WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump's Mideast negotiating team plans to visit the region next week as it finalizes its Israeli-Palestinian peace plan and will hold talks on deteriorating conditions in the Gaza Strip, the White House's National Security Council said Wednesday.
The trip comes as officials say the Trump administration is near completion of the plan and envisions a possible release this summer.
The National Security Council said Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt would travel to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. It said they would discuss "the next stages of the peace effort."
No stop in the Palestinian territories is planned, although the National Security Council said the itinerary may be expanded. However, the prospect of Palestinian interest in the peace proposal appears dim. Peace talks have been frozen since 2014, and Palestinian leaders have been boycotting high-level talks with U.S. officials for months, complaining that the Trump administration is biased toward Israel.
U.S. officials said in late May that the administration had planned to release the peace plan shortly after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ends later this week. However, that timeline appears to have been pushed back to at least August, officials said Wednesday.
The trip comes at a particularly fraught time in U.S.-Palestinian relations, which have frayed since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the U.S. Embassy to the holy city from Tel Aviv.
On Sunday, Greenblatt lashed out at the Palestinians' chief negotiator, saying his "false claims" and angry rhetoric haven't brought peace closer. The negotiator, Saeb Erekat, had earlier accused American officials of acting as "spokespeople" for Israel and criticized the U.S. for moving the embassy.
In an op-ed published in Israel's Haaretz newspaper, Greenblatt wrote that Erekat's claims "were in many respects simply inaccurate" and suggested it was time for him to step down.
"Dr. Erekat -- we have heard your voice for decades and it has not achieved anything close to Palestinian aspirations or anything close to a comprehensive peace agreement. Other Palestinian perspectives might help us finally achieve a comprehensive peace agreement where Palestinian and Israeli lives can be better," Greenblatt wrote.
Erekat had condemned the U.S. for the embassy's move to Jerusalem, noting it occurred during violence along the Gaza border just 45 miles away. On the day the embassy opened, an estimated 59 Palestinians were killed in Gaza at a mass rally led by the Islamic militant group Hamas.
He said the contrast between the two events that day "aptly demonstrates the complete U.S. and Israeli denial of the Palestinian history of dispossession."
Information for this article was contributed by Josh Lederman of The Associated Press.
A Section on 06/14/2018
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