Jared Kushner expands his peace team as it readies to roll out Trump’s Middle East plan


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt are bringing in new people to their team negotiating Israeli-Palestinian peace as they finalize the plan that President Donald Trump has called “the deal of the century.”

“Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt are expanding their team and the resources available as they finalize the details and rollout strategy of the peace initiative,” a National Security Council spokesperson told JTA in an email Friday. “They continue to work very closely with the National Security Council staff and State Department.”

The Associated Press first reported the expansion of a staff that since the beginning of this year has comprised just three people: Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Greenblatt, the top Middle East peace negotiator; and David Friedman, the U.S. ambassador to Israel.

The team has been tight-lipped about what the plan would look like, but interlocutors with Greenblatt, who has intensively toured the region since the spring of 2017, say it appears that it will be focused on quality-of-life improvements for the Palestinians rather than an overall package. Team members have assiduously avoided recommitting to the two-state solution, which had been U.S. policy since 2002.

More recently, the team has tried to build support for an economic package that would pull the Gaza Strip out of dire poverty. In op-eds and on Twitter, and working with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, the team has berated Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, for preferring violent confrontation and terrorism to economic improvement.

Kushner and Greenblatt have also reportedly sought pledges of financial assistance for Gaza from Arab states.

Plans for a rollout have been frustrated by the  Palestinian Authority’s pullout from a relaunch of negotiations that was in the works. Palestinian leaders quit the “pre-talks” in December after Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital without extending similar recognition to Palestinian claims.

Trump, who last year made the claim about the “deal of the century,” has more recently been silent about the plan, instead routinely extolling at rallies his decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Another signal that the team is close to a rollout of the plan was a lengthy and rare interview that Greenblatt gave this week to the haredi Orthodox daily Hamodia.

In the interview – which would reach a significant and influential portion of Israel’s right-wing electorate and its Diaspora supporters – Greenblatt emphasized Trump’s pro-Israel credentials but also called for openmindedness from all sides.

“One of the things I try to teach my kids, and really anytime I do public speaking, is that we all do ourselves a very big disservice when we only read the newspapers that we are accustomed to reading,” Greenblatt said. “If we are on the right or the left, most people only read those kinds of newspapers, and therefore we are stuck in our own echo chamber.”

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