State Dept: Friedman’s Meeting Palestinian Negotiators ‘Perhaps an Upgrade’
WASHINGTON – U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman’s meeting with senior Palestinian negotiators is “not a downgrade but perhaps even an upgrade,” State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Tuesday. Nauert was responding to a question at the State Department press briefing expressing concern that Friedman meeting with senior Palestinian officials would signify a reduction of Ramallah’s diplomatic level as the Palestinians being considered part of Israel.
“The fact that our US Ambassador would be included in this meeting — and that the Palestinians, as I understand, would welcome him in this meeting — shows a step forward in terms of our cooperation,” Nauert explained. “We are very pleased to have the Ambassador’s expertise in this and I think it raises the level and indicates how important it is for this administration to try to come to some sort of peace agreement.”
Commenting on Friedman’s participation, a White House official noted on condition of anonymity, “The Administration believes that in order to give everyone the best chance to reach an ultimate deal, it is critical to have negotiators that are close with the President and that is why the team includes Senior Advisor Jared Kushner, Greenblatt and Friedman.”
Friedman’s meeting on Wednesday with Palestinian officials was first reported by Haaretz. During the Bush and Obama administration, the US Consul General in Jerusalem — not the US Ambassador to Israel — would partake in meetings with Palestinian leaders. Three weeks ago, PA officials rejected Friedman’s request to participate in a Ramallah meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.