On Thursday evening, Senior White House advisor and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner described the Middle East peace plan he will unfurl in June as a lengthy “operational document” that will focus on details rather than “high level concepts.” He declined to confirm if the plan, which has been kept secret, will include a Palestinian state but spoke at length about an “economic visions for the region” and a “business plan” to address “what’s been holding” Palestinians “back economically.”
Speaking at the Washington Institute’s Soref Symposium with Robert Satloff he said, “If you say two-state it means one thing to the Israelis, it means one state to the Palestinians and we said, let’s just not say it. Let’s just work on the details of what this means.”
The remarks come weeks after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reelected to a fifth term and made a campaign promise to annex settlements in the West Bank.
Kushner said he has not discussed applying Israeli sovereignty with Netanyahu, but hoped both Israel and the Palestinians would avoid unilateral steps before his deal is made public. He did clarify moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is compatible with his proposal.
“Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and that will be part of any final agreement anyway,” he said.
“Our number one goals are we want the Palestinians’ lives to get better and we want Israel’s security to be stronger and we want both sides to be able to find a pathway to come together and figure out how to bridge some of these previously unbridgeable divides,” Kushner said.
Satloff recently warned in an op-ed for Foreign Policy, Kushner’s plan is a mistake that “risks triggering a chain of events that would result in a decision by Netanyahu to annex parts of the contested West Bank.” He questioned Kushner if focusing on “Israeli security” and “Palestinian dignity” would lead Palestinians to balk at the proposal.
“It is not unreasonable for a Palestinian to hear that equation and say, ‘where is my political aspiration?’” Satloff said.
“I think that for the Palestinians the political aspirations are important, I do believe that what we will put out will address a lot of their political aspirations, a lot of their dignity that is important to us, but I just think that they are at a point where they are not able to live the lives that they think they deserve because a lot of this [political division] has kind of screwed it up for them,” Kushner said.
“The average Palestinian does not have a ton of faith in their government, they don’t have a ton of faith in their Arab neighbors, they don’t have a ton of faith in Israel, they don’t have a ton of faith in America,” Kushner said.
“They have been lied to for a long time by a lot of people and I think they are at a place where they don’t know what to believe or who to believe,” he said.
Speaking of the decade -ong split in the Palestinian leadership, Kushner said Hamas holds the population in Gaza “hostage” while the government in Ramallah represses the West Bank where Palestinians “question whether the leadership is actually looking after their interest or not.”
The Palestinian leadership has said in advance of the plan’s release that they will not accept any proposal that does not include the creation of a Palestinian state and accused the U.S. of “financial blackmail,” after cutting off more than $200 million in aid. Most recently this assertion was made after Israel froze the transfer of millions in tax revenues.
Officially, Palestinian negotiators and the Trump administration cut off contact in December 2018, but barbs have been traded in statements and speeches, even in front of one and another at the United Nations.
More recently, special envoy Jason Greenblatt, Kushner’s partner in developing the deal, took to Twitter to chide Palestinian leaders for concentrating on “calcified talking points that have not brought peace but only misery and prevented job creation.”
Despite the bitterness, Kushner was optimistic that his plan would be acceptable to the Palestinian people, if not the leadership who have “basically been attacking a plan that they don’t know what’s in it.”
“We think it could be very acceptable to them and the question will be whether the leadership has the courage to try to jump in and to try and to achieve it,” he said, “and whether they have the intent for preservation or whether they have the intent for actually betterment of the lives of their people.”
The plan, it seems, is not a document that would need to be accepted in full by both the Israelis and the Palestinians.
“We do hope that what we put out has a lot of different pathways that could potentially make this better,” Kushner said.
“Success can look like a lot of different things. It can look like an agreement, it can look like a discussion, it could lead to closer cooperation, maybe resolve a couple of issues, maybe not?” he said.