- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 21, 2017

Jared Kushner, the White House’s chief envoy for Middle East peace, has not spoken to the Palestinians since President Trump roiled peace talks by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but he regards the silent treatment as an expected “cooling off period,” an administration official said.

Mr. Kushner and the administration’s “peace team” are using this quiet period to work on a comprehensive plan that address all the major issues for Israelis and Palestinians, said the official. They expect to unveil the plan next year.

“We anticipated and understand that there will be a temporary cooling off period. But we think, eventually, when the time is right, the relevant parties will recognize that our plan will benefit both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and that the U.S. plays a vital role in facilitating a potential comprehensive peace agreement,” said the official, who didn’t want to be identified discussing the sensitive process.

Mr. Kushner, who is Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and a top White House adviser, and the peace team were involved in the president’s decision on Jerusalem and fully supported it, the official said.

Still, one of the major obstacles to peace has been an agreement on the status of Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967’s Six-Day War and currently serves as the government seat of the Jewish state. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The peace process suffered a huge jolt earlier this month, when Mr. Trump formally recognized the divided city as the capital of Israel and ordered the U.S. Embassy to be relocated from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The bold move kept one of Mr. Trump’s campaign promise, but it sparked protests across the Middle East and was condemned nearly unanimously by nations around the world, including U.S. allies.

At the United Nations, more than 120 counties rebuked Mr. Tump on Thursday and voted in favor of a General Assembly resolution calling on the U.S. withdraw its recognition of the Israeli capital.

The resolution expresses the opinion of the General Assembly and does not compel action by the U.S., which remains committed to the Jerusalem decision.

The uproar was not unexpected by the White House and has not triggered a reassessment.

Mr. Trump’s decision prompted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to refused a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence on a planned trip to Israel.

Egypt’s Coptic Church also cancelled a meeting with Mr. Pence over the Jerusalem issue.

Mr. Pence’s trip had been planned for this week, but it was rescheduled until January because he was needed in the Senate to cast a potentially tie-breaking vote on the tax cut bill.

Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special envoy to the peace process, was shunned by Palestinians during a visit this week to Israel. He met Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for what the administration termed a “check in.”

While in Israel, Mr. Greenblatt was in regular contact with Mr. Kushner.

A 1995 law has required the U.S. Embassy to relocate from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but every president before Mr. Trump signed waivers every six month to postpone the move.

Mr. Trump begrudgingly signed the first waiver on June 1 but refused to do it again in December.


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