State Dept: We will not 'bias' outcome of negotiations

Spokeswoman refuses to commit to two-state solution, as US delegation prepares to speak today with Netanyahu and Abbas.

Tal Polon ,

Kushner meets Abbas in Ramallah, June 2017
Kushner meets Abbas in Ramallah, June 2017

Committing to a two-state solution would “bias” the outcome of a peace agreement between Israel and the PA, State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Wednesday during a press briefing.

According to Nauert, as Trump has made a peace agreement a top priority, “We want to work toward a peace that both sides can agree to and that both sides find sustainable. We believe that both parties should be able to find a workable solution that works for both of them.”

Therefore, she continued, “We are not going to state what the outcome has to be. It has to be workable to both sides. And I think, really, that’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it. It’s been many, many decades, as you well know, that the parties have not been able to come to any kind of good agreement and sustainable solution to this. So we leave it up to them to be able to work that through.”

The comments come as the US continues attempts to renew negotiations between Israel and the PA today, Thursday. An American delegation headed by US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell is set to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu is Jerusalem, as well as with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Earlier, it was reported that PA officials have become increasingly frustrated with the Trump administration and pessimistic about chances of a breakthrough.

Ahmed Majdalani, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) which Abbas heads, told AFP on Wednesday they were demanding "a clear and frank answer on the position of the administration on the two-state solution and settlements."

"Without a clear American commitment to the two-state solution and stopping settlements and ending the occupation, we don't expect much from this administration," he added.

A US diplomatic source told reporters in Jerusalem on Wednesday night that Trump wanted discussions "to focus on the transition to substantive... peace talks, the situation in Gaza, including how to ease the humanitarian crisis there, and the economic steps that can be taken.”

The President acknowledges that "there are likely to be a lot of ups and downs on the way to peace and making a peace deal will take time", but he "remains optimistic that progress toward a deal can be achieved," the official added.

Earlier this week, Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh said Palestinian Arabs are still waiting for a "clear vision" from the United States on resuming peace talks with Israel.

Abbas "wants clarity" on the two-state solution, he said.

Abbas himself recently told a group of Meretz representatives visiting Ramallah, “I don’t even know how they are dealing with us, because his entire administration is in chaos.”

The PA insists that any peace agreement with Israel be based on the formation of a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.