US President Donald Trump will send later this week his top aides to Jerusalem and Ramallah to resume efforts to possibly revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, announced a White House official on Sunday.
Jared Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law and husband of his daughter Ivanka Trump, and Jason Greenblatt, a top national security aide, will arrive in the Middle East on Wednesday.
The visit follows Trump’s discussions last month with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Behind-the-scenes conversations have been taking place since the Trump trip, the White House official said.
“President Trump has made it clear that working towards achieving a lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians is a top priority for him. He strongly believes that peace is possible,” the White House official said.
Kushner and Greenblatt will have meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah to hear directly from the Israeli and Palestinian leadership “about their priorities and potential next steps,” the official said.
“Excited to be traveling back to Israel and the Pal. Territories to continue the discussion about the possibility of peace”, Greenblatt tweeted on Sunday night.
Kushner and Greenblatt are working with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster on the Middle East issue.
“It is important to remember that forging a historic peace agreement will take time and to the extent that there is progress, there are likely to be many visits by both Mr. Kushner and Mr. Greenblatt, sometimes together and sometimes separately, to the region and possibly many trips by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to Washington D.C. or other locations as they pursue substantive talks,” the official added.
Tensions between Israelis and Palestinians were high over the weekend however after Israel revoked on Sunday the permits of 200,000 Palestinians to enter Israel that were approved for the holy month of Ramadan. The decision was taken after two near simultaneous Palestinian attacks on police that killed a young female officer near Jerusalem’s Old City.
Israeli defense body COGAT, posted the announcement on its Arabic language Facebook page.
Earlier, Netanyahu said that preparations are underway to destroy the homes of the Palestinian attackers and tighten security at the entrance to the Old City, home to sensitive holy sites sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians.
Three Palestinian attackers armed with an automatic weapon and knives assaulted officers on duty near the Old City in two locations Friday evening.
Police said Staff Sgt. Maj. Hadas Malka, 23, was rushing to respond to that initial attack nearby when a Palestinian assaulted her with a knife. Malka wrestled with the man for several seconds as he stabbed her multiple times before other officers saw what was happening and opened fire, killing him, police said. She later died of her wounds in hospital.
The ISIS terrorist group took responsibility for the attacks but two Palestinian militant groups, Hamas and People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine quickly retorted the three attackers were their members and accused ISIS of trying to undermine their efforts.
Earlier, at his weekly cabinet meeting, Netanyahu lashed out at Abbas for not condemning the attack.
Israel had previously announced its annual goodwill measures for Ramadan that included 200,000 thousand visiting permits for family visits for Palestinians from the West Bank and access for 100 Gaza residents to attend prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque.
COGAT said the visiting permits were canceled but the prayer permits remain unchanged.
There was no official comment from Abbas.
Osama al-Qawasmi, a spokesman for Abbas’ Fatah party said “When Netanyahu ends his occupation all the problems will end, but as long he continues occupation and land confiscation and building settlements on our land … the conflict will continue.”
Friday’s deadly attack affected thousands of families across the West Bank who planned to visit relatives over the Ramadan holiday.