White House Mideast team holds talks with Jordanian king

Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt kicked off a Middle East tour on Tuesday, meeting with Jordan’s king to lay the groundwork for an expected Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

By: AP

President Donald Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner and White House Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, a key U.S. ally.

A White House statement said the talks focused on U.S.-Jordan cooperation, the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the U.S. efforts “to “facilitate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”

U.S. officials have said their peace plan is near completion and could be released this summer. But it faces resistance from the Palestinians, who have cut off ties since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital last December and moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to the holy city last month. The Palestinians accuse the U.S. of siding with Israel.

Kushner’s team also plans stops in Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. No talks with the Palestinians are scheduled, though the Americans have left the door open to meeting with them.

The Palestinians seek all of Judea and Samaria, portions of Jerusalem and all of the Gaza Strip for an independent state. Israel captured the territories in the 1967 Mideast war. It completely withdrew from Gaza in 2005, and the Hamas terror group seized control of the territory two years later.

The U.S. has been trying to rally support for projects to rescue Gaza’s economy, which has been weakened by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, while continuing to isolate Hamas. The U.S., Israel and Western allies shun Hamas as a terrorist group.

Details of the plan have not been released, but Palestinians fear they will get little more than a symbolic foothold in Jerusalem. They also fear that aid to Gaza will help strengthen Hamas’ control over the territory.

Jordan serving as the custodian of major holy sites in Jerusalem, including those in Jerusalem’s walled Old City, which Israel annexed in 1967 and is home to the Jewish people’s holiest site.

Abdullah has also rejected Trump’s moves in Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refuses to relinquish any part of the city.

Netanyahu traveled to Amman on Monday for a surprise meeting with Abdullah, telling the king that Israel remains committed to the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem.

Abdullah told Netanyahu that the fate of Jerusalem must be determined in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and that a solution should be based on establishing a Palestinian state, with a portion of Jerusalem as its capital.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he will reject any plan being floated by the Trump team, arguing that the U.S. has forfeited its role as mediator because of decisions seen as pro-Israel.