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Jared Kushner Makes First Attempt At Reviving Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks


Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law, arrives in Israel today. His goal is to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Along with President Trump's Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, he meets Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Our next guest met with Greenblatt yesterday. His name is Yossi Klein Halevi. He's a writer and a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. Welcome to the program.

YOSSI KLEIN HALEVI: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: How was your talk with Mr. Greenblatt?

HALEVI: Well, it was - it was very unexpected because, unlike emissaries from Washington that we're used to receiving here in the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt came to listen more than to lecture. It was quite refreshing, and he's meeting with a wide range of Israelis and Palestinians from across the political spectrum. And he has come to try to understand - and what a novel idea.

INSKEEP: What's a question that he asked?

HALEVI: Well, he wanted to know what I thought the realistic options were for an agreement. And what I said to him was that I think that conditions in the region have changed to the extent where we can begin to conceive of an interim agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, but that any attempt to prematurely create a comprehensive, final-status agreement will almost certainly fail because we've seen that pattern happen over and over again. And I think we need to be a little more modest in our expectation.

INSKEEP: You know, when you say conditions in the region, that can mean a lot of things. It can mean what the Saudis think or what Iran thinks or Jordan thinks, but let me just focus in on Israelis and Palestinians. From where you sit, do you believe Israeli and Palestinian leaders are ready to make peace or move in that direction?

HALEVI: The short answer is neither side is ready for the deep concessions that would be required for both sides to reach a comprehensive agreement. But you can't separate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict from the region because we're sitting - we're sitting in the middle of a region that, on the one hand, is disintegrating.

You know, when Israelis look at - when we look at our borders, we've got Hezbollah in the north, Hamas in the south, Islamic State in Sinai and in Syria. I - it's all - it's all impinging, and so that the conditions, on the one hand, for a comprehensive agreement aren't there. Israelis simply don't feel safe enough. Palestinians don't feel - don't feel that the conditions are right. At the other hand...

INSKEEP: And you're telling me - you're telling me that Israelis feel insecure and would insist even more firmly on keeping control of the West Bank, Palestinian areas for security. Let me just ask in a few seconds we have...

HALEVI: Well, no...


HALEVI: ...I would - they would insist on certain security arrangements...


HALEVI: ...Which in the context - which in the context of a comprehensive agreement, the Palestinian leadership would not accept.

INSKEEP: Understand. Just a few seconds left here. What is something the Trump administration can do to promote peace that others haven't done?

HALEVI: Expand Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to the region. Bring in the Arab countries. This is not going to be a bilateral agreement. This can only work in the context of Arab states supporting a peace agreement and normalizing relations with Israel, accepting Israel as an indigenous part of the Middle East.

INSKEEP: OK, Yossi Klein Halevi, thank you very much for your insights, really appreciate it.

HALEVI: Thank you.

INSKEEP: He's a writer and a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF YPPAH'S "NEIGHBORHOODS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.