ANALYSIS: Jared Kushner Has Made a Tragic Mistake
Has the author of Trump’s peace plan unwittingly played right into the hands of the Palestinian leadership?
We are now almost a week after the Trump Administration’s publication of its extensive vision on solving the century-old Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and it looks like the plan will meet the same fate as all other peace initiatives.
After Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas made clear he wouldn’t even bother to read the “Peace to Prosperity” plan, he took concrete steps to undermine Trump’s initiative.
Meanwhile, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, contributed to the confusion surrounding the plan by making statements indicating he hasn’t fully internalized the essence of the conflict.
Arab acceptance turns to rejection
Abbas succeeded in getting an emergency meeting of the Arab League, which took place in Cairo last Saturday.
After blasting the Trump Administration and repeating his vow not to go down in history as “a traitor” and “as one who sold Jerusalem,” Abbas announced the PA would cut all ties with the US and Israel, including security cooperation.
It remains unclear whether the aging PA leader will make good on his promise this time around, after he announced the same thing at least 50 times, since he and other PA officials can’t even leave Ramallah without coordinating with Israel.
Apparently, the Arab foreign ministers were impressed by Abbas’ resilience, because the Arab League unanimously adopted a resolution rejecting Trump’s proposal, citing a lack of recognition of Palestinian rights.
In fact, the Gulf States and Egypt walked back their earlier satisfaction with the proposal, and returned to their old positions based on the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, which was, in fact, a dictate obliging Israel to return to the indefensible 1948 armistice lines, including the repartition of Jerusalem.
Palestinians turn to the UN
Abbas also announced he would go the UN Security Council to seek a resolution condemning the Trump proposal, a move doomed to failure since the US and most likely also the United Kingdom will veto such a resolution.
The PA leader will then have the opportunity to bring the resolution to the UN General Assembly, where only two countries (Israel and the US) will oppose it, according to chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat, who also serves as Secretary-General of the PLO.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also condemned the new peace initiative because it doesn’t “meet the minimum aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and contradicts the terms of reference of the peace process.”
The OIC represents 1.5 billion Muslims in 57 countries, and the body doesn’t want its members to cooperate with the plan “in any way or form.”
The question is what will happen next?
From a logical point of view, one would expect that the Trump Administration now gives Israel a green light to declare Israeli sovereignty over 30 percent of Area C in what is called the “West Bank,” Israel’s ancestral heartlands of Judea and Samaria and the whole Jordan Valley.
Israel doesn’t need American approval to do this since it requires only a vote in the Israeli cabinet. But from a political point of view it is better that the Trump Administration okays the move in order to stave off the expected international outcry.
There’s only one problem with this course of action: the most important US official, the one who drafted the 181-page plan, indicated that he opposes the declaration of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and 30 percent of Area C at this point in time.
A fly in the ointment
Jared Kushner wants Israel to wait with it until after the upcoming Israeli election on March 2, but that could mean the ‘annexation’ (the territories cannot be annexed officially since they legally should be part of Israel) would be ditched again.
If the “Blue and White” party wins the election, it is almost certain to introduce Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley alone, and not over the so-called “settlements,” the Israeli villages and towns in Judea and Samaria.
Kushner, Trump’s most important adviser for issues related to the peace process, has indicated he doesn’t grasp the essence of the conflict, and has now embarked on a public relations tour apparently to limit the damage he himself caused by demanding Israel wait with the sovereignty measure.
In an interview on Egyptian television, Kushner repeatedly said he thinks that the Palestinian Arabs would choose peace with Israel in order to improve their quality of life, and also falsely claimed Israel and the PA were equally to blame for the lack of progress over the last 15 years.
Who’s fault is it really?
In fact, it was PA leader Abbas who ruined the chance to achieve peace when he turned down the unprecedented offer made by former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert in 2007, and the proposal made by former US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013.
Had the Palestinian Arabs truly been interested in improving their lot, they would have done so already in July 2000, when Yasser Arafat was offered an independent state by then-US President Bill Clinton and former Israeli PM Ehud Barak.
The essence of the conflict is, however, the stubborn Palestinian refusal to finally come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state, and that explains why they also turned down this new American proposal.
After all, this is what they have been doing since 1947, when the leadership of the Jewish community in what the British called “Palestine” accepted a state – which BTW was much smaller than what the Palestinian leadership has been offered now – under UN resolution 181, and the Arabs rejected it out of hand and then started a war.