Last week, President Donald Trump’s Middle-East advisor and son in law Jared Kushner spoke at a dinner hosted by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (a spinoff of the Israel lobby group AIPAC). On the question of the ‘2-state solution’ in the context of the promised ‘deal of the century’, his suggestion was “let’s just not say it”.
Kushner was evasive and vague, with expressions such as:
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?
But he was quite clear when he incited against Palestinians, saying:
There’s a lot of impatience with the Palestinian issue… People have been funding this thing for a long time. They’ve gotten more aid than any group of people in history, and what we have to show for it is really not much at this point, unfortunately.
Jared Kushner was actually wrong, critically wrong. The Washington Post did a fact check on his claim of “more aid than any group of people in history” and reached an interesting conclusion. “Now, let’s compare the Palestinians with the Israelis”, wrote Glenn Kessler. His conclusion:
Israel has been getting an average of $3.5 billion a year for 66 years — just from the United States — while the Palestinians have received about $1.7 billion a year from international donors.
Aid to Israel far outstrips aid to Palestinians
Kessler detailed the funding to Israel:
The State Department’s foreign aid database shows that U.S. aid to Israel totaled $228 billion in constant 2017 dollars between 1951 and 2017. U.S. assistance to Israel was especially significant in some years, topping $10 billion in 1974 and $13 billion in 1979. These figures were so unexpectedly high that we confirmed them with the State Department to make sure the calculations were correct.
On the Palestinian count, US aid was a fraction of what Palestinians get:
The Palestinians, meanwhile, have received about $37.2 billion in development aid (in constant dollars) between 1994 and 2017, according to the OECD. The U.S. share of that was about $8.2 billion, according to the OECD. (The State Department, under a broader definition of aid, records U.S. assistance to the West Bank and Gaza as totaling $9.1 billion since 1988.) Some Arab donations are included but the OECD database does not reflect, for instance, Qatar’s contributions to Gaza, which totaled $1.1 billion between 2012 and 2018 with the approval of the Israeli government. To be conservative, we will round up the total Palestinian aid to $40 billion. In other words, the Palestinians received less from the international community than what Israel received from the United States in terms of economic aid.
So you see, Jared Kushner’s mistake is not just any mistake. The mistake relates to the Palestinians’ adversary – Israel, which Kushner apparently does not want to talk about in these terms. The nerve of his erroneous suggestion is the effort to show that Palestinians are essentially a burden. But not Israel, of course. Israel is not a burden.
Israel also plunders Palestinian foreign aid and natural resources
The numbers are actually worse than the Post suggests, because about four-fifths of the foreign aid to Palestine ends up in Israeli coffers, according to a study by Israeli economist Shir Hever from 2016.
Hever’s claim of “at least 78%”, comes from an analysis of Israel’s “self-imposed role as mediator”. To reach the Palestinians, donors have no choice but to go through Israel. This provides ripe opportunities for what he terms “aid subversion” and “aid diversion”. Without delving into the details of how this occurs (see Jonathan Cook’s coverage and explanation on this site), it should also be noted that Israel additionally plunders Palestinian resources worth at least $3.4 billion a year (according to a 2013 World Bank estimate). It is also worth noting that Israel uses its occupation as a means of justifying the military aid it gets from the US worth $3.8 billion a year, and it profits from marketing its weapons as “battle-tested” on the captive Palestinian population.
So when you add all these figures together, you see that Israel’s occupation of Palestinians (including, let it be explicitly noted, Gaza), is a very good business for Israel, and as such, it has little incentive to relinquish it.
Kushner leaves Israeli settlers out of the picture
Jared Kushner, like his father-in-law, is in the habit of giving Israel the gifts it wants, in brazen defiance of international law. “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and that will be part of any final agreement anyway,” he said at the Soref Symposium at the Washington Institute. Translation: Jerusalem will NOT be part of any Palestinian autonomy construct that Jared Kushner will negotiate as any final agreement anyway – Jared Kushner just doesn’t care about international law.
Commentator Peter Beinart wrote in the Forward last year that Jared Kushner is uneducated.
Since joining the government, he has displayed a predictable, yet nonetheless alarming, ignorance of the subjects he oversees. Discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with congressional interns last summer, Kushner declared that “the variables haven’t been changed much” in “the last 40 or 50 years” — a period of time in which the Jewish settler population in the West Bank has risen from zero to close to 400,000. He went on to complain that people were always trying to explain the conflict’s history to him. “We don’t want a history lesson,” he told the interns. “We’ve read enough books.” In fact, it’s a virtual certainty that when it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, Kushner hasn’t read enough books. More frightening is that he doesn’t think he needs to.
That figure of “close to 400,000” settlers in the West Bank was outdated when it was written. It excluded East Jerusalem, which is actually a part of the West Bank – a bad habit that has become common in mainstream media. B’tselem estimated over 622,000 settlers at the end of 2017.
This figure is derived from two sources: According to data provided by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), at the end of 2017, 413,400 people were living in the settlements of the West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem. According to data provided by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies, the population of the Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem numbered 209,270 people at the end of 2016.
Statistical adjustment of the data brings us today to about 650,000 settlers in the West Bank. One should add another 20,000 settlers in the Syrian occupied Jolan (Golan).
Jared Kushner is in the habit of turning a blind eye: a blind eye to Israeli settlement, to Israel’s massive reception of foreign aid, and to its plundering of Palestinian resources and aid.
Kushner’s message is that Palestinians should just be happy and stop complaining, because money is being thrown at them, and there’s “really not much” to show for it. If only Palestinians knew what was good for them…
H/t Loretta Brockmeier, Rune Lombardo, Jean Porter