JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, met with Palestinian officials in Jerusalem.
The meeting on Tuesday afternoon was not held in Ramallah because Greenblatt was joined by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, according to reports.
Greenblatt also was joined for the meeting by U.S. Consul General Donald Blome. The Palestinian side was reported to include chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat; head of Palestinian intelligence, Majid Faraj; and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ economic adviser, Mohammad Mustafa.
The Palestinian peace negotiators reportedly requested that the meeting be held in Jerusalem because they did not want Friedman to come to Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority.
“Tomorrow there will be a new round of talks with the Palestinian delegation in West Jerusalem because we do not want one of the members of the [American] delegation to come to us…Why? Because he is the ambassador of America in Israel and the purview of his work is in Israel,” Fatah Central Committee Member Azzam al-Ahmad said in an interview with the official Palestinian Authority television station on Monday, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly refused to host Friedman in Ramallah last month when Trump’s senior advisor and Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner visited, according to reports. The Trump administration reportedly later pushed to include Friedman in such meetings.
Including Friedman marks a shift in U.S. policy in place during both Bush and the Obama administrations, according to Haaretz, which viewed the American consul in Jerusalem as responsible for relations with the Palestinians, and the ambassador in Tel Aviv as responsible for relations with Israel.
The Palestinians view Friedman as hostile due to his financial support of the West Bank settlement of Beit El, and object to the presence of the U.S. ambassador to Israel at their meetings since the Palestinians want to maintain their diplomatic independence.
“They had an open, cordial, and frank discussion on many topics related to peace negotiations,” a senior White House official told The Times of Israel about Tuesday’s meeting in Jerusalem . “The administration believes that in order to give everyone the best chance to reach an ultimate deal, it is critical to have negotiators that are close with the president and that is why the team includes Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman.”