No 'two states' in Mid-East plan: Kushner

Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner speaking with Washington Institute for Near East Policy executive director Robert Satloff on Thursday. Mr Kushner said his team has spoken to the Palestinian business community and ordinary residents and belie
Senior White House adviser Jared Kushner speaking with Washington Institute for Near East Policy executive director Robert Satloff on Thursday. Mr Kushner said his team has spoken to the Palestinian business community and ordinary residents and believes the peace plan will be "very acceptable to them".PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

US adviser says new peace plan will cover final status between Israelis, Palestinians

WASHINGTON • Mr Jared Kushner has revealed new contours of the upcoming US peace plan for the Middle East, indicating that it will pull back from long-standing mentions of a two-state solution with the Palestinians and accept Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

The son-in-law and senior adviser to President Donald Trump is expected next month to present a long-awaited deal on behalf of the United States administration, which has closely aligned itself with Israel's right wing.

Vowing to take a fresh approach, Mr Kushner gave the administration's strongest indication yet that the plan will not propose "two states" for Israelis and Palestinians - for decades the US-backed goal in marathon peace talks.

"If you say 'two-state', it means one thing to the Israelis, it means one thing to the Palestinians," he said on Thursday at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "We said, you know, let's just not say it. Let's just say, let's work on the details of what this means."

Mr Kushner declined to give extensive details about the plan before its release but when asked if it would cover the final status between Israelis and Palestinians, he said: "That's correct, we will."

The Palestinian leadership has already said it does not accept mediation by Mr Trump, whose evangelical Christian base is pro-Israel and whose long list of actions in support of the Jewish state includes moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. Israel considers the holy city its eternal capital, but Palestinians want east Jerusalem as part of a future state.

Mr Kushner, who is also widely distrusted by the Palestinians for his family ties with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said Mr Trump asked him before his Jerusalem decision how it would affect peace prospects. "The answer I gave him was, I think short term, it's probably harder, because people will be more reactive and emotional," Mr Kushner said.

"But long term, I think it helps because what we need to start doing is just recognising truths, and I think when we recognised Jerusalem, that is a truth - Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, and that would be part of any final agreement anyway."

FRESH WAY TO FAIL

Our approach has been, if we're going to fail, we don't want to fail doing it the same way it's been done in the past.

MR JARED KUSHNER, senior White House adviser, on taking a fresh approach when it comes to the US' Middle East peace plan.

WHEN FATHER-IN-LAW IS BOSS

When you work for a president, you try hard not to disappoint, but you can disappoint. When you work for your father-in-law, you can't disappoint.

MR KUSHNER, on the boss being the President and also his father-in-law.

Mr Netanyahu, campaigning in his successful re-election bid last month, vowed to annex parts of the West Bank, a step that would all but doom a Palestinian state. His stance has alienated even long-time advocates for Israel within the US Democratic Party, who question whether the nation can remain both Jewish and democratic while millions of Palestinians live under occupation.

But Mr Kushner promised that Israel would make compromises, too. He said his team had spoken to the Palestinian business community and ordinary residents and believed the peace plan will be "very acceptable to them".

Mr Kushner has reached out to oil-rich Gulf Arabs in an apparent bid to create economic incentives for occupied Palestinians.

"It's been very disheartening for us to see the Palestinian leadership has basically been attacking a plan (when) they don't know what it is," the US adviser said. "If they truly cared about making the lives of the Palestinian people better, I think they would have taken very different decisions over the past year - and maybe over the last 20 years."

Mr Kushner acknowledged that he may not be the one who finally makes peace in the Middle East, but said he at the very least wanted to change the discussion. "Our approach has been, if we're going to fail, we don't want to fail doing it the same way it's been done in the past."

But Mr Kushner, whose role in government alongside his wife Ivanka Trump has drawn heated criticism on ethical grounds, is at least assured of support in one key corner. "When you work for a president, you try hard not to disappoint, but you can disappoint. When you work for your father-in-law, you can't disappoint."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 04, 2019, with the headline 'No 'two states' in Mid-East plan: Kushner'. Print Edition | Subscribe