“I do believe you’re going to start seeing a lot of normalization between Israel and Arab countries, and that’s a great thing,” senior White House adviser Jared Kushner told Egyptian journalist Amr Adeeb during an interview on the El-Hekaya news show on Sunday, against the backdrop of President Donald Trump’s recently unveiled peace plan and the Arab League’s rejection of it.
As for the peace plan itself, Kushner said in the coming months that he and his team want to examine with Israel which areas of Judea and Samaria can be recognized as sovereign Israeli territory, as “this is land that they [the Israelis] are never going to leave anyway because they have their people there.” Israel, in exchange, will halt settlement expansion, Kushner said.
He told El-Hekaya that the agreement on U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria “will take a couple of months,” during which the sides will survey “every inch” of the territory.
According to Kushner, maintaining the status quo means Israeli settlements continuing to expand in all of Judea and Samaria, making the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible.
“What’s been happening for many years is that Israel has been expanding as they’ve been negotiating and negotiating, and there has not been a resolution to the conflict,” said Kushner.
“This is the last chance to establish a contiguous Palestinian state,” he stressed, implying that the map was subject to changes and also highlighting that a central component of the plan is land swaps with Israel.
Kushner promised that the Palestinians would be able to establish a capital in eastern Jerusalem, but didn’t specify whether that would include the Old City.
“If there are things they [the Palestinians] want to change, if they don’t like where we drew the lines, they should come and tell us,” said Kushner.
The main loser if the plan is rejected, he said, would be the Palestinians.
“If the line is drawn here or there, it doesn’t matter. If [the Palestinians] will have a government and good systems, if they’ll have all the investments, the possibility to pray at the [al-Aqsa] Mosque, and they have their dignity, that’s what they want. If they don’t do a deal, they won’t get all this,” said Kushner.
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas has rejected Washington’s plan outright, calling it the “slap of the century” and vowing it to consign it to “the dustbins of the history.”
In a Saturday address during an emergency Arab League meeting in Cairo, Abbas said he was cutting all ties, including security coordination, with both Israel and the United States.
Ramallah severed almost all of its ties with Washington after the latter recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017. The United States subsequently shuttered the PLO representative office in Washington and slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians and The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the U.N. agency that supports Palestinian refugees.
Defending the policy, Kushner said: “If you’re going to criticize America, we’re not going to give you aid anymore. American aid doesn’t come to countries that criticize.”
While Kushner criticized the Palestinian leadership’s track record on peace negotiations, he clarified: “I do believe that President Abbas wants peace, I believe he’s devoted his life to peace; whether he and his team are capable of doing it is going to be up to them.”
The stakes, said Kushner, were high.
“If we don’t get through this, the Middle East will never be able to heal,” he said.
Kushner then attacked chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, saying he was personally responsible for the P.A.’s failure to reach an agreement with Israel over the last 25 years.
“He says a lot of things that have turned out not to be true,” Kushner told El-Hekaya. “The guy has a perfect track record at failing at making peace deals.”
Also on Sunday, Kushner told CNN that if Palestinians were unable to meet the conditions of the new plan, Israel should not take “the risk to recognize them as a state.”
The Palestinians, he told host Fareed Zakaria, “are trapped under the rule that you have now,” describing the P.A. system as “a police state” and noting that “it’s not exactly a thriving democracy.”
“For the Palestinians, if they want their people to live better lives, we now have a framework to do it,” said Kushner. “If they don’t think that they can uphold these standards, then I don’t think we can get Israel to take the risk to recognize them as a state, to allow them to take control of themselves, because the only thing more dangerous than what we have now is a failed state.”
Kushner’s remarks prompted a sharp response from Erekat, who said Kushner had unilaterally decided what a peace settlement would look like.
“What is left to negotiate? When I said these issues must be negotiated between us and Israel directly, Kushner responded by calling me a failed negotiator, unable to negotiate. He negotiated on my behalf because he knows better than I do what is best for me. This is the art of dictation, arrogance, and blackmail,” Erekat wrote in a statement to CNN.