US envoy, ambassador meet PA officials
PA refuses to host Ambassador Friedman in Ramallah. Meeting takes place in Jerusalem.
Representatives of PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas met Tuesday with US envoy Jason Greenblatt and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman.
“They had an open, cordial, and frank discussion on many topics related to peace negotiations,” a senior White House official told The Times of Israel. “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 PA had objected to the inclusion of Ambassador Friedman in the meeting because of his support for Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.
A White House official confirmed to Haaretz that Friedman would take part in Tuesday’s talks.
“Greenblatt and Friedman are meeting in Israel and the Palestinian negotiation team agreed to the request to meet them together with General Consul Blome,” the official said.
The inclusion of the US Ambassador to Israel in talks between the US and PA officials represents a significant, if symbolic, shift in American policy.
During both the Obama and Bush administrations, the PA was given a de facto independent status in negotiations, with the US Ambassador to Israel included from US-PA talks.
President Trump, however, altered that 17-year old policy following his May trip to Israel and his meeting with Abbas in Bethlehem.
According to the Haaretz report, while Trump had wanted Friedman to take part in the meeting, Abbas had objected. The American delegation acquiesced, but President Trump insisted that in the future, Friedman would be a central player in talks with the PA, alongside both Greenblatt and Kushner.
Tuesday’s meeting was held in Jerusalem instead of Ramallah because the PA was unwilling to host Ambassador Friedman there.