Palestinians seek answers from US envoy Kushner
By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH
Aug. 22, 2017
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The Palestinians are hoping for some clear answers on key disputes with Israel from U.S. envoy Jared Kushner when he returns to the region this week, a top Palestinian official said Tuesday.
The Palestinians have shown increasing signs of impatience in recent days, saying that after more than six months in office, President Donald Trump still has not laid out a vision for Mideast peace.
Ahmad Majdalani, a top aide to President Mahmoud Abbas, said the Palestinians asked Kushner for the U.S. position on two key issues — Israeli settlements and support for Palestinian independence — during his last visit to the region in June.
"Since then we didn't hear from them," he said Tuesday.
"We hope they bring clear answers this time," he added. "If not, then the peace process cannot be resumed because we cannot negotiate from scratch."
The Palestinians are seeking a freeze in Israeli settlement construction and a U.S. endorsement of Palestinian independence as part of a "two-state solution" with Israel.
The Palestinians say that continued Israeli construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — captured territories sought by the Palestinians for their state — undermines their dream of independence.
Kushner, who is Trump's son-in-law, is expected to meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials on Thursday as he tries to restart talks. The last round broke down over three years ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office had no comment on the upcoming visit, and there was no immediate reaction from a Kushner spokesman.
Trump has cast the elusive pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians as the "ultimate deal." But he has given few indications of how he plans to reach it.
With his administration still coping with the fallout from his handling of the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Netanyahu facing a growing police investigation into possible bribery and corruption, the odds of any major breakthroughs on this trip seem low.
Trump has not explicitly endorsed the two-state solution, the cornerstone of U.S. policy for nearly two decades and the international community's preferred outcome. He has urged Israel to show restraint in settlement construction, but not demanded a freeze, disappointing the Palestinians.
Trump also has backed away from a campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel had welcomed the promise, while the Palestinians strongly opposed it.
Israel claims east Jerusalem, home to sensitive religious sites, as part of its capital. The Palestinians seek east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as the capital of their future state.