TEL AVIV – The Trump administration is exploring the option of hosting a summit this summer with Gulf Arab leaders, the Palestinian Authority president and Israel’s prime minister in an effort to jumpstart the moribund Israeli-Palestinian negotiations process, sources told the Jerusalem Post.
Israeli sources who asked to remain anonymous have said that U.S. officials are quietly assessing whether there would be interest in such a conference, the report said.
“The president wants to bring them over – a public event with them,” one senior Israeli source told the Post on Tuesday. “I think it’s feasible, but the question is what happens after.”
The official also said that Arab representatives would only agree to attend the summit if Israel implemented an unofficial construction freeze outside the large settlement blocs.
A large portion of the four-day marathon of meetings between President Donald Trump’s special representative for the Middle East Jason Greenblatt and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chief of staff Yoav Horowitz was devoted to discussing a settlement freeze but no final decision was reached, the official said.
Arab world leaders are slated to meet in Washington next month, possibly paving the way to a summit, sources said.
Ahead of this week’s Arab League Summit in Amman, Greenblatt said “the time has come to make a deal.” He noted that Trump believes an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement “will reverberate positively throughout the region and the world.”
In a historically unprecedented move, the proposed summit would include the Saudi leadership at the crown prince level, other Gulf leaders, their Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts and Israelis on the same stage in front of cameras, the report claimed.
However, there are misgivings that such a summit would not have any real effect on policy on the ground.
Some Israeli sources believe that while it would be a positive step for the Jewish state to publicly engage with Riyadh after years of under-the-rug discussions on Iran, such a conference may build unrealistic expectations for the Palestinians that would be untenable in reality.
“It can lead to an intifada if we don’t have a plan for afterwards,” another official said. “Both Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] and Netanyahu will show up, but neither is likely to come with deliverables.”
However, one senior Trump administration official told the Post the U.S. has no intention of hosting a peace summit. “The administration is concentrating on building relationships with parties in the region,” the official said. “We’re just not contemplating such a conference at this time.”
But Trump’s efforts – even on the public level – seem to indicate interest in such a gathering. His son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, has been in talks with key Gulf leaders on an initiative that would include regional players.
“Trump said at his press conference that he wants a settlements slowdown, and he talked about the outside-in approach using the regionals. So this is not that far of a jump,” one former State Department official involved in Middle East peace issues told the Post. “One plus one equals two.”
Republicans in Washington are warning Trump not to move too fast on any Mideast proposal.
“The timing for a splashy, high-profile, new set of negotiations does not seem to be right,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) told the Post, adding that the stability of the Palestinian Authority was in doubt. “Quiet confidence-building measures might be appropriate.”