(JTA) – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with an American businessmen earlier this month in an attempt to set up a back channel to President-elect Donald Trump. On Jan. 2, Abbas met in Ramallah with hedge fund manager Daniel Arbess, who is Jewish, and with the Palestinian billionaire Adnan Mjalli, who owns businesses in the U.S. and elsewhere, The Times of Israel reported Jan. 13. The purpose of the meeting was to set up an indirect diplomatic channel between Abbas and Trump, the report said.
Arbess was dispatched to Ramallah to send messages to Abbas and relay his responses back to Washington ahead of Trump’s inauguration. He was not directly sent by Trump. Arbess is considered close to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is expected to take up a senior White House role in the new administration.
During the meeting, Arbess told Abbas that Trump is serious about moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to Haaretz, which first reported on the meeting. Last week, Abbas told members of Israel’s left-wing Meretz party he did not believe Trump would move the embassy. Also present at the meeting was senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and security chief Majed Faraj.