While President Donald Trump has expressed his “personal commitment” to help reach a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, senior advisors are less than optimistic such a deal can be brokered, and have made their skepticism clear to the president.
President Trump is scheduled to arrive in Israel in 10 days, a trip that will likely kick off his much-anticipated effort to bring Israel and the Palestinian Authority back to the negotiating table.
A week before Trump arrives, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will land in Israel and present his credentials to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
Friedman, a long-time Trump confidant and former Trump attorney, has reportedly warned the president that the chances of brokering a comprehensive deal between Israel and the PA are exceedingly slim.
Two senior officials told the Haaretz daily that Friedman and others told the president that efforts to secure a lasting peace would be unlikely to succeed.
“Trump heard this from Friedman, from other people on his team, and also from people outside the White House whom he consulted,” Haaretz quoted one official as saying.
Nevertheless, the president apparently remains optimistic.
“People whose opinion he respects told him it will be very hard, perhaps even impossible, but so far, he hasn’t changed his mind.”
Haaretz also reported that in their view, Friedman, a vocal critic of the two-state solution and backer of Jewish rights in Judea and Samaria, missed the opportunity to shape President Trump’s views and policy ideas on Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the first months of his administration due to his lengthy confirmation process.
Friedman, who was named to the position before Trump was inaugurated in January, was only confirmed by the Senate on March 23rd and sworn in March 29th, more than two months into Trump’s presidency.
“Had Friedman been in the White House at the beginning of the process, things might have happened differently,” a senior member of a prominent Jewish organization told Haaretz.
“The problem is that during his confirmation hearings in the Senate, which lasted until late March, he was cut off from the day-to-day work. Essentially, he wasn’t a full partner during the administration’s first two months, when several of the most important decisions on the Israeli-Palestinian issue were made. During that period, Trump left former senior Obama administration officials in place.”