Despite Abbas' objections, Friedman to join peace talks

President Trump instructs Ambassador David Friedman to join envoy Greenblatt for talks with PA officials - despite objections from Abbas.

David Rosenberg, | updated: 20:17

David Friedman
David Friedman
Moshe Goldstein

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman will join White House special envoy Jason Greenblatt for talks with Palestinian Authority officials on Tuesday, despite objections from PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, Haaretz has reported.

Greenblatt, who arrived in Israel on Monday for his sixth round of talks with Israeli and Palestinian Authority leaders since January, is slated to meet with senior Israeli and PA officials this week to lay the groundwork for a Mideast peace conference tentatively slated for September.

On Tuesday, Greenblatt is expected to meet with senior PA officials, including representatives of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, for negotiations in Jerusalem.

Among the PA officials joining the talks are PA senior negotiator Saeb Erekat and Abbas adviser Mohammad Mustafa.

During his last trip to the region, Greenblatt was accompanied by President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner.

This time, however, he will be joined by Ambassador Friedman, despite objections voiced by Abbas in late May.

A White House official confirmed to Haaretz that Friedman would take part in Tuesday’s talks.

"Greenblatt and Friedman are meeting in Israel and the Palestinian negotiation team agreed to the request to meet them together with General Consul Blome," the official said.

The inclusion of the US Ambassador to Israel in talks between the US and PA officials represents a significant, if symbolic, shift in American policy.

During both the Obama and Bush administrations, the PA was given a de facto independent status in negotiations, with the US Ambassador to Israel included from US-PA talks.

President Trump, however, altered that 17-year old policy following his May trip to Israel and his meeting with Abbas in Bethlehem.

According to the Haaretz report, while Trump had wanted Friedman to take part in the meeting, Abbas had objected. The American delegation acquiesced, but President Trump insisted that in the future, Friedman would be a central player in talks with the PA, alongside both Greenblatt and Kushner.

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