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State Department says committing to two-states is ‘bias’ as Kushner is sent to broker peace

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Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner is meeting with leaders in Israel and the West Bank on a mission to broker a peace, yet his visit comes on the heels of a State Department spokesperson refusing to confirm if the U.S. is still committed to a two-state solution.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters on Wednesday that if she divulged the president’s agenda and whether he intends to seek or scrap Palestinian statehood, it would “really bias one side over the other.” After a reporter cited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s confusion about U.S. goals and asked, “Why are you so loath to… to recommit yourself to the two-state solution?” Nauert responded:

“We are not going to state what the outcome has to be. It has to be workable to both sides. And I think, really, that’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it.” 

In Jerusalem, Kushner released a warm yet vague statement after meeting with Netanyahu yesterday morning. He said that U.S.-Israel relations are “stronger than ever,” and did not elaborate on the issue of Palestinian statehood. 

“The President is very committed to achieving a solution here that will be able to bring prosperity and peace to all people in this area,” Kushner said, “and we really appreciate the commitment of the Prime Minister and his team to engaging very thoughtfully and respectfully in the way that the President has asked them to do so.”

A video of Kushner and Netanyahu was posted on President Trump’s Instagram account, with the president writing a note of excitement echoing Netanyahu’s words, peace, security, and prosperity:

“Thank you Prime Minister @b.netanyahu and Jared! Lets advance #Peace, #Prosperity, and #Security in the area. There is no doubt that our relationship with you is stronger than ever! See you soon.

#USA 🇺🇸 #Israel 🇮🇱”

By contrast,relations between Trump and the Palestinians have increasingly waned. 

Earlier in the week Abbas told Israeli politicians that he has met with Trump’s peace envoys 20 times since the president took office in January. And, in spite of the frequent sit-downs, Abbas was confused if the U.S. intended to back the creation of a Palestinian state and condemn Israeli settlements as counter to that aim, according to notes of a conversation between Abbas and a delegation from the left-leaning Israeli party Meretz,  Haaretz reported.

Abbas reportedly spoke bluntly: “Every time they repeatedly stressed to me how much they believe and are committed to a two-state solution and a halt to construction in the settlements. I have pleaded with them to say the same thing to Netanyahu, but they refrained. They said they would consider it but then they didn’t get back to me,” he said, according to the notes.

Al-Monitor reported that in the same meeting Abbas divulged he planned to issue an “ultimatum” to Kushner yesterday. “Unless progress is made within 45 days on launching talks with the Israelis, the Palestinians will consider themselves no longer committed to the U.S. channel and will turn to an alternative plan on which they have been working for the past two years,” Al-Monitor reported he told the Israeli leader.

A likely path Abbas will seek is pursuing a United Nations Security Council resolution to end the occupation of Palestinian territory by a deadline.

Some clues about what Kushner wants out of his talk with Abbas and Netanyahu come from his itinerary in the region.

Before heading to Jerusalem, Kushner and a delegation that included special envoy on Middle East peace Jason Greenblatt and deputy national security advisor Dina Powell,stopped in Saudi Arabia. A read out from the U.S. Mission noted Israeli-Palestinian peace took place with Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. The meeting suggests Trump seeks a regional agreement in which Saudi Arabia will offer to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for ending its occupation. 

Greenblatt and Powell were also in the meeting with Kushner and Netanyahu this morning.

In February Trump first raised the idea of including Saudi Arabia in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations when he said he is seeking an “ultimate deal,” which was largely interpreted as a new iteration of the Arab Peace Initiative, an offer from the Arab League for diplomatic relations with Israel so long as it removes its forces from the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. Yet in Trump’s same briefing he wavered on backing Palestinian statehood, stating he would look into other options. 

If Trump is pursuing this broader path to broker an agreement, and Palestinian statehood is not on the agenda, he will likely face harsh push-back from the Arab states whose cooperation has always been conditional on the creation of a Palestinian state based on 1967 lines.

The diminishing common ground was evident in an off-the-record transcript of a talk Kushner gave interns last month in which he conceded “there may be no solution” for the conflict he is tasked with solving. Kushner then questioned what he could do that other administrations had not yet tried.

Speaking candidly, he added his “advantage” is that the parties have kept quiet on the details of the peace talks thus far.  “I think you need to be able to probe people in private for them to have the confidence that it’s not going to be used against them, and that it’s not going to leak out in the press, which would be very, very hurtful,” Kushner said.

Yet some leaks have found their way into the Israeli press, before revelations over Abbas’ ultimatum were published this week.

In May, Trump met twice with Abbas, in Washington, DC, and Bethlehem. According to Israel’s Channel 2 relations soured in the weeks between the two sit-downs, culminating in Trump shouting at Abbas during the West Bank meeting, “You tricked me in DC! You talked there about your commitment to peace, but the Israelis showed me your involvement in incitement [against Israel].”


Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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6 Responses

  1. Citizen on August 25, 2017, 10:49 am

    Kushner told the interns his main accomplishment so far has been nobody’s leaking on his peace process project, and he detailed some recent offenses against Jewish Israelis. And his father-in-law POTUS screamed at Abbas the latter had concealed information from him; nobody knows if POTUS feels the same about Netanyahu, but we do know he has posted love tweets to Netanyahu, and Bibi has responded in kind–and took 3 days to weigh in on Trump’s a pox on “both sides” Charlotteville spiel. Nothing at all from anybody involved re the UN resolution weighing in against Israeli settlements that Obama abstained from voting on…nor anything on the fact for decades US state department official stance was against settlements as roadblocks to peace and illegal under international law. Saudis won’t be able to grease Trump/Kusnhner ‘s peace wheels without riling the Arab Street. It knows Saudi Klan and Israel have been kissing in the closet to get rid of their common enemy, Iran.

    • Kay24 on August 25, 2017, 11:58 am

      The US has never been an honest broker in this conflict, aiding, and arming, one side to the hilt, and vetoing endless UN resolutions condemning Israel’s endless crimes against the Palestinians.

      The Kushner family has apparently donated thousands of dollars towards projects in the illegal settlements, and Jared is supposed to be good friends with Nutty, the man being investigated for corruption. This shows a strong bias for a peace broker.

      Anyone believing there will be some resolution, and that Jared will act like a savior and put right, what leaders with much more experience has tried to do for decades, is only delusional, and fooling themselves.

      When Jared realizes he has failed, the WH will throw the Palestinians under the bus (yet again) and blame them for not agreeing to what I already think would be very unfair terms, favoring the zionists. This will be a waste of time and tax payer’s money (like most of Trumps grand plans).

  2. John O on August 25, 2017, 12:13 pm

    End the Occupation to get on-side with Saudi Arabia? I’d like to see the world’s greatest dealmaker sell that one to the West Bank squatters.

  3. US Citizen on August 25, 2017, 3:32 pm

    It is a matter of record that Mahmoud Abbas participated in 20 + years of direct negotiations with seven Israeli governments; all without a settlement freeze.

    In which time the settlements and their associated infrastructure grew exponentially. What are Kushner and his cohorts suggesting, that Abbas sit down for another 20 + years of negotiation while Israel continues it’s apartheid rampage? That Israel, again, uses negotiations as a cover for settlement activities He has wised up to the problems of his previous approach. More power to him.

    Israel continues to undermine the very credibility to the Middle East peace process, making a mockery of existing agreements and sabotaging all prospects for a return to genuine negotiations.

    Just wait for the list of ‘pre conditions’ Nutty will say prevents a Palestinian state since the Palestinians would never agree to them.

  4. James Canning on August 26, 2017, 2:00 pm

    Can Heather Nauert actually be so stupid as to think it would be “bias” for the US to continue to support an independent Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza?

  5. DavidDaoud on September 1, 2017, 1:01 pm

    Heather Nauert:

    Notice her picture, still beautiful and youthful at 47.
    In contrast, a Palestinian woman of that age is an old lady, unsurprisingly.

    Nauert is married to Scott Norby, an investment banker who works at * Goldman Sachs *. They have two sons, Peter (born October 2009), and Gage (born December 2010).

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