U.S. Peace Envoy Returns to Mideast as Palestinians Refuse to Halt Terror Payments

The White House’s special envoy for international negotiations has returned to the Middle East for the sixth time in as many months, The Times of Israel reported Tuesday.

Jason Greenblatt met with Palestinian officials in Jerusalem on Tuesday, even as the Palestinians continue to refuse to end payments to terrorists—a priority for the U.S. administration. He was accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem Donald Blome. The presence of Washington’s envoy to Israel was unusual for bilateral talks with the Palestinians, and was reportedly why the meeting was held in Jerusalem, rather than Ramallah.

“They had an open, cordial, and frank discussion on many topics related to peace negotiations,” a senior White House official told the Times. “The administration believes that in order to give everyone the best chance to reach an ultimate deal, it is critical to have negotiators that are close with the president and that is why the team includes Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman.”

Greenblatt’s previous meeting with Palestinian officials in June reportedly resulted in heightened friction due to the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to stop paying salaries to convicted terrorists and their families. The White House has made ending the payments and incitement to violence two of the priorities in trying to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

When he met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in May, U.S. President Donald Trump said, “Peace can never take root in an environment where violence is tolerated, funded and even rewarded.”

Abbas last week reiterated that he would continue paying terrorists, vowing, “Even if I will have to leave my position, I will not compromise on the salary (rawatib) of a Martyr (Shahid) or a prisoner.”

Greenblatt on Monday met with the families of Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, Israelis who are being held captive by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The family of a third Israeli held by Hamas, Jumaa Abu Ghanima, was unable to attend. In a statement, Greenblatt “expressed outrage that Hamas has not allowed the Israelis, some of whom may need medical assistance, to communicate with their families and return home.”

[Photo: IsraeliPM / YouTube ]