D onald Trump isn’t known for his discretion, but until two weeks ago, his Mideast negotiations team, led by senior advisor Jared Kushner and special representative Jason Greenblatt, managed to keep their business quiet by working diligently and effectively, without any unnecessary hype or spotlight-seeking. During the 11 months of Trump’s tenure, the two have made several trips between Washington, Jerusalem, and Ramallah, in an effort to genuinely understand the sides and what it will take to get them back to the negotiating table.

That silence helped cement the feeling, both in Israel and in the US, that something concrete was in the making that would be revealed when the time was ripe. Recently, American sources started dropping hints that a creative diplomatic initiative would be presented in a matter of weeks. The right wing wasn’t very optimistic about the plan; they don’t see peace happening anytime soon, but they’re concerned that Netanyahu might be forced to pay a price along the way.

Since Trump’s dramatic declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the tables have turned with elements of the hush-hush plans coming out into the open — a sure sign of a snafu.

Last Wednesday, Abu Mazen denounced the Jerusalem declaration as “the greatest crime,” adding that he was considering his next step in the UN. When I contacted the White House, I was surprised that instead of the usual generic response, the senior spokesman said, “This rhetoric, which has prevented peace for years, is not surprising, as we anticipated reactions like this.”

The White House statement smacks of American impatience, probably in response to Abu Mazen’s remark that it’s unacceptable for the US to have a role in the Middle East peace process. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Abu Mazen doesn’t really mean to shut out America. He may likely be borrowing a trick from the popsicle vendor at the beach who says “I’m leaving!” so everyone will run over for their frozen treats — threatening and blustering in an attempt to squeeze yet another goodwill gesture out of the Americans.

However, there’s always a chance that Abu Mazen is seriously planning to (once again) abandon negotiations before they’ve even begun. If that’s the case, it remains to be seen whether Kushner and Greenblatt need exert themselves any further. What’s more, one can only wonder if the declarations coming out the White House — that the administration still believes in negotiations — jibe with the reality on the ground: rocket fire from Gaza, the stabbing at the Jerusalem central bus station, and the most recent incident of a Palestinian smuggling two pipe bombs into a Shomron military courthouse.

Greenblatt’s announcement that he’s returning to Israel this week shows that for now, at least, the administration hasn’t given up. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 690)