Trump aides Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt along with US envoy to Israel, David Friedman, during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in occupied Jerusalem last year. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The assignment of Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt as President Donald Trump’s envoys to the peace talks was not surprising to many American political scientists.

“They are both right-wing Jews who have strongly supported the ...[colonist] movement in Palestinian land,” said Nabil Khoury, non-resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Centre for the Middle East and a former American official with years of experience at the State Department.

In addition to his ideology, Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, has deep financial ties with Israeli businessmen.

“This administration, in general, and not just in this case [the Palestinian issue], is strong on ideology and personal financial interests and has disrespected traditional institutions of government, especially the State Department,” Khoury told Gulf News in an exclusive interview.

In the past, experienced and professional American Jewish peace negotiators were sent to play the role of peace brokers in the complicated Palestinian-Israeli talks under presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The envoys, namely, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk, Aaron David Miller and James Steinberg, were “receptive” to the extent that Palestinians thought at one point that it was a trick. Some Arab media reports described them as ‘four Rabbis running the US foreign policy’.

“But eventually [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas (and, before him, Yasser Arafat), concluded that there was an advantage to dealing with diplomats who went to great lengths to display their objectivity,” wrote American-Israeli writer Zev Chafets in an opinion piece published by Bloomberg.

 This administration, in general, and not just in this case [the Palestinian issue], is strong on ideology and personal financial interests and has disrespected traditional institutions of government, especially the State Department,”

 - Nabil Khoury | Non-resident senior fellow at Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Centre for the Middle East 

However, when Abbas met with Kushner and Greenblatt, one senior Palestinian official complained “the envoys sounded like [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s advisers, not fair minded arbiters”.

The peace talks, launched in Madrid in 1991, moved after few rounds from Europe to Washington.

Later, US administrations appointed envoys to the peace talks with the aim of reaching a final solution.

Though the past 26 years of intermittent peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis produced several agreements, their implementation faced several obstacles.

Each side accuses the other of putting obstacles in the way of peace.

Palestinians also accused Washington of being biased towards Israel.

In 2011, George Mitchell, the former senator who brokered peace in Northern Ireland, resigned from his position as a peace envoy amid growing frustration over the impasse in talks.

He was appointed on Obama’s second day in office in 2009.

In his resignation letter, Mitchell said he had agreed to do what the president described as “the toughest job imaginable” for only two years.

Reports said Mitchell quit after his efforts to convince Israel to freeze its colony-building activities in the West Bank failed.

Today, political analysts believe, finding a solution to the Palestinian question seems even more distant than before, especially with the decisions taken by the current US administration.

Trump announced on December 6 that he was recognising occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, disregarding nearly 70 years of US policy of seeing the status of occupied Jerusalem as part of a solution between Israelis and Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

“Trump doesn’t understand the complications and the details needed to work out an agreement. The Middle East peace process is all about details, and he has shown very little interest in details … he thinks as long as Israel is happy, he is likely to achieve peace,” said Khoury.

Trump’s appointments are based on family and friendships, regardless of the experience, Khoury added.

Other analysts agreed.

“In the past, the Arab-Israeli conflict guided by internal US politics but now it is about family politics,” said Ghassan Al Khatib, a former Palestinian information minister and currently a political scientist at West-Bank-based Beir Zeit University.

He was referring to how issues related to the Palestinian question, such as the fate of occupied East Jerusalem and the borders of Israel, were part of the US election campaigns.

Today, the issues are with people from the inner circle of the US president.

“It is not logical to hold Kushner and [David] Freedman soley responsible for the deterioration [in peace efforts],” said Al Khatib in an interview with Gulf News.

“He who appointed them should be held responsible,” he said of Trump, “because when he picked the two men, he knew where he was heading, and accordingly he selected the people who would agree with his policies… to draw solutions compatible with his convictions,” Khatib said.

Trump also appointed David Freedman as US Ambassador to Israel—a man who has openly given financial support to Jewish colonies in the West Bank.

The Palestinians have refused to meet with him and say Trump to blame the Palestinians for refusing to negotiate is like the pot calling the kettle black.