Kushner’s Israel trip signals seriousness about peace talks


President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner made a 15-hour visit to Israel on Wednesday, during which he met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

The visit, coming just a month after Mr Kushner accompanied Mr Trump on his first Middle East tour, is being interpreted in Jerusalem as a signal of the administration’s seriousness in tackling the Israel-Palestine conflict.

While few concrete details are coming out of the talks between Israel and the US on the Palestinian issue, conflicting accounts emerged this week from senior Israeli ministers.

“There’s nothing [going on] behind the scenes,” Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in a radio interview on Monday.

“Trump’s representatives are still in the learning stages and are trying to understand the positions. They want to understand what the parties are proposing,” Mr Lieberman added.

Meanwhile, in a speech at the Herzliya Conference on Tuesday, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said: “Something is happening… The American administration feels it can reach an agreement, possibly because of its good ties with the Israeli government, which allow Trump to have greater influence than in the Obama era.”

Behind the scenes, there is American pressure on Israel to make more concessions to the Palestinians, mainly on economic and construction issues.

The Trump administration has suggested that Israel change the designation of some areas of Area C in the West Bank, where Israel has total administrative control, to Area B, where the Palestinians have civilian control.

This will allow the Palestinians to build in these areas without having to deal with the labyrinthine planning process overseen by the Israeli “civil authority”.

Plans recently authorised by Israel for the Palestinians to build around 6,000 new homes on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Kalkilya were frozen this week by the Israeli government following protests by Jewish settler groups.


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