As the US prepares to announce its peace plan for Israel and Arabs living in the “West Bank,” calls from Palestinian leaders to boycott the summit where it will be announced are being ignored by regional Arab nations. That summit will be led by US senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner.
Asked in an interview whether he believes the Palestinians are capable of governing themselves, said, “That’s a very good question. That’s one that we’ll have to see. The hope is that over time they can become capable of governing.” Kushner’s words are raising a storm among Palestinian Authority (PA) leaders.
When asked whether he understands why the Palestinians do not trust him, Kushner replied: “I am not here to be trusted.” He added that he believed the Palestinians would judge the Trump administration’s Mideast peace plan based on if they think it “will allow them to have a pathway to a better life or not.”
Kushner refused to say whether the US peace plan would include the two-state solution.
“I do think they [the Palestinians] should have self-determination. I’m going to leave the details until we come out with the actual plan,” Kushner said.
In response, senior PLO official Saeb Erekat called on the Arab countries to boycott Kushner.
“He pays no attention to the Palestinians and has isolated himself from having any role in the peace process. Once again, I call on the Arab brothers not to talk to the group of settlers [Kushner, US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman] who are planning on helping the settlers flourish on our backs,” Erekat said.
Jared Kushner did not hesitate to put the truth right in the Palestinians’ face. This despite the Palestinians’ unyielding demands for a Palestinian state inside the 1967 lines, with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.
Kushner’s words scored a direct hit on the heart of Palestinian national aspirations. Ever since the “declaration of independence” of the Palestine National Council in Algiers in 1988, the PLO has been confident that it already is a state for all intents and purposes. The frustration and despair of senior PA officials grow as the US-sponsored June 25-26 economic workshop in Bahrain draws closer.
Erekat’s call for the Arab states to boycott the three US government officials will fall on deaf ears. The three are supposed to play starring roles alongside the representatives of the Arab countries at the Bahrain workshop.
Kushner simply stated what many Arab leaders believe but do not dare say. They too are familiar with Abbas’ decadent, corrupt government, which operates like the Sicilian mafia. The corruption was also widespread when Yasser Arafat was in power.
Similarly, the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip is incorrigibly corrupt. It is run by a gang of terrorists that founded a terrorist state in Gaza after violently expelling the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
Kushner’s remarks more than suggest that the US peace plan is based on the principles of “economic peace” that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been preaching since 2008.
What Kushner did not mention was the security aspect. Hamas established an extremist Islamic emirate in the Gaza Strip. This Islamic emirate calls for the destruction of Israel and is loyal to Iran. Kushner did not elaborate on the fear that the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank may lead to a Hamas takeover, and that for this reason, Israel is only willing to give the Palestinians their own government, or a “state-minus.” Israel is not willing to risk losing control of security in the West Bank.
Abbas said he was encouraged by the decisions of the Islamic Conference and the Arab summit that he took part in early in June. He received official backing for his views on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and the re-adoption of the Arab Peace Initiative. But how much of the support he received was genuine and how much was lip service?
The Trump government is determined to hold the economic workshop in Bahrain. It is supposed to be the first stage of the US administration’s “deal of the century.” The economic workshop is supposed to be a demonstration of normalization between the Arab states and Israel. To Abbas’ dismay, this quiet, behind-the-scenes normalization has already begun to manifest, and he can do nothing to prevent it.
There is another truth the Palestinians need to hear: They need to become more grounded in reality. Palestinian society is divided and unable to reach national reconciliation. The separation between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continues. The PA is experiencing a severe financial crisis. The Gaza Strip continues to oscillate between calm and conflict.
Seventy-one years have passed since the establishment of the state of Israel. The Palestinians call this event the “Nakba.” The Palestinian generation of 1948 is disappearing. The United States may plan to eliminate UNRWA and announce the resettlement of the refugees in the Arab countries where they live. If the Palestinians entirely reject the US Mideast peace plan, Israel is expected to receive a green light from the administration to apply Israeli law over the “green line.”
Abbas is not a charismatic leader. He is not capable of political maneuvering and redeeming the Palestinians from their crises. He is the prisoner of his preconceptions and desires to step down from his post a national hero. There is no charismatic Palestinian leader on the horizon.
Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.