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Kushner's Middle East Peace Plan Seems Unlikely and Risky

Kushner's Middle East Peace Plan Seems Unlikely and Risky

Monday, 10 June, 2019 - 10:45
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner smiles while listening to President Donald Trump talk during a meeting with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, March 25, 2019. (Reuters)
Washington - Asharq Al-Awsat
President Donald Trump's carrot-and-stick approach to the Palestinians, slashing aid while talking up the potential for economic growth, seems to have fallen flat.

Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has been unable to bring any Palestinians on board with his peace plan, which, when unveiled, will likely offer the Palestinians financial gains while sidestepping the core issue of an independent state.

“We don’t like to participate in charades,” Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, told dpa in an interview in New York.

Mansour's government will be boycotting an upcoming investment conference in Bahrain organized by the US administration to advance the plan from Kushner, who was tasked by Trump with solving the decades-old conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Meanwhile, Israel is heading into elections for the second time this year, making it impossible for the other side to seal any deals at the moment either. It is unclear if Arab states will get behind the investment plan either.

Trump has already cut tens of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, including to the desperately poor in the Gaza Strip, though the Palestinian government has not budged.

Further angering Arabs and Muslims across the wider Middle East, Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem. He later recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied from Syria in the 1967 war.

While the moves have drawn the Trump administration and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu closer together, they have come at the price of alienating the Palestinians.

"If you want to reach out to the Palestinian public you have to be careful so as not to come across as not caring about them," explained Michael Herzog, a former Israeli peace negotiator, saying the US approach, even if well-intentioned, has only invited criticism.

“They try to make it appear that we want to improve your life,” Mansour said about the US administration. “But the caveat attached to it is that you have to accept the continuation of the occupation.”

Mansour said he had no desire to lead his people “into an illusion.”

One of the biggest issues is whether the US will support the creation of a Palestinian state.

"If you say ‘two-state,’ it means one thing to the Israelis, it means one thing to the Palestinians," Kushner said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in May. "So, we said, 'let’s just not say it.'"

Former Israeli military chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot, warned the US administration on the risks of an explosion of violence in the West Bank, pointing to the recent steep cuts to humanitarian and security aid as having added volatility to the region, according to Channel 13 news.

But Kushner has brushed off the idea that doing nothing might be better than doing damage.

"If you want to make something better, you have to take a risk it could get worse," Kushner said in May.

Aaron David Miller, who worked for the State Department and advised several administrations on the Middle East, says Kushner should keep in mind the Hippocratic Oath of "do no harm" when engaging in the Middle East.

"Failure carries a price and repeated failure carries a much heavier price," said Miller, who is now a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

"If we could have purchased a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we would have done it a long time ago. It’s not about money," he said.

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