’s envoys, Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, may be eager to resume efforts to revive the peace process when they arrive in Israel this week, but the Palestinians are apparently less excited.

Palestinian Authority officials are cautioning the Trump administration that even indirect, so-called “proximity” talks would be ill-advised unless or until a clear agenda can be agreed on beforehand, according to The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

There was an indication that the White House does not, in fact, expect rapid progress.

“Forging an historic peace agreement will take time, and to the extent that there is progress, there are likely to be many visits,” a White House official said.

“Even while working behind the scenes to advance direct, bilateral negotiations between the parties, we will continue to communicate with the relevant constituencies throughout the region to remind all that peace is possible and to demonstrate that many positive benefits would arise from successful negotiations,” he added.

U.S. officials were also quoted as saying that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will occasionally visit Washington for consultations, which are to be “spearheaded” by Greenblatt and Kushner. Evidently, they, not Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, will be heading the effort, unlike the Obama administration, in which Secretary of State John Kerry did the heavy Mideast lifting.

On the other hand, the former U.S. ambassador to Israel under Obama, Dan Shapiro, counseled speed on Monday.

“I think they should move quickly. I believe the president is at the point of his maximum leverage right now,” Shapiro said. “It’s very difficult for any party in the region, after those early positive interactions, to say no to him. He has established friendly relations; each side wants to do more to deepen those positive relations with him.”

Shapiro predicted that the Israelis and Palestinians will feel compelled to respond with some degree of cooperation to American proposals.

“They may say ‘yes, but.’ They may say ‘yes’ with reservations. But I think they [Kushner and Greenblatt] have a real opportunity to move quickly to capitalize on the leverage the president has attained,” he said.

Kushner and Greenblatt will meet with Presidents Netanyahu and Abbas separately in the coming days, to discuss “their priorities and potential next steps,” a senior White House official told The Times of Israel on Monday morning.