Israel has made an unusual move to approve hundreds of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank amid reports the US is preparing to roll out its long-awaited peace plan.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, granted permits for 700 Palestinian houses but tried to appease his Right-wing base by also approving 6,000 housing units for Jewish settlers.
Israel rarely grants building permits to Palestinians and the move was seen as a potential concession to the White House, which is trying to convince Palestinians and Arab states to back its peace initiative.
Jared Kushner, Mr Trump’s son-in-law and top aide on Israeli-Palestinian issues, is expected in Jerusalem this week to discuss the plan with Mr Netanyahu.
The plan remains secret but Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported Mr Trump intends to unveil it at a summit with Arab leaders at Camp David in the coming weeks.
A White House official denied that planning for a summit was underway and said Mr Kushner’s team would report back after their trip to Israeli and Arab states before deciding their next move. “No summit has currently been planned,” the official said.
The US unveiled the less controversial economic side of the plan at a conference in Bahrain in June but has not given a timeline for releasing the political side of the plan.
Mr Trump enjoys the pageantry of high-profile international meetings and Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, has often been the site of peace talks between Israel and its neighbours.
Expectations for Mr Trump’s peace effort are low. The Palestinians have preemptively rejected the plan, arguing that Mr Trump is heavily biased towards Israel and is not an honest broker.
David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, signaled that the White House opposed the idea of an independent Palestinian state, which has long been a demand of both Palestinians and America’s Arab allies.
Mr Friedman instead endorsed Mr Netanyahu’s position that the Palestinians can be granted autonomy but not a state of their own.
“We believe in Palestinian autonomy,” he told CNN. ”We believe that autonomy should be extended up until the point where it interferes with Israeli security."