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Kushner Meets Middle East Leaders In Effort To Restart Peace Talks


The president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is in Jerusalem today. It is his third trip there in the role of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaker. Before arriving in Jerusalem, he met with Arab leaders in the region. The White House is projecting optimism about all these peace efforts. And we're going to check in now with NPR's Daniel Estrin in Jerusalem to see if that optimism is justified. Hi, Daniel.


CHANG: Hey, so catch us up a little bit here. How did the meetings between Kushner and the Arab leaders go?

ESTRIN: Well, the White House hasn't really said what the Arab leaders said in those meetings. But Kushner met with many people, senior officials from Saudi Arabia, from the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, the king of Jordan, the president of Egypt. The administration has been hoping that there is an opportunity here because some of those Arab countries are beginning to find some shared interests with Israel, and maybe they could offer incentives to Israel to help push Israeli-Palestinian peace. The White House says the president wants to restart peace talks, which have been on hold for years. The White House says this will take time, but President Trump is optimistic.

CHANG: So Kushner is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today. What kind of expectations do Israeli leaders have about that visit?

ESTRIN: Right. I don't think they have very high expectations. Kushner and Netanyahu have already met. And Netanyahu did have some polite remarks at the start of that meeting. Take a listen.


PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We have a lot of things to talk about - how to advance peace, stability and security in our region - prosperity, too. And I think all of them are within our reach.

ESTRIN: I don't think most of his government agrees with him. I mean, today, a government minister close to Netanyahu said the Palestinian government is not one of peace. And he went through this whole list of reasons like citing the fact that the Palestinians still haven't fully restored their security cooperation with Israel, which they suspended last month, some other reasons. And then one lawmaker in Netanyahu's government wrote on Facebook, Trump has failed his efforts with the Palestinians, have no chance of success.

CHANG: So what are Palestinian officials saying about the visit?

ESTRIN: Well, they're saying a lot. First of all, they're demanding the Trump administration publicly commit to a Palestinian state, which previous U.S. administrations have done.

CHANG: Right.

ESTRIN: And - right. We heard some strong language also from Palestinian officials, who are saying Trump's envoys are too close to Netanyahu. They just relay messages from Netanyahu without laying out their own vision for a peace process. Above all, they don't think Netanyahu is a partner for peace. He's fighting corruption allegations. His government, his base are very much against creating a Palestinian state. So on both sides, there is not even a unified attempt to put on a happy face here, there's just a lot of pessimism.

CHANG: So maybe that word, optimism, the White House is trying to project is misplaced. You know, Jared Kushner is just the latest in a string of American officials who have tried to make peace in that region. And these former peacemakers have been chiming in with all kinds of advice. What kinds of observations are they making about all of this?

ESTRIN: Across the board, - former U.S. officials and peacemakers are saying the ultimate deal for peace, as Trump has said, they don't see it. They - a lot of people say that, you know, if Kushner makes yet another trip and another trip to the region without any sign of a direction, then he loses credibility and these visits just become formalities and then nothing gets done.

CHANG: That's NPR's Daniel Estrin. Thank you, Daniel.

ESTRIN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.