The Trump administration’s lead Middle East negotiator, Jared Kushner commented on his forthcoming plan two days ago at a Time Magazine forum in New York. It’ll come out after Netanyahu’s “great victory” and after Ramadan.
We were getting ready at the end of last year, and then obviously they called for Israeli elections. Prime Minister Netanyahu had a great victory, and he’s in the middle of forming his coalition. Once that’s done, we’ll probably be in the middle of Ramadan. So we’ll wait till after Ramadan and then we’ll put our plan out….
They’ve talked with people “from the region.” I.e., not so much Palestinians.
When my father in law asked me to work on this project, the Middle East peace process, it’s about as tough a problem set as you can get. So we’ve taken I think an unconventional approach. We’ve studied all the different past efforts and how they’ve failed and why they’ve failed…. We’ve tried to do it a little bit differently. Normally they start with a process and then hope that the process leads to a resolution for something to happen they haven’t been able to resolve for a long time. What we’ve done is the opposite. We’ve done very extensive research and a lot of talking to a lot of the people, we’re not trying to impose our will. I think that the document you’ll see which is a very detailed proposal, is something we created by engaging with a lot of people from the region and people who have worked on this in the past. I hope that it’s a very comprehensive vision for what can be if people are willing to make some hard decisions.
So we started with a proposed solution then we’ll work on a process to try to get there.
Time’s White House correspondent, Brian Bennett, asked Kushner about the “two state solution.”
Yes, so we have not said today, we are going to lay that out very clearly… I think that if people focus on the old traditional talking points, we will never make progress. Right? You had the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002 which I think was a very good attempt. If that would have worked, we would have made peace a long time ago on that basis. So what we’re going to put out is different. Our focus is really on the bottom up, which is how do you make the lives of the Palestinian people better? What can you resolve to allow these areas to become more investable? We deal with all the core status issues because you have to do it, but we’ve also built a robust business plan for the whole region. I think that the two together have the opportunity to push forward. And then from Israel’s point of view, their biggest concern is just security. And I think that what we do, is something that allows for Israel to maintain security, but there’ll be tough compromises for both.
That implies an “economic” peace. Palestinians get more investment, no sovereignty.
And I hope that when they [Israelis and Palestinians] look at our proposal, I’m not saying they’re going to look at it and say, this is perfect and let’s go forward. I’m hopeful what they’ll do is to say, look, there are some compromises here, but at the end of the day, this is really a framework that can allow us to make our lives materially better. And we’ll see if the leadership on both sides has the courage to take the leap to try to go forward.
Liberal Zionists are expressing alarm over the comments. “I think this may be the first time that Kushner has clearly disavowed two states on the record,” writes Michael Koplow. Koplow posted an analysis at the Israel Policy Forum saying Kushner has ditched the two-state solution “altogether” and is allowing annexation, and making clear that “Palestinians should give up any hopes of political sovereignty.”
[The] peace initiative… is branded as the deal of the century but is in fact a thinly veiled attempt to shift the Overton window so that it is centered on the Israeli right’s most ambitious fever dream. This would not actually be a deal in any normative sense of the word since there is no expectation of it being accepted by the Palestinian side, or even being balanced enough to allow for any type of negotiations. It would instead set a new baseline of unrealistic expectations for the Israeli side that would sabotage any potential future deal by moving the Israeli and Palestinian sides even further apart, with an even greater likelihood of paving the way for Israeli annexation of the West Bank as the U.S. cheers it on.
And it is this final step that would cement the disaster for Israel, as any claim to having moral authority as the only democracy in the Middle East, or shaking off the occupation of the West Bank as a temporary measure born from having no partner, would be gone forever. It would mean an endless fight against an empowered BDS that at some point will get real buy-in from European governments, the death of Israeli dreams of eventual integration into the wider Middle East and normalized relations with Sunni states, and a security hellscape dealing with Palestinians who want either their own state or Israeli citizenship but are not willing to countenance permanent second class status through autonomy on 40% of the West Bank. It would mean an Israel that never has quiet and sustainable borders, is never treated as a normal country, and is fated to fight a never-ending battle against its neighbors, the world, and its own conscience.
Leading Democrats have come out against Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank.
P.S. Kushner was mildly critical of Saudi Arabia’s response to the Houthi rebellion. “Maybe they haven’t done the best job,” he said, but Saudi Arabia is in the same position as Israel is with Hamas in Gaza. “They need to be able to defend themselves.” And it’s “very pragmatic” for the U.S. to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.
“We’ve urged the Saudis to try to loosen up a lot of the aid to get in to the people,” Kushner said.
The president’s son-in-law is said to be close to Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, and at a dinner Tuesday night the film star Hasan Minhaj called on Kushner to reach out to MbS to get him to release women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul,
Thanks to Allison Deger.