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President Trump has spoken of "the definitive deal" he is going to make, to finally achieve peace once and for all between Israel and the Palestinians. His son-in-law Jared Kushner has spent the last months coming and going from the region, and speculation has been very high that the United States will soon reveal its own peace proposal, or at least the basic guidelines.
Even so, Israel's ambbadador to the United States, a close ally of the Trump team that has been working closely with them on the plan, says in a new interview for The Global Politico that while is an "optimist", the possibilities are only "moderate to high" even to restart the latent peace process during the next year. As for a real deal, he would not even speculate.
And the ambbadador, Ron Dermer, one of the closest confidants of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, confirmed in a rare conversation on the record that Trump is likely to take a controversial step this week by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, a measure that the Palestinians threatened will blow up any conversation even before they start.
Failing to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is a "farce," Dermer said, characterizing Trump's likely decision to change that as sending a message to the Palestinians of: "Hey, wake up." Understand that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, you have to deal with that reality. " But Arab leaders prepared for public protests, and several Middle Eastern officials with whom I have spoken in recent days said that Kushner and Trump had not formally consulted them in the move and feared it would be counterproductive. . "Of course it would make things much more difficult," a key supporter of the Arab world administration told me.
In any case, Dermer seemed more inflexible about the possibility of a new round of military conflict between Israel and the militia backed by Iran Hezbollah than about the prospects for the Kushner peace process. "The chances of a military confrontation are growing," he said when asked about a possible fight in neighboring Syria or Lebanon, and in fact, Israeli planes attacked targets inside Syria last week. "I do not want to tell you by year or month, I would say even for the week, because the more they push, we have to enforce our red lines … So when we take measures to defend ourselves, you do not know what could happen. higher than people think. "
Dermer made news about a variety of issues, emphasizing how closely the Israelis are aligned with the Trump administration as he works to craft a strategy in the Middle East almost a year after Trump's presidency. On the nuclear deal with Iran that Trump recently threatened to fly, Dermer said he believes the president now has a "six to nine month" timetable to see if he can get key European allies to press for more Iranian concessions before moving forward. in his threat. "They have to understand that the president is really ready to leave." So, the only option at this time is not to save the deal or kill the deal. In fact, it is to solve it with a package of measures, or the president will leave, "said Dermer." And if you ask me, if these corrections are not made in a certain period of time, that is what Congress and the Europeans to really fix it: if they decide not to move, do nothing, then I think the president will move away from the deal. "
And offered his first public comments on a story that underlined the close alliance between the Trump team and the government of Netanyahu: the guilty plea of Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn In that plea, Flynn admitted, among other things, that he lied about talking to the Russian ambbadador on behalf of Israel to try to stifle a belated measure of The Obama administration at the United Nations Dermer confirmed to me that he had personally consulted with the Trump team in an effort to avoid the UN Security Council resolution reprimanding Israe l for its settlements in the West Bank, and urged them to pressure other foreign governments to kill the measure. Dermer said he was not sure if he had spoken directly with Flynn, but acknowledged: "I definitely spoke with officials" in what would become the Trump administration.
"We approached them with the hope that they would help us avoid what would be bad for Israel and bad for the United States," Dermer said.
Our extensive discussion came at a key moment for President Trump's dreams of cutting the Middle East peace agreement that his predecessors eschewed, even as prosecutors appear to be asking increasingly uncomfortable questions about Kushner, son-in-law Trump has been in charge of making the deal. Kushner, who was supposed to be the "very high level" Trump official who ordered Flynn to reach the Russians at the urging of Israel, made his first public appearance to discuss his peace efforts on Sunday at the Saban Forum, an annual meeting here on Washington of the most connected Israeli observers, including senior government officials and politicians from both countries.
But by listening to Kushner they politely refuse to answer any substantive question, preferring instead to offer bland badurances such as "we have been very focused on the deal" and "we have strayed from our way to hear a lot," he stressed. that the Trump administration is still far from any new breakthrough.
In fact, the best argument Kushner could muster about why this government's peace proposal would turn out differently was that Trump had already come through before being elected in the first place.
Offstage, I spoke with several well-positioned American, Arab and Israeli officials who told me they did not think Trump's personal intervention this week in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute would make things easier for Kushner.
Dermer's comments were the clearest in the record They also indicate that the president seems determined to make a statement about Jerusalem as the capital of Israel when he delivers a speech on the matter this Wednesday, even when he once again seems willing to sign a waiver to postpone the transfer of the United States embbady from Tel Aviv. Several of those with whom I spoke told me that their conversations with administration officials had confirmed that this seems to be the current state of the game, although the key details remain unclear, such as what and exactly Trump would define Jerusalem.
"I do not know" "I think it's going to undermine the peace process at all," Dermer told me, noting that any final status peace agreement would always include Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But few of those I talked to over the weekend thought that this Trump announcement would now be useful to Kushner, and in fact several officials said they now believed that the details of Kushner's narrow emerging plan for the region would not be revealed until well. entered. 2018 – despite expectations as recent as a few weeks ago that it could be revealed later this year or early in the new year.
However, I found the conversation with Dermer as a useful guide to what the Netanyahu government – and by extension, its close badociate, Trump White House, is thinking about the emerging plan. Throughout the interview, Dermer made it clear that Israel's theory about the peace talks case rests as much as with "the window of opportunity" to involve Israel's Arab neighbors, and in particular the young Crown Prince. from Saudi Arabia. – as with the Palestinians, of whom he was much more skeptical.
"Will the Palestinian leadership cross this historic Rubicon to accept the permanence and legitimacy of a Jewish state? I think it's a big question mark, I think a lot of the governments in the region are prepared to cross that Rubicon. the Palestinians are prepared to do that, I do not know, "said Dermer.
Later, he added: "But it could be that the chances of them crossing the Rubicon will increase if maybe they see, hey, everyone else is moving towards reconciliation with Israel, that there is a process going on, then maybe they understand if the train is leaving the station, maybe they have to get on board "
But as striking as what Dermer said was what he did not: he never mentioned the" two-state solution "that, at least in theory, is the policy endorsed by both the Israeli government and all US governments. UU for decades. Notably, neither did Kushner in his appearance at the Saban Forum, although he did affirm that at least peace is now back on the table in a way that was not at the end of the Obama administration.
I have spent hours discussing Trump's nascent peace efforts of the administration with senior Israeli, Arab and American officials, current and previous, in recent months, and virtually all of them start with amazement and skepticism that the fate of the Arab conflict -israeli now appears to be in the hands of two inexperienced beginners, Kushner and the 32-year-old Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman.
In our interview, Dermer praised MBS, as he is known, and said he should be applauded for his "boldness" in carrying out internal reforms, but the ambbadador highlighted another factor that is also putting peace talks on new on the agenda: the common ground of my enemy's enemy between the Saudis and the Israelis when it comes to their shared regional enemy, Iran. 1 9659005] "I see now a window of opportunity that did not exist before, and the window of opportunity, the change is due to the change that is happening in the Arab world in general and its vision of Israel." Many countries that previously saw Israel as An enemy now sees Israel as a potential partner to face its main security challenges, "he said.
Still, Dermer allowed the Trump team still to fully translate that hawkish rhetoric about Iran into a new set of policies towards Iranian representatives in Lebanon and Yemen, as well as how to deal with the near-win victory of Bashar al-Assad, backed by Iran, which is next to Israel in Syria. "Now, the question is, how do you translate that policy into specific actions?" Dermer said, noting unsolved political debates about how and how to put pressure on Iran's elite paramilitary force, the Revolutionary Guards Corps, with additional economic sanctions, or what to do in active conflicts such as Syria and Yemen. Still, he said, "this administration has a completely different vision of Iran, and right now we are in the process of working with them on how to translate this vision into practical policies on the ground."
But the case theory behind the Middle East policy Dermer is pushing, and it's clearly one of the allies in the Trump administration they agree-it's pretty obvious already.
"The Iranians," he told me, "they want Riad for breakfast and Jerusalem for lunch, and they want to dine in New York."