Binyamin Netanyahu. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Netanyahu says peace is ‘within our reach’ 

Palestinians have openly expressed scepticism over the prospect of reviving talks
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared on Thursday that peace was “within our reach” as a White House delegation to the Middle East struggled to reassure Palestinian leaders that President Donald Trump would deliver on his promise of an “ultimate” deal.

Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law and envoy to the region, met Mr Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in Ramallah on his third visit to the region since the administration took office.

“We have a lot of things to talk about: how to advance peace, stability, and security in our region — prosperity too,” Mr Netanyahu said before the two men’s meeting. “And I think all of them are within our reach.”

Washington is championing a regional approach to resolve the long-running conflict that would bind Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Sunni states closer to Israel in exchange for Israeli recognition of some form of Palestinian autonomy in the lands it occupies. The last round of direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks collapsed in 2014.

Mr Kushner, standing alongside Mr Netanyahu, whom he has known since his childhood, said: “The president is committed to achieving a solution here that will bring prosperity and peace to all the people in this area.”

Palestinians have expressed scepticism over the prospect of reviving talks. If Washington’s latest effort fails, some Palestinians have floated the idea of resuming their push for international recognition of a Palestinian state or of dissolving the Palestinian Authority, the quasi-government set up as a result of the Oslo Accords.

Unlike the Bush and Obama administrations, the Trump White House has refrained from committing to the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, which has angered and confused Palestinians.

“We are not going to state what the outcome has to be,” Heather Nauert, a state department spokeswoman, told reporters in Washington late on Wednesday. “It has to be workable to both sides.”

Mr Abbas earlier this week said that despite more than 20 visits to the region by US officials since Mr Trump’s election, he had little idea what their plans for peace negotiations were. “I don’t even know how they are dealing with us because his entire administration is in chaos,” Mr Abbas told a delegation of leftwing Israeli MPs visiting Ramallah on Sunday in some of the bluntest remarks yet by a Palestinian official about the Trump administration’s peacemaking efforts.

Palestinian officials, speaking privately, say that Mr Kushner’s team has little to show for their efforts, even on the limited economic gestures the White House has pursued to help the Palestinian economy.

Gershon Baskin, founder and co-chairman of Ipcri, an Israeli-Palestinian regional initiative, said:

“[Mr] Netanyahu has no intention of giving the Palestinians anything political, and the Palestinians won’t accept anything from Netanyahu that isn’t political. The Palestinians are determined to have Netanyahu say he is committed to two states on ’67 lines, and I can’t see him saying that.”


Originally published in the Financial Times