Jared Kushner Arrives In Jerusalem To Talk Peace

Aug 23, 2017
Originally published on August 23, 2017 6:39 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump's son-in-law is on his third attempt at getting peace talks restarted between Israelis and Palestinians. Jared Kushner met with Arab leaders in the region, and now he's in Jerusalem for a day of talks tomorrow. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports on the expectations of what this trip could achieve.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: A lot happened since Jared Kushner was last in the Mideast two months ago. There was deadly violence connected to tensions at a religious site in Jerusalem. But that violence has died down, and the White House says the president thinks it's the right time to restart talks that have been on hold for years. Palestinian officials are losing patience with talks about talks. Mohammed Ishtayeh, a confidant of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, says this will be the 14th meeting between the Trump administration and Palestinian leadership.

MOHAMMED ISHTAYEH: We would like to know, what is the endgame? From our side, it's very simple.

ESTRIN: The Palestinians have a clear agenda for Kushner's visit. Number one, they want to know whether the Trump administration wants to see the creation of a Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel, the solution previous administrations have championed for years. Number two, they want to know whether the Trump administration will press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to halt construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank where the Palestinians want to build their own country.

ISHTAYEH: Is the Trump administration in a position to really deliver Netanyahu on freezing settlements or not, because what is the point of really talking about peace process with the continuation of construction of settlements? In order for us to engage seriously in serious negotiations, we need clear position from the American administration.

ESTRIN: Meanwhile, Netanyahu's focus is elsewhere right now. Today he was in Russia to meet with Vladimir Putin and discuss Iranian forces' presence in Syria. Worry over Iran is something that Israel has in common with Sunni Arab states in the Gulf. Kushner met with leaders from some of those countries this week. He's been looking to see if they could improve relations with Israel as a way to encourage Israeli-Palestinian peace. This is David Makovsky, a member of the Obama administration's peace negotiations team.

DAVID MAKOVSKY: Maybe it should go like this - every step Israel takes towards the Palestinians, you Sunni states take towards Israel. Parallel movement, I think, is the way to go.

ESTRIN: Today Kushner met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo. In a statement, the Egyptian president's office said Kushner's team stressed that its visit in the Mideast aims to develop a specific vision for resuming peace talks so, quote, "real and tangible progress can be achieved." Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro doesn't think the Trump administration should keep promising peace talks at this time because Abbas and Netanyahu are both fighting for their political survival. Peace talks can be a gamble for a politician. Talks can fail or require making concessions. But Shapiro also doesn't think Kushner should disengage.

DAN SHAPIRO: I hope they'll take a third attack, which would be to focus on taking steps that manage the conflict and keep the two-state solution alive for when better leadership circumstances emerge in the future.

ESTRIN: The White House issued a statement this afternoon saying there are likely to be a lot of ups and downs on the way to peace and making a peace deal will take time. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

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