(JNS.org) The State Department characterized a meeting with senior Palestinian Authority (PA) officials that included U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman as an “upgrade” in American relations with the Palestinians.
Friedman joined Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s international negotiations representative, for a meeting with PA officials Tuesday in Jerusalem. Under previous administrations, the U.S. consul general in Jerusalem traditionally served as the top American envoy to the PA, while the U.S. ambassador handled ties with Israel.
Responding to a question from a reporter on whether Friedman’s inclusion in the meeting with PA officials was a downgrade in relations, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the move could be seen as “the opposite, not a downgrading but perhaps even an upgrading.”
“The fact that our U.S. ambassador would be included in this meeting and that the Palestinians, as I understand it, would welcome him into this meeting, shows a step forward in terms of our cooperation,” she said, adding, “I think it raises the level and indicates just how important it is for this administration to try to come to some sort of peace agreement.”
According to a recent report by Haaretz, President Trump had instructed that Friedman be included in meetings with the Palestinians upon learning that the ambassador was not included in a meeting in Bethlehem last month between Greenblatt, White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Palestinian officials. PA President Mahmoud Abbas reportedly rejected including Friedman in that meeting over the U.S. envoy’s support for Israeli settlements, in addition to fear about losing the direct diplomacy the PA had experienced with the U.S. since the Jerusalem consul general began dealing with American-Palestinian affairs.