Trump undecided on when to release Middle East peace plan

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U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Morristown municipal airport en route to Washing

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Morristown municipal airport en route to Washington after a weekend in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., August 4, 2019. . (photo credit: YURI GRIPAS/REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump hasn’t decided whether to unveil his Middle East peace plan before or after Israeli elections set for next month, and the U.S. hopes eventually to engage with the Palestinian Authority on an accord, special envoy Jason Greenblatt said.

Greenblatt, who along with Trump son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has been drafting a Middle East peace proposal for the last two years, said the U.S. isn’t looking for regime change with the Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank. But he signaled the U.S. would continue to avoid any dealings with Hamas, the Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip.

“We are not looking for a regime change, President Abbas is the leader of the Palestinians, so we hope that he will be able to come to the table,” Greenblatt said in an interview Monday with Kevin Cirilli on Bloomberg Television, referring to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. “We do hope to have continued engagement or an eventual re-engagement with the Palestinian Authority.”

Greenblatt gave no indication of what the political plan would look like, but said Trump would have to “decide soon” whether to roll it out before the Israeli elections or after _ and whether to wait until after a new government has been formed. Those elections are set for Sept. 17 and surveys indicate a close race between blocs led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former military chief Benny Gantz. An election earlier this year ended in stalemate after Netanyahu failed to form a governing coalition.

“This conflict will only be resolved by direct negotiations between the parties,” Greenblatt said. “It’s not for the United States or the European Union or the United Nations to demand how this conflict can be resolved.”

Kushner promoted the economic component of his proposal in Bahrain in June, but the event was deliberately short on key political questions, and the conference didn’t include Palestinian officials. Kushner called for about $50 billion in proposed investments in the Palestinian territories and neighboring countries that host refugees.

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