On Mideast tour, Kushner says peace plan will focus on borders & Palestinian unity

In an interview with Sky News Arabia, while on a visit to Abu Dhabi, White House senior advisor Jared Kushner revealed that the Trump peace plan will focus on the “border issue” in an effort to jumpstart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. “The political plan is very detailed and focuses on resolving the border issue, and if we can resolve this factor and bring peace away from intimidation, then we can guarantee people’s freedom,” Kushner said. So far, Kushner added, “We have not been able to convince the two sides to make concessions.” [Video]

Kushner and Jason Greenblatt met yesterday with leaders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman. Kushner is expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia later in the week, but it’s not clear whether he will meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). 

REACTION — The Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller emails: “No Administration since there have been serious negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis has ever talked about the U.S. ‘drawing borders.’ The approach to borders has always been either to lay out parameters or provide general formulations to guide the parties’ negotiations. Kushner either misspoke or is about to put out a plan — to borrow a phrase from Star Trek — that goes beyond where anyone has gone before. I suspect it’s the former — given the reality that bilateral negotiations or those assisted by the U.S. will be critical — and the plan will contain generalities on the issue of territory.  If it’s not — and the only way to truly draw borders is with a map — the odds of this plan succeeding have gone from slim to none.”

Hudson Institute’s Douglas Feith: “I think the Palestinians will not make progress toward peace or toward freedom and prosperity until they have better quality leaders and political institutions. The current leaders are corrupt and self-serving, mired in pro-terrorist policies and attached to inflexible principles of hostility to Zionism. It’s a sad situation, bad for Israel and catastrophic for the Palestinians. If Mr. Kushner’s plan moves the Palestinians toward new leadership, it may open a constructive path. One can hope, but it isn’t easy.” 

Dr. Einat Wilf: “Kushner has said very little in the interview. It is very broad and open to interpretations. Bennett is using this anyways to make his claim — that was his campaign from day one — ‘do you want a Bibi-Gantz government or a Bibi-Bennett government?’ So Kushner’s very fuzzy comments make no difference to his campaign. For Netanyahu, anything after the elections might as well take place in a thousand years  — he is focused on winning them — which means he needs the Likud to be the largest party and the right wing+haredi block to be greater than 60. He’ll deal with everything afterward.”

Shalom Lipner, a veteran of 26 years in the Israeli prime minister’s office and currently a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Program: “Jared Kushner is now fixing to become a star of the election campaign. The debates between Bennett and Likud are certain to grow more fierce during the remaining weeks. The bigger dilemma will then fall to the new Israeli government, which will have to navigate a careful response to whatever blueprint Trump presents as his legacy.” • Kushner’s peace plan looks dead on arrival, Lipner writes. [PoliticoMag]

Dore Gold, former Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “Kushner led with two principles in his comments: freedom and dignity. I certainly have no problem with his emphasis. In my public addresses, I always stress that only a democratic Israel can protect the freedom of Jerusalem for all the great faiths. Besides dignity, we need to add security. With Iran employing Shiite militias increasingly in Syria and Iraq a new threat is emerging along Jordan’s borders that will affect Israel. That problem can only be ameliorated by Israel retaining the Jordan Valley in the widest sense of that term as Rabin advised before he died.”

KAFE KNESSET — The New Right Blasts ‘Trump-Netanyahu’ Plan — by Neri Zilber: The Kushner interview led to a torrent of responses, especially from The New Right, led by Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, who used it as an electoral opportunity. “Kushner’s comments prove what we already know — on the day after the election the Americans will push for a Netanyahu-Lapid-Gantz government that will create a Palestinian state… and divide Jerusalem, and Netanyahu will have to fall in line,” Bennett said. A video depicting Netanyahu’s past support for Palestinian statehood, interspersed with Bennett’s call to voters, quickly went viral on social media. “Netanyahu will divide Jerusalem,” it said at the end — an ironic callback to Netanyahu’s first campaign for PM in 1996 when he alleged the same about Shimon Peres. Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset newsletter by subscribing here [KafeKnesset]

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