(JTA) — The State Department characterized the inclusion of the U.S. ambassador to Israel in meetings with Palestinian officials as an “upgrading” in relations.
David Friedman joined Jason Greenblatt, President Donald Trump’s special envoy to the Middle East, at a meeting Tuesday with Palestinian officials in Jerusalem. The Palestinian peace negotiators reportedly requested that the meeting be held in Jerusalem because they did not want Friedman, a supporter of Israeli settlements and the U.S. official tapped to deal with Israel, to come to Ramallah, the capital of the Palestinian Authority.
Including Friedman marks a shift in U.S. policy in place during both Bush and the Obama administrations that viewed the American consul in Jerusalem as responsible for relations with the Palestinians and the ambassador in Tel Aviv as responsible for relations with Israel.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters during a regular briefing later the same day that the Palestinian negotiators “welcomed” Friedman, and that his presence at the meeting “raises the level and indicates just how important it is for this administration to try to come to some sort of peace agreement.”