Trump aide lays out 'disruptive' approach
on eve of Mideast talks
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[May 03, 2017]
By Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Donald Trump’s
national security adviser described his boss’s foreign policy approach
as "disruptive" on the eve of the U.S. president’s first White House
meeting with the Palestinian leader, saying his unconventional ways
could create an opportunity to ultimately help stabilize the Middle
Trump faces deep skepticism at home and abroad over his chances for a
breakthrough with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, not least because
the new U.S. administration has yet to articulate a cohesive strategy
for restarting long-stalled peace talks.
Seeming to brush aside such concerns, national security adviser H.R.
McMaster told an Israel Independence Day celebration in Washington on
Tuesday night that Trump “does not have time to debate over doctrine”
and instead seeks to challenge failed policies of the past with a
businessman’s results-oriented approach.
Trump’s unpredictability has rattled friends and foes alike around the
world. Some analysts doubt Trump can succeed where experienced Middle
East hands failed for decades, especially when trust between Israelis
and Palestinians is at a low point.
“The president is not a super-patient man,” McMaster said. “Some people
have described him as disruptive. They're right. And this is good – good
because we can no longer afford to invest in policies that do not
advance the interests and values of the United States and our allies.”
Trump’s meeting with Abbas, the Western-backed head of the Palestinian
Authority, will be another test of whether Trump, in office a little
more than 100 days, is serious about pursuing what he has called the
“ultimate deal” of Israeli-Palestinian peace that eluded his
Abbas’s White House talks on Wednesday follow a mid-February visit by
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who moved quickly to reset
ties after a frequently combative relationship with Trump’s predecessor,
President Barack Obama.
Though expectations are low, plans are being firmed up for Trump to
visit the right-wing Israeli leader in Jerusalem and possibly Abbas in
the West Bank, possibly on May 22-23, according to people familiar with
the matter. U.S. and Israeli officials have declined to confirm the
QUESTIONS ABOUT KUSHNER
Questions have been raised about Trump’s choice of his son-in-law, Jared
Kushner, who entered the White House with no government experience, to
oversee Middle East peace efforts, along with Trump’s longtime business
lawyer, Jason Greenblatt, as on-the-ground envoy.
A decorated Army general, McMaster said “arduous circumstances,”
including Islamic State militancy and a growing regional threat from
Iran “may allow us to resolve what some have regarded as intractable
problems, problems like disputes between Israel and the Palestinians.”
“President Trump has taken a typically unconventional and fresh approach
to this problem,” McMaster said in a rare public speech.
Having campaigned on an "America First" platform, Trump has acted
forcefully against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with no clear policy
prescription and engaged in brinkmanship with North Korea over its
nuclear and missile programs.
[to top of second column]
Newly named National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster
listens as U.S. President Donald Trump makes the announcement at his
Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida U.S. February 20, 2017.
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
The White House has been vague about what Trump hopes to accomplish
with Abbas. U.S.-brokered peace talks collapsed in 2014.
A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
Trump would press the Palestinian leader to halt payments by the PLO
to families of militants jailed by Israel and to stop anti-Israel
incitement by Palestinian media.
The administration seeks to enlist Israel's Sunni Arab neighbors,
who share Israeli concerns about Shi'ite Iran, to help rejuvenate
Middle East peacemaking.
ABBAS UNDER PRESSURE AT HOME
Abbas, who governs in the West Bank while Hamas militants rule Gaza,
is under pressure at home to avoid making major concessions to
Trump, especially with an ongoing hunger strike by hundreds of
Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spokesman for Abbas, said the Palestinian
leadership “is committed to a political track that leads to a real
But Palestinian officials say it will be hard for Abbas to return to
the negotiating table without a long-standing pre-condition of a
freeze on Jewish settlement expansion on land Israel occupied in
1967 which Palestinians want for a state.
Trump’s pro-Israel rhetoric during the 2016 election campaign raised
concern among Palestinians about whether their leaders will get a
fair hearing. He has also been unclear about whether he supports a
two-state solution, a bedrock of U.S. policy for decades.
Trump’s promise to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv,
strongly opposed by Palestinians, has been shifted to the back
burner, and he has asked Netanyahu to put unspecified limits on
Trump told Reuters last week: “There is no reason there's not peace
between Israel and the Palestinians - none whatsoever.”
(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ali Sawafta
in Ramallah; Editing by Howard Goller)
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