President Donald Trump is dispatching a team led by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to Israel in pursuit of a Middle East peace deal.
Trump’s sending the delegation to try to take advantage of a period of relative calm following violent clashes last month over Israeli security arrangements at the Jerusalem shrine known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, said a senior administration official who requested anonymity to discuss the negotiations.
Kushner will be joined by Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategy Dina Powell on the trip, which will include meetings with leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The U.S. president wants to set an ambitious agenda for the talks, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, efforts to combat extremism, and addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the official said.
Trump has said he is hopeful his son-in-law can help restart a peace process that has made little headway over the past 25 years. He made addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict an early priority, hosting leaders from both sides at the White House during the opening months of his presidency and visiting Israel during his first international trip as president.
During the visit of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in May, Trump said a peace agreement “is frankly, maybe not as difficult as people have thought over the years." He told reporters that negotiators would get a deal done, even while acknowledging that he had heard that “perhaps the toughest deal to make is the deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
“Let’s see if we can prove them wrong, OK?” Trump continued.
But his early forays into diplomacy have also run into some hiccups. He suggested during a state visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February that the U.S. wouldn’t necessarily press for a two-state solution, a seeming reversal of long-standing U.S. policy that reflects a key Palestinian demand.
Kushner is a longtime friend of the Israeli prime minister, who is facing a slew of domestic legal troubles. Netanyahu’s former chief of staff, Ari Harow, has signed a deal to cooperate with prosecutors there, and police have confirmed they’re investigating the prime minister as a suspect in a bribery, fraud, and breach of trust case. Netanyahu has blasted the media and critics over the controversy and accused opponents of attempting a “governmental coup.”
The last round of U.S.-led talks, a pet project of former Secretary of State John Kerry, broke down three years ago amid mutual recriminations.