Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made his first solo visit as a member of the administration to the Middle East Wednesday, meeting privately in separate sit-downs with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in an attempt to restart long dormant peace talks.
Kushner, whom Trump tapped to help lead the process and whose family has a long relationship with Netanyahu, met with the Israeli leader in Jerusalem for more than three hours Wednesday afternoon, before heading to the West Bank city of Ramallah for a late-night meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, the White House said.
He was only expected to remain in the region for about 24 hours before flying back to the U.S.
Netanyahu’s office released a short video showing Kushner, along with U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt and U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, arriving at the Israeli premier’s office in Jerusalem.
Jared Kushner will return to Jerusalem to jump-start peace talks
“This is an opportunity to pursue our common goals of security, prosperity and peace,” Netanyahu told Kushner.
“The President sends his best regards and it’s an honor to be here with you,” Kushner replied.
Reporters from the U.S. were barred from covering the meetings and did not have an opportunity to ask Kushner questions, although Israeli reporters were allowed in.
Just days into his tenure, Trump tapped Kushner, who has no previous diplomatic or government experience, to help work toward brokering a potential peace deal in the region — something former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all tried and failed to get done.
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And even before Kushner’s meetings began Wednesday, there were renewed signs of difficulty. On the eve of his arrival, Israel broke ground on a new West Bank settlement for residents of an illegally built outpost that was dismantled in February under orders from the nation’s Supreme Court — a move that infuriated the Palestinians, who say all settlements are illegal obstacles to peace.
Trump himself made a personal appeal for peace during a visit to Jerusalem last month and has previously described Middle East peace as the “ultimate deal.”
But he has not yet offered any details on how to move the process forward and has avoided sensitive issues that have broken apart previous attempts at a peace agreement, including the status of Jerusalem, Israeli settlement construction and the Palestinians’ demand for a sovereign nation.
Kushner’s visit, meanwhile, came as he’s emerged as a reported focus of the ongoing federal probe into the Russian interference in the 2016 race.
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The federal probe being run by special prosecutor Robert Mueller has reportedly zeroed in on not only whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice when he fired Comey, but on the business dealings and meetings of Kushner.
Kushner failed to disclose several meetings with Russian officials either during the campaign or as Trump was preparing to take over the White House, including a December meeting with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak to discuss establishing a secret backchannel between the Kremlin and Trump’s transition team, and a meeting that month with Sergey Gorkov, the chairman of Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank, which is under sanction.
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