The U.S.-Israeli relationship hit a rare rocky patch under President Trump on Monday when the U.S. flatly denied Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's assertion that he had been discussing annexing part of the West Bank with the Trump administration "for some time now." The White House apparently privately demanded and publicly received a walking-back of that claim, which Netanyahu aides said the prime minister made in a meeting with a faction of his Likud party. "The United States and Israel have never discussed such a proposal, and the president's focus remains squarely on his Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative," White House spokesman Josh Raffel said.
Trump's Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative, spearheaded by son-in-law Jared Kushner and envoy Jason Greenblatt, is stalled after Trump announced U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, prompting the Palestinian Authority to disengage. Now, Trump appears to have added a new Mideast peace envoy: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In Moscow on Monday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated to Putin that "from now on we refuse to cooperate in any form with the U.S. in its status of a mediator, as we stand against its actions." Putin told Abbas that he had "just spoken over the phone" with Trump, and "naturally, we spoke about the Palestinian-Israeli settlement," according to Russia's official TASS news agency. "I would like to convey to you his best wishes," Putin told Abbas. Abbas said the Palestinians would be willing to participate in an international peace conference in which the U.S. was just one player, along with Russia, the European Union, Britain, China, France, Germany, and Arab states. Peter Weber