Jared Kushner optimistic he can negotiate a lasting peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians

According to US President Donald Trump's advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner, the president has not yet made a decision on whether to formally recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital but that decision may come soon.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner (left) and billionaire Haim Saban, chairman and chief executive officer of Saban Capital Group Inc., at the Saban Forum in Washington, US, on Dec 3, 2017.
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner (left) and billionaire Haim Saban, chairman and chief executive officer of Saban Capital Group Inc., at the Saban Forum in Washington, US, on Dec 3, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - Mr Jared Kushner said on Sunday (Dec 3) that he was optimistic he could negotiate a lasting peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians despite increasing tension in the region over President Donald Trump's reported plans to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

In a rare public appearance at a forum of current and former US and Middle East officials, Mr Kushner, the President's son-in-law and senior adviser, acknowledged the challenges that for years had thwarted the efforts of many long-time negotiators in the audience.

But as Mr Trump's point man for Middle East peace, he presented an upbeat portrayal of his own effort to build trust with both sides.

"You see a lot of reasons why this deal could go south very quickly, and there are a tonne of distractions," Mr Kushner said at the Saban Forum, the marquee Middle East policy conference hosted by the Brookings Institution in Washington every year.

But, he added: "I am optimistic that there is a lot of hope."

Mr Kushner offered no details about the plan he and his team were developing, nor did he outline a timetable for releasing it.

But analysts said any progress he might be making could be disrupted if Mr Trump followed through on plans to declare Jerusalem the Israeli capital.

By law, the President has until Monday to decide whether to sign an order keeping the US Embassy in Tel Aviv or move it to Jerusalem, as he has promised repeatedly to do.

Like other presidents before him, Mr Trump has held off relocating the embassy because both sides claim Jerusalem as their capital and such a move would be seen as prejudging a peace agreement.

Advisers have said Mr Trump was poised to sign another waiver delaying the move for six more months, but would balance that in a speech on Wednesday by recognising Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

While the reaction has been mixed, some Palestinian and Arab leaders have warned that such a declaration could kill Mr Trump's peace initiative.

At the Saban Forum, Mr Kushner declined to preview Mr Trump's announcement.

"The President's going to make his decision," he said. "He's still looking at a lot of different facts."