August 11, 2017
President Trump is sending three top aides to the Middle East in an effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, a senior White House official said Friday.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell will travel to the region.
The trio will meet with leaders from Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt. Dates for the trip have not been announced.
Discussions will “focus on the path to substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, combatting extremism, the situation in Gaza, including how to ease the humanitarian crisis there,” the official said.
The trip follows a June visit to the Middle East by Kushner and Greenblatt that exposed some major roadblocks standing in the way of a peace agreement.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas was reportedly furious with Kushner after a “tense” meeting, in which the White House aide relayed Israeli demands that the authority stop payment to terrorists and their families.
The spat stoked speculation that Trump might abandon the Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. U.S. officials denied those reports at the time.
Trump’s decision to send the aides back to the region is a sign he is still interested in seeking a deal.
“President Trump has previously noted that achieving an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement will be difficult but he remains optimistic that peace is possible,” the White House official said.
“To enhance the chances for peace, all parties need to engage in creating an environment conducive to peace-making while affording the negotiators and facilitators the time and space they need to reach a deal.”
The aides could also try to make progress toward ending a heated dispute between Qatar and its Gulf Arab neighbors.