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July 11, 2017 10:38 am

Close Ties With Trump Will Boost US Negotiators in Their Quest for Israeli-Palestinian Deal, White House Says

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US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Photo: Screenshot.

President Donald Trump was not in the room when American diplomats sat with Palestinian officials in Jerusalem on Tuesday — but the White House was nonetheless keen to emphasize that the US representatives in attendance were there because they have the president’s ear.

Jason Greenblatt — the president’s international negotiations representative — and US Consul General in Jerusalem Donald Blome were joined at the sit-down by US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman — who would not usually be present at a bilateral meeting with the Palestinian Authority (PA), but is personally and professionally close with Trump.

Reports in the Israeli press claimed that the Palestinians requested the meeting be held in Jerusalem, as they were reluctant to host Friedman in Ramallah, where the PA is headquartered.

The two sides “had an open, cordial, and frank discussion on many topics related to peace negotiations,” a White House official said on Tuesday.

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The official added: “The administration believes that in order to give everyone the best chance to reach an ultimate deal, it is critical to have negotiators that are close with the president and that is why the team includes senior adviser Jared Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman.”

The initial optimism about the prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement following the visits earlier this year of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington, DC has dissipated over the last month. Senior US officials and the Israeli government have strongly criticizing the PA’s continued policy of “martyr payments” to the families of Palestinian terrorists, at a cost of $183 million annually.

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