Aug 24, 2017

Mission improbable: Kushner trek begins U.S.-brokered peace talks

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

As Jared Kushner walked into his most consequential meeting yet, in his Middle East peace mission, the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said: "We know that things are difficult and complicated, but nothing is impossible in the face of good efforts."

Sounds nice. But a conga line of diplomatic grandees have tried this for decades before Kushner came onto the scene. All failed, and the gulf between the Israelis and Palestinians only widened through the Obama years. American efforts were poisoned, among other factors, by unmanageable levels of toxicity between Obama and Israeli PM Bibi Netanyahu.

  • Trump offers a fresh start, and has deputized the task to unconventional aides. Kushner is a New York real estate mogul, and Jason Greenblatt, a pragmatic lawyer at the Trump Organization. Neither man is an ideologue, and nor are they under any illusions about the diplomatic mountains before them.
  • An administration source tells us this trip is the beginning of substantive peace talks, brokered by the U.S.
  • Kushner met earlier today with Netanyahu, and over the course of two previous days met with key Arab leaders, who are invested in Israel and the Palestinians making a deal.
  • Greenblatt has spent months taking the temperature of each side. He's invested a lot of time in understanding what the Palestinians need — to the extent that some conservative pro-Israel activists in the U.S. have expressed displeasure at the respect he and Trump have shown to Abbas.
  • Readout from the White House: "The Palestinian Authority and the U.S. delegation had a productive meeting focused on how to begin substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Both sides agreed to continue with the U.S.-led conversations as the best way to reach a comprehensive peace deal."

Go deeper on this consequential trip, with the NYT's Declan Walsh and Peter Baker.

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