Kushner to break silence as Trump mulls Israel embassy move

Washington (AFP) –


Donald Trump's son-in-law and Middle East peace envoy Jared Kushner will make a rare public appearance on Sunday, as the president mulls whether to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.

The coincidence of a policy forum, the embassy decision and an imminent trip to the region by Vice President Mike Pence have stirred speculation that a new peace plan is in the works.

Kushner will address the annual Saban Forum, hosted by the Brookings think tank for Israeli-American investor Haim Saban, on Sunday, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The forum, which brings together leaders from Israel and the United States, has served as a launching pad for ideas to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians in the past.

Kushner, the 36-year-old husband of Trump's daughter Ivanka, has been tasked with making good on the president's promise to find a deal that may be "not as difficult as people thought."

The envoy has made several trips to the region, despite deep skepticism from the parties, and is working closely with aide Jason Greenblatt to draw up draft proposals.

Some well-placed observers, however, worry that the whole idea may be moot if Trump enrages the Palestinians through a too-brutal change in the US stance on Jerusalem.

Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the city as their capital and previous peace plans have stumbled over debates on whether, and how, to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites.

Since 1995 it has been US law that Washington's embassy in Israel must be moved from the coastal city of Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in line with Israeli government wishes.

But every six months since the law was passed a succession of US presidents have signed a waiver to hold off on a switch which would enrage Palestinians and their Arab supporters.

Trump has signed the waiver once, and grudgingly, after vowing to Jewish-American supporters that he would be the president to finally make the switch permanent.

The next deadline comes on Monday, and some reports in Washington suggest that Trump is planning a speech on the issue next week, before Pence heads to Jerusalem.

The White House has described reports he may refuse to sign the waiver as premature -- but sources told AFP they expect Trump to formally declare Jerusalem Israel's capital.

If he does, this may damage the already moribund peace process, particularly if he offends Palestinians by dubbing the city Israel's "undivided capital" as some there demand.