Trump aide Kushner says he'll pursue peace plan with or without Palestinians
'The global community is getting frustrated with Palestinian leadership,' Jared Kushner tells Palestinian newspaper Al Quds
The US president’s son-in-law and lead Middle East adviser Jared Kushner has criticised Mahmoud Abbas, suggesting that responsibility for failing to secure a peace deal with Israel rests with the Palestinian leader.
The comments came at the end of a week-long trip to the region, where Mr Kushner and US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt met the leaders of Israel, Jordan, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia to discuss American proposals.
"I question President Abbas' ability, or desire, to finish the deal," Mr Kushner said in an interview published in the Palestinian newspaper Al Quds on Sunday. "He has the same talking points that haven't changed in the past 25 years. A peace hasn't been achieved during that period."
Mr Kushner said the White House was willing present its peace plan without Palestinian support.
President Donald Trump has promised to pursue the "ultimate deal" between Israelis and Palestinians. He put his son-in-law, who has no prior diplomatic experience, in charge.
Despite the trip to the region, Mr Kushner and accompanying US officials did not meet Palestinian leaders, who have shunned the Trump administration since the US president announced in December he would move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital, but Palestinians hope to have their capital in the east of the city.
In the absence of meeting with the Palestinian authority, Mr Kushner appealed directly to Palestinians, promising that his yet to be announced peace plan would offer them greater economic prosperity.
"The global community is getting frustrated with Palestinian leadership and not seeing many actions that are constructive toward achieving peace," Mr Kushner said. "There are a lot of sharp statements and condemnations, but no ideas or efforts with prospects of success."
Mr Kushner said the Palestinian leadership was "scared we will release our peace plan and the Palestinian people will actually like it" because it would offer them a better life. "To make a deal both sides will have to take a leap and meet somewhere between their stated positions,” he said. “I am not sure President Abbas has the ability to do that."
Palestinian leaders interpreted his remarks as designed to undermine the Abbas-led West Bank autonomous government. Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat on Saturday accused the US of "creating a state of destabilisation and confusion in the West Bank" in order to "target the leadership".
A proposal to redirect to Gaza tax revenue that Israel collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority is meant to sustain Hamas's violent takeover of the territory, "while bringing down the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank," Mr Erekat told Voice of Palestine radio, according to the official Wafa news agency.
Earlier Saturday, Mr Abbas's spokesman said the Trump team's mission to the Middle East would be a waste of time if it avoids tackling the political issues at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mr Kushner said the long-awaited peace plan was almost done but offered scant detail other than to say that economic support and investment could entice the Palestinians to support the proposal.
He added: "We are committed to finding a package of solutions the two sides can live with. Resolving fundamental issues without creating a path for a better life will not lead to a lasting solution."
But Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said they want to focus on resolving issues such as borders, the right of return for refugees, and crucially the status of Jerusalem – which remains at the emotional heart of the conflict.
"The American administration must understand the important need to stop pursuing imaginary political alternatives and projects aimed at splitting the Palestinian homeland to prevent the establishment of our Palestinian state," Mr Abu Rudeina said in statement.
Any peace plan will face significant hurdles to implementation, not least of which include the dire humanitarian in the Gaza Strip, and ongoing cross-border violence between Gaza's militant leaders Hamas and Israel.
Without support from the Palestinian leadership, it is not clear how a US-fostered plan could progress.
"If President Abbas is willing to come back to the table, we are ready to engage; if he is not, we will likely air the plan publicly," Mr Kushner said.
The comments come as the US becomes more isolated at the United Nations over its handling of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The vast majority of UN countries voted to condemn the embassy move, and the US failed to stop a UN measure condemning Israel for "excessive use of force" against protesters at the Gaza border earlier this month.
Israel has welcomed the Trump administration's position. After meeting Messrs Kushner and Greenblatt on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement that "expressed his gratitude for President Trump's support for Israel."
Updated: June 24, 2018 02:32 PM